by Judy Konop
The menu for the meal downtown was planned based on what we had available to serve. The HTM food shelf had some beans, some tomato sauce, some hamburger and a jar of green chili’s. So we planned to serve 300+ people who live in the depths of downtown Minneapolis, CHILI. We never consulted the weather man, we just planned – October – Fall – HOT CHILI on a COOL DAY – comfort food. Little did we know that it would be 80 degrees the day we cooked chili. That was NOT in the plan.
It always amazes me how God pulls A PLAN together. Five weeks earlier there was a bounty of green peppers so a volunteer had cut them up and put them in the freezer wondering if there was a place that could use them (Hmm-mm?). A friend donated 3 #6 cans of kidney beans. And the HTM garden had just finished its fall harvest of onions. And you know how many tomatoes there are at the end of the season – needless to say, we had enough tomatoes. So it all came together; some people chopped onions (and cried) while others fried up 120 pounds of hamburger. The downtown church where we serve donated their industrial kitchen to cook in, and thank goodness there was a fan to keep us cool while we stirred the five – 5 gallon pots.
We did not think of a menu we just thought of the 25 gallons of chili we had to make. God had 300 individual bottles of milk donated only one day ahead of time. A volunteer group called “the bread brigade” ripped up chunks of freshly baked bread to go with the meal. One person who ate with us that day called it “soppin’ bread” to sop up the juice from the bowl. Coffee pots appeared, and cookies came by the dozens. It all came together HOT CHILI, COLD MILK and COOKIES.
We serve about 2pm each Saturday, hoping that people come a bit early to chat and share their lives with others and maybe stay for five o’clock church. And so it is, about an hour ahead, the people begin to come. Few were seen on the streets at noon, but we watched as they approached, one by one then two by two. Some went home to get others when they knew what was being served. Mothers brought hungry children. Children brought lunch boxes to save food for “tomorrow”. Old men, young men, college students from the local bible college down the street, they all came. Some came for the food only, others came for the sense of community where no one judges you because you shake or do not shave. Some came to share a bowl and a bit of laughter, some came to ward off the loneliness of the city streets.
We laughed with them and we broke bread with them. Some people tried to look away, while others looked in our eyes to see if they saw judgement there. You can not judge a person who is willing to eat 4 bowls of hot chili when it is 80 degrees outside, you smile and give them another bowl full when they ask for it. As we cleaned up and packed up our pots and spoons, and drove away, I watched the street corners and the bus benches and the doorways and recognized the faces sitting there as faces that I fed just a short while ago. And I thought, there but for the grace of God go I. I saw one man who had eaten with us watching me and I waved at him and smiled. It felt really good when he got a big grin on his face and waved back. God gives you more than a bowl of HOT CHILI on a HOT DAY when you serve downtown with HTM. He gives you a full heart too.
(Well, there it is another story from the lives of HTM. Funny though, I used the recipe that was my mothers. It is my brothers favorite food – chili. I will share this story with him as the last story I tell him before we part for the last time. Perhaps he too will get a full heart for his journey to heaven. )