As we looked at the menu on the wall in the Korean restaurant—the first reminder of home that the Korean students had seen since arriving in Charlotte, North Carolina—the students had the biggest smiles that I had ever seen. They all began to speak quickly in Korean as the anticipation of tasting home grew stronger and stronger. They told me what I would like, what was spicy, and that I would definitely need a glass of water with the entrée I ordered. When we sat down at our table, the conversation was centered around all of the delicious food we had ordered, and how their family back home prepares each dish.

When a middle-aged woman from South Korea served our food, their excitement grew as she and the three students spoke in Korean about their culture, geographical roots in their homeland, and life in the States. When the woman went back to work preparing food, the students began double-dipping their forks and chop-sticks into the many different dishes in front of us as their taste buds were ignited from a ‘home-cooked’ meal so many miles away from their home. I watched for a few minutes to take it all in before I joined in on the taste-testing myself. Those moments around the table felt holy as laughter was shared, stomachs were filled, and mind, body, and souls were nourished with each bite.

This summer I served as a Student.Church intern through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This is my third summer serving as a Student.Church intern. Each year has been different and exciting and beautiful as cultures and people collided to paint a portrait of the family of God. My internship this summer was hosting three university students from South Korea who felt God’s voice leading them to learn about American culture and to be a part of Christian ministry in the United States.

Together we had the opportunity to serve alongside Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches and field personnel in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia. While serving with the different churches, we were a part of a variety of ministry experiences such as, working summer camps, helping with Vacation Bible School, picking potatoes, and learning about the wonderful work of congregational ministers and field personnel. In every church we have served alongside, we learned from the congregations and taught the congregations some pieces of Korean daily life.

One Friday night, a woman from the church where we were spending the week invited us to her home for dinner. The meal was simple, chicken and rice, and a choice of water or milk to drink (she even had chocolate syrup for the milk). We sat around her living room, a few at the table, while others sat on the couch. The woman’s daughter and I had a pretend tea party going on throughout the entire meal. There were eleven people sharing a meal together, all from different parts of the world—three South Koreans, four Bahamians, three from Massachusetts, and myself from Virginia.

After we finished the meal by together inhaling an entire container of cream puffs, one person began to play music on the TV. After a few moments, we began passing the Roku remote to one another. We laughed and told stories as the genre, language, and tempo changed and we learned music and dance moves from around the world. The dancing and laughing lasted a few hours as sweat trickled our cheeks and our voices echoed off the walls.

Meals bring us together. This summer, as we shared meals with one another in different states, in different spaces, and with different faces, we shared together in communion in the meal of Christ. We smiled, we laughed, and our bodies, minds, and souls were nourished. As I write this, I am at a family’s house in North Georgia and a neighbor from Laos came to the front door with Spring Rolls to share, just because.

My work this summer reminded me that the family of God is big and diverse and beautiful and we can grow closer to one another and to God by sharing meals together.

May we open our tables for all to join.
May we share food and fellowship.
May we set extra spaces at our tables for those who may not be just like us, so that they, too, might feel at home.