Sitting at the kitchen table, savoring a vegetarian groundnut stew with Catherine and Michael and their two boys, I listen as they describe the racist direction of recent laws passed by the North Carolina legislature. Christians in their community have mobilized, joining weekly protests and acts of civil disobedience. The members of their small congregation in Chapel Hill continue to wrestle with their response as people of privilege in the midst of overwhelming injustice.
Juanita’s eyes twinkle as she greets us at the door of her congregation’s meetinghouse in Apopka, Florida and leads us to the banquet table. “Everything is homemade from scratch–my husband said the house smelled like Christmas this morning!” she laughs. “It is like Christmas, because we’re going to celebrate!” MC USA’s first Latina moderator is visiting Juanita’s congregation, and they are beaming with excitement as they urge her to fill her plate, present her with gifts, anoint her with oil, cover her with prayers.
It is good.
Elaine cooks one-hour grits (no instant here!). The time it takes to prepare that staple of the American south reflects the relaxed pace of life in Meridian, Mississippi. Church leaders serve themselves from a counter laden with southern goodies surrounding a vase of brown-eyed Susans and settle in for a chat around a table that seems to stretch on forever. Their communities are struggling with an economic depression, outbreaks of violence, and rampant alcoholism. Yet their stories show that, in the midst of this brokenness, church is a refuge, a companion. Native Americans from the Seminole and Choctaw tribes worship alongside Anglo and Latino/a brothers and sisters, a sign of hope and reconciliation.
With outstretched hands, four pastors in Dallas lead their congregations in prayer over our new moderator, a cacophony of intercession and praise to a God who cares for the orphan, the widow, and the “alien” among us. Their delight overflows into a time of fellowship after the service as they gather in the parking lot to laugh and drink arroz con leche. The sky darkens, but the conversation continues for hours.
It is good.
Each stop on our journey is too brief, but each face, each language, each food brings out another flavor of God, reminding us that the God who made us all is more than the idol we’ve built in our own image. Each encounter is an invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Emily is traveling with Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, the new moderator of Mennonite Church USA, on a three-week journey around the country. Follow along at JourneyWithElizabeth.com.