You’ve probably seen it written over a scenic vista on someone’s Facebook newsfeed or Instagram account, that famous quote by the theologian Frederick Buechner – “The place to which God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”. Well friends, I have found the place to which God is calling me and it is the place of my deepest gladness: a table full of amazing food.
Last week I attended a supper club hosted by Stories On Our Plate (SOOP) - a social enterprise that uses food to challenge the marginalisation of refugees living in the UK. SOOP hosts story-based supper clubs, catered by refugees and migrants, as well as running a culinary training programme for refugees, aimed at countering the barriers they face when seeking careers in the UK's food industries.
The particular supper club I attended was the graduating meal of one of the participants of this programme – Hafiza from Syria. The food was absolutely incredible, as was the atmosphere of the whole evening. The setup of the room encouraged conversations with other diners, and I was particularly impacted by the exchange I had with a documentary maker who makes regular trips to the refugee camps in Calais.
The evening ended with presentations to Hafiza and Shakirat, one of her fellow participants on the programme. I was moved to hear about the impact the programme has had on their lives, both practically (in helping them find jobs) and personally – Shakirat said that family is not just those you are related to, and that the people from the programme were now her family.
I came away from the evening feeling inspired and joyful (as well as very full), which is what got me thinking about that Frederick Buechner quote. Up until now my reaction when I’ve heard about the situations of refugees in this country has been a feeling of sadness and helplessness, but the creativity of SOOP’s response and hearing Hafiza’s and Shakirat’s stories brought out something new for me. It’s not often we are able to change a global situation, but we are often able to make a difference to one or two people, and (with a bit of creativeness) to do so in a way that is fun and life-giving for us as well!
Sometimes God calls us to a hard path, but sometimes he calls us to do something so easy that it seems almost ridiculous. Eating good food, over good conversation, was one of those times for me. Are there ways that we can be creative with the things we love doing, to create community and support for those around us? I’m sure there are, and I personally hope they involve food.
by Sarah Lewney