This is a story about how God used a willing heart, some overripe bananas, and a recipe, to reach a soul for Christ...oh, and the attached recipe.
A few years ago, while on furlough and after a few cancelled meetings, we decided to settle in a small apartment in a large metropolitan area that was within driving distance of most of our scheduled meetings, rather than continually having to look for housing. While my husband had to spend most of his spare time now working to pay for our apartment, I thought that my daughter and I could get busy witnessing and reaching out to people in this new mission field--which was the hundreds of apartments in our complex. My hopes of a door-to-door ministry were quickly dashed when the office told me that this type of soliciting was not allowed in the complex. After some discussion, they did, however, allow us to put some tracts in the office.
Having a blow to my first plan was not enough to deter me. I knew that we would only be here for six months (and in and out of town often) and there had to be some way to help me connect with the people around me in a way that would give me the opportunity to communicate the gospel to them while showing them that I truly cared for them as people.
At the same time as all of this was happening, I noticed that in this much warmer climate, my bananas were ripening a lot more quickly. Growing up poor, and now living by faith, taught me that waste was an absolute no-no, but what to do with all these over-ripened bananas--I had no clue. I had heard that you could make banana bread out of them, so I started to do some research on the internet. Reading reviews and mixing and matching recipes, and some trial and error, ended in a quite tasty recipe being born.
After making all the needed changes and using my family as guinea pigs, I started by baking the banana bread for my nearest neighbors for Easter; but soon, I was baking it for any holiday, special occasion, or any person with whom I could have a conversation--even baking one for the maintenance man after he fixed our oven. I gave a tract with the bread, and sometimes a homemade card too, depending on the occasion. We also prayed that God would open the heart of all these people to the gospel. One couple always thanked me and told me how much they liked it. I continued to make them a loaf each time I made a batch, and soon we were chatting every time we saw each other. After one particular conversation with the lady, I offered to do a Bible study with her. She had grown up going to church with a friend whose dad was a pastor, and she seemed responsive. One day, she knocked on my door with her childhood Bible in hand, saying that she was feeling guilty for the things that she had done in her life and wondering if we could talk. God was very evidently working in her heart. After a little over two hours of answering Bible questions and giving her the gospel, she accepted Christ.
I became known for my banana bread; I even had someone knock on my door and offer to pay me to buy more ingredients to make her some more banana bread. At the church where we attended when we did not have meetings, word spread about my banana bread, and one lady who had an unsaved husband asked for the recipe in hopes that it would work to help to bring her husband to Christ--she knew it had no power, but she had tried everything else and thought that it couldn't hurt.
It just goes to show that if you, "...do all to the glory of God," it doesn't matter what you have, God can use it. I have also used cookies or extra fruit from our fruit trees in the same way.
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (this is about 5 small bananas)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (176°C). Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon).
3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add in vanilla. Then stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended.
4. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture until moistened...do not over mix. Pour in loaf pan.
5. Bake 60-65 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
***Important things to note***
I have baked this with as little as four small bananas with no real change to the recipe. The more bananas, obviously, the bigger loaf. The recipe calls for a 9x5 pan which makes it more the shape of a breakfast cake. Most loaf pans are smaller and may tend to overflow; if this happens, try making a few banana muffins with the over flow. **I now use a 9x9 pan, lined with foil, and foil to create a divider, and use 1 1/2 recipes to make 2 loaves--one to keep and one to give.
Also, if you are like me, you may have a few bananas ready to make banana bread at any one time, but not enough for a full recipe. You can freeze the bananas and they keep very well until you have enough to make a full recipe.**If you do this, remember to thaw completely and add in all the water that is in the skin that comes from thawing. Removing the excess moisture will cause it to be dry, and not thawing fully will cause the bread not to bake properly.