Food is love.
I have known that since I was old enough to know anything. That the biscuits my grandmother stood in front of the counter and rolled out were made with pure love. That the tender pot roast after church on Sunday was as sincere a sign of my mother’s affection as she was capable of making. That I have never felt as at home in the world as I did all those years ago, in the basement of Emory Methodist Church, eating Miss Bessie’s chicken and dumplings.
If I were to make a list of the things I know for sure, food being love would be one of them.
I thought about this a lot last week. I was speaking this past weekend at the North Carolina Women’s Missionary Union Missions Extravaganza, and I needed a metaphor. See, I was talking about our unique approach to missions and outreach at Love Wins Ministries, and I wanted to communicate that the good things that happen at Love Wins – the people who become housed, the folks that find jobs, the weddings, the hope, the strength to go on – none of that is our primary goal. It is all just a side effect.
I explained that we believe that community was our primary value. That the opposite of homelessness is not housing, but community. That the good things that happen to us come about because of our relationships.
And then I knew. I just knew. I was describing the way love works. And food is love. So, I said something like this:
It is true that in the last 12 months, more than a dozen people have, through relationships with us, left homelessness behind and entered into stable housing. But it is also true that we did not plan for that to happen.
Rather we planned to build a community. And we are absolutely certain that, if you build a community, good things will happen.
I don’t know how it is in your church, but in the one I grew up in, if a family member died, you got a casserole. In fact, you got a lot of casserole.
But I submit that, never in the history of the world has someone ever said, ‘Mary, you should join our church, because Hank is getting up there in age, and when he dies, if you belong to our church, you will get a casserole.’
You don’t join a church to get a casserole, you join a church to be part of the community. And if the community works, then, when Hank does shuffle off this mortal coil, casseroles will appear out of thin air – not because the church is in the casserole business, but because it is in the love business, and the casserole is a side effect of that love.
Likewise, none of the people who found housing because of the Love Wins community in the last year did so as a result of our being in the housing business – because we are not in the housing business. We are in the love business, and housing for people who need it is a side effect of love – just like casseroles are.