By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education/Customization and Missions Innovator Specialist (SBC, WMU)
Family meals have been the topic of much discussion of late. There are endless commercials about the importance of eating together. Counselors and psychologists are telling us not to neglect having a family meal time; it is important for our children to have that time together.
The success of Starbucks and neighborhood coffee shops is partly due to the atmosphere of sitting and chatting with family and friends. We all crave and enjoy a little down time around a table with food, friends and family. So why not use what already comes natural to reach out to neighbors?
While in seminary, our family table was an ironing board. Our apartment was too small for even a card table. So we improvised by putting the ironing board in front of the sofa, adjusting the height to table height and using placemats to cover the ironing pad. My husband and I would sit on the couch and eat our meals at our makeshift table every night. If we were having guests, we placed folding chairs on the other side. Setting the “table” was easy; line up four plates and glasses and place flatware on the plates. That was the only way it would all fit! For three years, that is where we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meals with our neighbors Robbie and Rudy. It was at that “table” that we prayed with our friends as one by one we graduated and left to serve in our called areas. It was at that “table” that we celebrated anniversaries and cried with friends after losing a child. It was at that “table” that we fed co-workers who did not know Jesus on a personal level. The kind of table did not matter, it was what happened around the “table” that was important.
Each of us prepare meals everyday for our families; so why not invite a few more families to join us? Invite a few neighbors over. Start the grill, put some hamburgers and hot dogs on, cut a watermelon and make some lemonade. Make enough to include any surprise guests that might show up for the fun. Ask everyone to bring their favorite side dish with copies of the recipe to share with the other guests.
Plan a few games for adults and children. Horseshoes, bean bag toss, badminton, volleyball, water balloons for the kids (well, maybe the adults too) and croquet.
Eat, play and take time for a little “table talk.” Pray before the meal. Share your God story as the opportunity arises. It may be the first time they have been around a believer in a casual setting.
Remember it is not the food or the table that is important; it is the talk that happens around the table that matters!
As a missionary in the Philippines “table talk,” food, and friends was my favorite way to share Christ with my neighbors. There is nothing like inviting the neighbors over for a little turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving when you live in another country.
Try explaining cornbread to someone who only knows cornmeal as a food for pigs! In the midst of laughter, sharing and talking came opportunities to share Christ. Now, living in Baltimore, I still see God work around our table when I invite our neighbors over to enjoy a summer meal on our roof top deck.
Just think about it, God does some of His best work around the table. It was around the “table” that Esther revealed the truth about an enemy. It was around a “table” that Jesus fed over 5,000 people. It was around a “table” that Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water to wine. David talks of God preparing a “table” in the presence of his enemies. It is around a “table” that Jesus broke the bread and drank the wine with His disciples on the last night of His earthly life.
It is around a “table” that we remember and cherish the events that followed His last meal.
The psychologists are right, family mealtime is important. It might be just the place that we welcome a new family member into the family of believers. Invite the neighbors over and enjoy this very special family mealtime and watch God do some of His best work around your family table.