A little while ago, my colleague Daniele said to me “I want us to pray more.” I know I’ve been in situations where I could have taken those words as judgement (hearing only “we/you don’t pray enough.) Thankfully, the Spirit filled me with gratitude that she had said it out loud. Those words rang like bells in my head and my heart. “Thank you for saying that! Let’s do it.”
After all, it wasn’t that we weren’t praying. I recently read a bit on Brother Lawrence, a carmelite monk in the 17th century. In the book “Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” (Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove and Okoro), we find that “by learning to perform his mundane [kitchen] tasks for the sake of God, Brother Lawerence turned every moment into an opportunity for prayer.” Much like the practice of knitting prayer shawls, our intention at Shobi’s Table is informed by Brother Lawrence’s words – that every onion is chopped in prayer, every dish washed in prayer, and every meal finished in prayer. But even with this practice of unceasing prayer, there is something powerful about humbly pausing amidst the busy work to rest our words and silence on God.
After Daniele’s request for prayer, I announced to some of our volunteers that we were going to try to pray more intentionally at Shobi’s Table – whether before a volunteer shift, during or after… just to stop for a moment to tell God thanks and to ask for guidance, or just be still enough to remember that God is God. Knowing myself, I knew that I would need help remembering to stop the busy kitchen freight-train long enough to pause to remember that all of Shobi’s Table – from the produce donated, to the grant writing, responding to emails, to the rush to get all the meals ready on time – belongs to God, and God is the true force behind, within and ahead of it. I knew if I were the only one responsible for remembering to pray, it would be spotty at best. So, I asked for help, knowing that we’re better together – leaning into one another, because we need one another – leaders, volunteers, staff, customers – all of us.
So, I’m asking you, too. Will you remember to pray for Shobi’s Table, this community you are a part of? Will you take a pause and ask that God guide us, challenge us and comfort us? Will you pray that we will remember to pause to listen for God?
I know God calls to us in many ways – often through each other. About six weeks ago, Billy – one of our regulars, told us that we should go bring meals to a tent encampment nearby. So, after we packed up at Bethlehem Lutheran, we drove the truck just across 94 and easily found the place. We knew this was home to those in the tents, so we did our best to “knock” and ask permission to come in, and were graciously invited in by a man at the fire ring. While we offered hot sandwiches and poured hot coffee, we shared our names and asked theirs. We heard one say she was so grateful for a hot meal, and that she hadn’t eaten one in a few days. We heard another say she was working on plans to get to rehab. We asked what was needed, and promised to return the next week with more hot meals. Over the six weeks we learned names and a few more stories, and felt like trust was beginning to build. But, just the second week of January we learned through Facebook that the camp had been evacuated. While the city offered shelters, we’re not sure if everyone went to them, or if they moved on to another place to put their tent. There is a good chance that some or many of these folks had social workers guiding them, but we had yet to build enough trust between us to know these things.
To not know where these new friends are now is very sad. We know that it is a complicated situation. We know that the county is doing how they know best to give these folks shelter, but we also don’t know if their plans will work out the best for everyone. We know that there were allies there the day of eviction, standing up for the rights and dignity of those living with homelessness. We know that many conditions like addicition, mental health issues and broken families complicate the situation further. We feel sad and frustrated that these new relationships we had been building slowly are now scattered. We wonder how to move forward, and how to better be connected to folks who are unhoused. We know that are doing the work we are called to, and that we cannot do or fix everything. We desire more knowledge and partnerships – knowing that we cannot do it all on our own, but are better together with others for the sake of others.
So, right now… we pause and turn to God, and ask you to pray too.
God of all people, thank you for everything you have given. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with the beautiful folks we met at the tent encampment. Be with them right now, wherever they are. Give them all the resources and connections they need, and if we can be part of that, please make that way known. In your time, let our paths cross again and make way for us to meet new friends. Humble us to know that it is not just them who need what we can give, but we who need their gifts as well. It is our privelege to serve you, and be served in return. Open our hearts and minds to go where you lead us. Amen.
– Deacon Kari Alice Olsen
The results are in! With the abundant generosity of everyone who gave to the From Scratch fundraiser, we surpassed our goal of $10,000 and reached $15,123.84! Thank you everyone who donated. A choppy video feed couldn’t stop your generosity, and we are amazed. This will sustain our weekly lunches now, and pave the way for growth in the spring!
Food Truck Away – Pop Ups Today!
Our food truck has been put away for the winter. We found some friends up north who had space in their barn, so the truck is nestled among farm equipment friends. 🙂 We’re still serving each week – just from a table. We’ll definitely keep an eye on the weather, but usually we’ll head out to serve, even if the pavement is super icy! 🙂 The truck will be back in action in the Spring!
One World Everybody Eats
Deacon Kari had the privelege to attend and lead a workshop on pay-as-you-can food trucks for the annual One World Everybody Eats Summit (OWEE is a national network of pay-as-you-can cafes – we follow their model.) There were several folks who attended, some who are already running food trucks and others who are interested in starting one. It was encouraging to see how many folks are making something like Shobi’s Table happen around the nation. There is also piqueing interest among other ELCA Synods in food truck ministry. Hooray!
We know it’s only January, but we’re beginning to make plans to add a third serving day in the spring! More volunteers have been trained in, so we’ll have enough folks to spread out over another prep and serving day. One of our staff members will become our full time Kitchen Manager in April, so we’ll have lots of support to make this a reality. We give thanks for the ways you have all given to help make this a possibility, and invite your prayers for this time of preparation as we apply for grants to make this a sustainable reality.
Notes from the Board
Greetings from the Board! I have had the privilege of serving on the board for about a year now, and otherwise work for the Saint Paul School District. What a joy it has been to watch the ministry of Shobi’s grow, stretch and adapt over this past year. The ways in which this ministry has shifted from in-person winter cafes, to learning the maintenance and upkeep of our food truck, to serving meals at new locations with new staff, has been an unbelievable joy to witness. Did we mention this happened without missing serving days?? This ministry has been supported by the larger community in so many ways. Through volunteers, financial donations, and prayer, this growth was made possible, and we are so grateful!
This past summer I was able to volunteer at the truck on multiple serving days. It was a joy to watch the ministry of Shobi’s grow in person over the course of the summer. Adding a second serving location. Welcoming the familiar faces of customers. Learning what foods work best as a take-away meal. The commitment to meeting the community where we are at, was truly humbling to witness. I am filled with hope and gratitude for the ways in which Shobi’s Table has become a mainstay in the neighborhood. Thank you for your continued support of Shobi’s Table. See you soon for lunch!