Photo Credit: Ryan Klinck

Photo Credit: Ryan Klinck

By Stephanie Evelyn McKellar

Three ladies have prepared the food, two from Syria and one from Iran. They’ve been in The Mix Kitchen for the afternoon, preparing for this meal. A tasty assortment of rice, marvelously seasoned meat, fried kibbeh, and a light mix of greens; we are preparing to feast on this Tuesday afternoon.

These women, two Miriams and a Sarah, have been to The Mix before; a local nonprofit called Break Bread Break Borders is turning their culinary prowess into a workable entrepreneurship, helping them build their catering business in the United States.

Back in their home countries a husband working was usually enough to financially support the families, but, here in the States, one income will not suffice. These women need a way to work that helps them care for their growing children while the whole family adjusts to life in their new country. A refugee is uncertain if they will ever return to their home, their familiar culture and language, their familiar customs and socioeconomic system. Refugee life may be uncertain, but, boy, can these women cook.

Joining us today are two political representatives: Liz works in the Dallas Mayor’s office; she is leading the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. She is joined by Aaron, who is researching worldwide welcoming protocols and programs for refugees. He’s been across the nation and overseas, but Dallas is home and he advocated for this specific stop to his boss. He is putting together a brief that will inform on best practices across immigration and refugee resettlement and integration.

The aroma of the meal greets us before the table invitation. We cannot wait to sit down and dig in. Sitting around a square table facing each other are nine of us: three Middle Eastern women, two government representatives, a local university student serving as our translator, myself, Rhonda (the Missional Wisdom Foundation resident chef mentoring these ladies), and Jinya, the Break Bread Break Borders founder who has organized this meal. Having gathered, we begin to eat. We talk about the women’s dreams: their ideas for catering businesses and restaurants. We talk about Liz’s goals for Dallas being a welcoming community.

And then Liz does something beautiful: Liz invites the Miriams and Sarah to share their insight on navigating Dallas as refugees.

Then they do something beautiful: they answer with grace but do not withhold honesty.

The health care system, one Miriam shares, is difficult to navigate, and her daughter has a rare form of epilepsy about which she is struggling to get professional insight. Liz expresses compassion, concern, and, then, creativity. She knows someone in the specifically needed department of the local hospital, and will connect the two of them.

Here, around table, justice and peace are happening. Through stories and mutuality, Miriam’s daughter now has more advocates than she did before we sat down. Through table and food, people who may never have encountered each other have learned each other’s names, their children’s names, and depart as friends.

Through table, we cultivate justice and peace by welcome, by extending invitation, by cultivating mutuality, by learning the stories of our fellow humans so that we may know how to stand up for and beside them.

In what way can you learn a new story around the table this week?

“Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.” - Luke 14:23

A Table Blessing:

God who ate, teach us to gather at the table, for it is at the table that we admit and embrace our need for nourishment, for welcome, and for each other. Amen.