Family, Friends and Food
By Malaina Yoder - June 20, 2017
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
This community understands how to eat. One of the perks of a German-Mennonite community is that when the time comes, we do meals very well. Some people remember church potlucks fondly, with casseroles, bread and the childhood favorite: generous portions of macaroni and cheese. At NMC during the fall, winter and spring, we have our Wednesday night Table Talk program in which we gather for food and conversation. When people are sharing a meal, community tends to happen. Sometimes it’s prompted by good conversations, other times from the simple repetition of being together.
Mark Mikel at the Family Christian Development Center (FCDC) in Nappanee understands the power of a meal. NMC partners with FCDC to do a large number of community outreach programs, including meals for kids during the summers and food pantry facilitation.
Our partners at Reason Enough to Act (RETA), have similar ideas about how to connect people with each other. Their mothers’ group gets together for food one morning a week, and their fathers have guys’ night to eat pizza around a less conventional table—a pool table.
The FCDC building reminded me of my grandparents’ church on bright Sunday mornings. Their little chapel always smelled of hymnal dust and prayer. It had the feeling of potlucks, pick-up basketball games, and people who somehow knew me long before I met them. The building felt like community.
Looking around the FCDC facility, I didn’t see a sanctuary or a pew. Later, though, I found out what many people in the area already know: FCDC now lives in NMC’s first home. The building that reminded me of the beautiful, rich churches of my childhood was the first home to some in our church family.
I peeked into the baby closet at FCDC, thinking about all the babies who would be clothed out of this room.
“This was the nursery off the back of the sanctuary,” Mark Mikel, director of FCDC, told me. “Can you picture the cathedral ceiling going all the way up along this wall?” I could.
I also walked through the baby closet at RETA, which resides in an old home in Elkhart. There are parents in my community who can’t afford to clothe their children. The thought was jarring to me. I can think of it as a third world problem—don’t American churches send baby clothes, bottles and diapers with people on missions trips? I felt an extreme amount of gratitude for the people who, unlike me, didn’t overlook those standing in front of them.
As Roxana Konopinski, Executive Director of RETA, led me through the building, I could sense her passion and excitement. She spoke of the unbelievable freedom people find in Christ through RETA, a place that provides alternatives to abortion as well as services for men and women who want to learn about pregnancy and parenting.
Both Roxana and Mark listed numbers off the top of their head, ticking through the amazing ways that God has blessed the ministries in Nappanee and Elkhart. The numbers, though, were only representations of thousands of stories. The numbers spoke of transformation. Each number was personal, relational and deeper than the surface.
There’s something appropriate about serving a community out of old homes and church buildings. Both are places of love and service. NMC loves to partner with RETA and FCDC, because they’re feeding and clothing the people in our community. They care about this community, and the community cares about them.
“We have clients,” Mark said, “who call this their church. We have clients who say they’re not only fed through our food pantry but they’re also fed spiritually.”
You don’t have to be called a ministry to bring people into your home. If you’ll remember two Sundays ago, Bob Andrews from Devon Oasis told us that meeting people’s needs is the gospel. The physical and spiritual are interconnected.
Roxana expressed a similar idea: “People aren’t going to care about what we know until they know that we care.”
Mark told me how God spoke through the staff devotions from last week. They were reading out of I Samuel 2, where it says:
“[The Lord] raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.”
Their team envisioned this beautiful, ideal kingdom of God in which all were welcome to the table. Part of local partnership is bringing donors and recipients to eat together, mutually respecting each other.
It’s incredible that we get to share in the beautiful work Christ is doing through these organizations. Caring for our neighbors can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes all it takes is a table, a little food and a lot of love.
Join us Wednesday, June 21, at 7:00 p.m. in the Fieldhouse to hear from our partners at RETA, FCDC, and the Elkhart County Jail!