Fred and I have cooked the dinners for all the Alpha attendees for as long as Alpha has been offered to the community at our church. It's been three years now, two sessions each year. For those who don't know, Alpha is an international, inter-denominational, 10-week program designed to explore the Christian faith over a meal, friendly conversation in small groups, and a short video presentation. It is supported by most all Christian churches. At our church alone, hundreds of people have attended, many of them new to the faith or questioning what it's all about.
We have had our struggles in the kitchen. In the beginning, we couldn't find anyone to help us cook for the 40-70 people who attend each week, except for one woman who makes the dessert. But now, Fred and I easily do most of the work alone. We've had many frustrating encounters with the Awana cooking crew, with which we share the kitchen on the same night. But now, Fred and I have made peace with them, and they have reluctantly accepted the fact that we have a right to the kitchen too. We've had complaints about the menu, but that doesn't bother us anymore. It is what it is. Fred and I often used to be short with each other after we got home at night, both of us exhausted after standing for 4 hours staight without a break. But now we're stronger and tougher.
People ask us, why do we continue to do this? First of all, we believe each person should give back to their home church. We receive so much from our church, so we need to contribute what we can of our time, treasure and talent. We don't have much treasure to tithe, so it's our time we give. Maybe talent too--I have been cooking for a big family since I was a young woman, so that experience is being put to good use.
Second, we want to be part of God's work in this world. Many people ask, "How can I find out what God's will is for my life?" I heard an answer to that question that made sense. "Find out what God is doing and join in." A friend first told me about Alpha years ago. She had attended the program at her church and she said it changed her whole life for the better. Then one year at the end of one of our Alpha sessions, several people gave testimonies on how it had helped them. Fred and I are glad to be a small part of that.
Also, every now and then we get positive feedback and it warms our hearts and makes us want to continue. In this last session especially, several people have let us know how much they enjoy the food and tell us they appreciate us cooking their dinner each week. Tomorrow another 10-week course ends. Each time, Fred and I re-evaluate. Will we continue? And if we don't, who will do it? It is very hard to get anyone to volunteer for this job.
On Good Friday I attended a service with a friend at another church. Some words spoken by a woman there stuck with me these last few days. On the night before Jesus died, he washed his disciples' feet. This was a job no one else wanted to do. Then Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." Sometimes we are looking for a big, important, glorious ministry in the church. But maybe we just need to do the job no one else wants to do. We need to be a servant in the house of our God.
Last month we were asked to assist at a special event. People involved in Alpha programs from churches all across the metropolitan area were invited to come to an information-sharing night at our church. Also, pastors and priests from churches that do not currently have the Alpha program were invited to find out about it. There were over 100 people there, all gathered in our gym for music, a meal, and fellowship. We had many helpers from many churches. In the kitchen with us were women from two local Catholic churches and also an elderly couple from the Presbyterian church across the street from our house. I stood at the stove and cooked all the chicken cutlets and let others hustle around setting up and preparing the other food. It was great to have help! And I was privileged to see the diverse, colorful groups walk in. Members of black and Asian churches from the inner city, Catholic priests, Methodists, and Baptists poured through our doors.
A couple of guys from our church played guitars and led the group in praise songs. Everyone stood and lifted their voices in worship! How pleased God must have been to see a fulfillment of Jesus' prayer to his father in John 17, "that they may be one as we are one." We celebrated our common belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and at least for one night, we forgot all about our differences.
I believe that finding joy in this service work is important as well. Sometimes, where God wants you to service isn't always an obvious thing. Sometimes, it's manual, it's listening skills, it's talents, we should go where led and know when to leave.
Oh, soup beans (pinto) and cornbread... maybe some fried potatoes and onions is a cheap and easy meal to make for large amounts of folks.
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