Culture Kitchen: Sharing Food, Culture, and a Story
In October, International Christian Fellowship in Oberursel, Germany, launched its very first Culture Kitchen. As God has continued to add people to our church from the nations, a growing number of refugees and asylum seekers have become regular visitors at our church. As we considered how we might best serve and minister to the people God is bringing to us, we sensed God was leading us to ask a different question.
God showed us that most of our ministry to refugees and asylum seekers sought to meet a need that they might have. We sensed God was asking us if we were willing to allow our new neighbors to minister to us. God was challenging us that ministry is not a one-way street. Are you willing to allow them to share their culture and their experiences and their passions with you? The point was simple: Are you willing to allow yourselves to be receivers in ministry as well as givers?
And so Culture Kitchen was launched. One of our regular visitors from Syria has a passion to cook Syrian food from his hometown of Aleppo. Around this passion we built an evening of sharing food, sharing culture, and most importantly sharing his story with our community. Planning for a group of approximately 20 we were delighted to have 38 people attend.
We enjoyed Syrian foods like baba ganoush, hummus, grilled lamb skewers, and to top it off many variations of baklava. Later in the evening we listened to our friend tell us his story in his own words through a translator. While we all enjoyed the food perhaps the greatest blessing was what our Syrian friend shared with us the next day. “This was the greatest day of my life,” he confided. Indeed it is a blessing to give, and we saw this biblical truth lived out in front of us.
Allowing our friend to share his passion for cooking has opened the doors for relationship on a whole new level. If we limited our ministry to what we could give to those around us, we would have forfeited the blessing of allowing him to serve us, using his gifts and passion for food and for his country of Syria.
Our prayer is that God continues to allow us to receive from our dear friends coming to live in our communities from the nations. Our single desire is to be a community where each of our unique stories is being woven into God’s story of redemption and peace and hope. We pray that God uses these events to continue to weave new lives and new stories into a Christ-centered kingdom community in the greater Frankfurt area.
A Dodgy Business
As ICF looked at the needs being met in our community, one glaring gap stood out. While ministries abounded for language learning, cafés, and mothers and children, there was nothing specifically geared to meet the needs of men. More specifically there was no regular meeting place for men and no activities for them to engage in. Taking an inventory of what we had to offer our community, we realized our church building was a key asset in meeting this need. The question was “How?” Enter the game of dodgeball.
Seeking to meet a critical need of all refugees and asylum seekers, we focused on hosting regular events that would allow them to participate in healthy physical activity. On Saturday, 5 November, we hosted our inaugural Dodgeball night. With 22 men attending, we had a great group to launch this event. The vast majority of men had never heard or played dodgeball, and so this was a learning experience for everyone. At first a few men said they would prefer to only sit and watch. With cell phones in hand they watched from the corner. By the end of the evening, every single man was actively engaged. In fact we had to have two “last” games because the men did not want to end the evening.
In addition to practicing our dodging skills, we also had some food and took five minutes to have a discussion. We shared with them that dodgeball is for their physical well-being, the food was for their stomach, but that our five minutes of discussion was aimed at the heart. We told a simple proverb from Africa. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. We then had a simple question: “Who was their community that is helping them go far?” We invited them into community, built on loving God and loving people. Our sincere prayer for these “dodgeballers” is that in time they will move from a community built around health activity into a community built on Jesus Christ.