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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In The Kitchen - deadline 7-19-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/12/12)

TITLE: Around the Table
By Noel Mitaxa


“You’re welcome to come around anytime and put your feet under our table,” Keith and Merle told us, as they introduced themselves.

For us, full-time ministry was opening up, and for them retirement was just beginning after farming further inland. Our new home was a coastal port city which sheltered behind a narrow windswept peninsula from the fierce westerlies that sailors had christened the “Roaring Forties.”

We all had to make friends with those winds.

After a life of open spaces with crops and livestock, Keith wryly observed that they were now surrounded by fish on three sides. They must both have felt so cramped by contrast in their new, simple abode, but their hearts and their home were open to anyone – even to young greenhorn pastors like me.

Taking up their offer added a new dimension of hospitality to my sermon preparation, as we talked and laughed and prayed together about life and faith and family. It became so easy to kill an hour or two, just by dropping on Keith and Merle for five minutes!

Keith’s gammy leg did not allow him to easily use the more comfortable armchairs in their lounge room, so we usually sat around the kitchen table, where the oven added its own olfactory aura to our proceedings. I can still smell the roasts succumbing to Merle’s skills, as well as the cakes, pies, slices and other delicious concoctions that all awaited their own martyrdom in the cause of our well-being.

A kitchen is every family’s engine room, and I found similar welcomes in so many homes. Being invited into that room was to get a clearer feel for each family’s level of mutual respect, not to mention their memories, their hurts and their hopes. These are the elements that make hospitality such an important but sadly-neglected ministry, for it was here that we could pray together over everyday issues.

Being in the kitchen was as important for my sermon preparation as being my study – regardless of how well its walls were lined with books. It enabled my messages to be grounded in people’s lives as well as in my training and my private reflections, as Sunday by Sunday our whole congregation explored the light that God’s word could throw on the challenges and opportunities that we had discussed around the table.

Kitchens played another vital but unexpected role in that first ministry.

Ron was a difficult character because he was so well-balanced: with a chip on each shoulder. He was recovering from heart surgery and he felt useless because he’d also had to leave his farm. My first couple of conversations were a struggle, because he was so bitter about being put down all his life, and the doctor had given him only eighteen months to live.

Then one day, when he showed me his collection of self-recorded cassette tapes, I asked if he would like to record our worship services and give them to people who weren’t able to attend. “You can phone them about when to come around, and that will be all there is to it,” I assured him.

At first he was suspicious, but he decided to give it a go, so long as he could record from the vestry where he would be unseen by all the people who picked on him.

We bought him a box of blank tapes and Ron went quietly to work. Nobody knew about him for a while; but then word got out about how much people appreciated being able to hear the familiar songs and worship. “I felt shut in, but Ron has helped me to stop feeling shut out,” one old lady chirped.

For Ron, it was a new lease on life, and his face developed new lines from smiling instead of complaining. Then one day he told me how he was no longer just dropping tapes in at the door...

“Now it takes a lot longer, because people invite me into the kitchen. I listen to the tape with them, and when we come to communion time, we ask God to bless our cake or our cookies, and our tea or our coffee, and we have communion along with everyone else!”

It was great to see Ron outlive his doctor’s prediction – and to stand straighter without his shoulders sagging under the weight of the chips...

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This article has been read 397 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 07/19/12
A beautiful and inspiring story. It was so good to see the significant change in Ron...With God all things are possible. I loved it.

God Bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/19/12
I could so relate to Keith. Because of my illness, I'm self-conscious and tend to hide myself away. However God has other plans for me. I love that message in this story. It touched my heart. You did a great job of writing on topic while delivering a fresh and important message.
Danielle King 07/19/12
If I make a blackberry and apple pie with some nice thick custard, could you swim over to my kitchen? I could do with a bit of that!
Myrna Noyes07/20/12
Very inspiring anecdotes you shared with us1 I enjoyed reading your reminiscences! :)
Ellen Carr 07/21/12
I enjoyed this. The kitchen is indeed like the engine room of the house and great things happen around the kitchen table. Thank you.
Hiram Claudio07/23/12
Wonderful! Being in ministry my self I enjoyed this tale of those early days and of focusing on what si most important. I totally agree that the ministry more lost or negelcted in our churches today is that of hospitality. I loved the comment about the kitchen being the family's "engine room." So much in that one comment to chew on.

This was an excellent piece of writing. Nice job!
Genia Gilbert07/24/12
I totally enjoyed your entry. I know a few of those "well-balanced" people. I will try harder to see them as an integral part of God's kingdom. I also like the point about the kitchen being the engine room. Good writing.
Leola Ogle 07/25/12
Great story and well written. Enjoyed it beginning to end! God bless!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/26/12
Congratulations for placing 7th in level three!