Written by Mike Verkaik
We pulled up to the motel at 5:15, loaded down with a trailer and van full of tables, chairs, games and a grill. As we arrived we were met by smiles from young children running towards us. “Where have you been?” one of them belted out, “you said you were going to be here at 3:00.” Seems they were mistaken about our time of arrival and had been waiting for the last two hours. Full of excitement we began to unload the games from the vehicle; corn hole, giant Jenga, hula-hoops and washer toss. Not knowing which one to play *Trisha exclaimed, “Oh my, there are too many choices”.
Last Tuesday volunteers for Oceans Ministries put on a cookout in the back parking lot of the Wooden Shoe Motel. For sometime we had been praying for an opportunity to build more community with the residents and God placed on our hearts to provide a place, a table, for immediate families and for us as a family to eat, dwell and share life together. The motel rooms they reside in are equipped for rest, but not for meals.
While the tables were being set up, residents began to make their way to the back. Like the little children preceding them, they were excited for a different type of evening meal and guardedly played the games as well.
As the dinner progressed, the table created a place for connection, laughter and sharing the happenings of life. Some of the conversations led to prayers as together we laid our burdens before our Abba Father. The table became a place where our commonality as broken sinners found acceptance and community. We are all in desperate need of people who will journey with us in our stumbling and mountain top experiences. To provide that community at the Wooden Shoe Motel is something we continue to bring before God.
Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God as he taught his disciples and friends around the table. However, he also extended that invitation to those excluded from the religious community as He was accused of eating with sinners in Mark 2:16.
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
The gospels are full of stories of Jesus eating with people. In fact, sharing meals played a vital role in the ministry and mission of Jesus, as the meals represented something greater than the food. Our prayers continue to be for the Holy Spirit to take our meals, our friendship and bring about a discipleship opportunity.
As the evening came to a close, the children were the last ones to leave. They were still soaking in the meal, the activities and the games that were brought to them. While packing up the last table, my wife Dawn overheard one of the children let out their thoughts on the evening, “This was the best day ever!” Driving home we concurred with that child. As 58 hamburgers and 24 hot dogs were served around the table, our Father showed up and advanced His kingdom by deepening our relationship and community with the family He is creating at the Wooden Shoe.
*name was changed