By Guyana Hand
As a student at the University of Florida, I saved money each week eating free food served around my campus. I was broke, the food was decent, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to meet some people outside my circle of friends. I shared meals with Catholic students, Jewish students, atheist students and many others whose worldviews were unlike my own. Eating with strangers deepened my understanding of hospitality and reminded me of God’s faithfulness and provision.
Some of my first free meals were from the Catholic Church near my campus. Before our meals, a student leader led us in a communal prayer. I felt out of place, uncertain of the words that the other students knew so well. Despite my discomfort, I stayed for the meal and got to know the students. The students I met impressed me—they were so poised, thoughtful, and passionate about Jesus. I was humbled by their hospitality and relieved to find that they welcomed me so openly and freely, regardless of my denominational background.
My experiences with this group and others like them caused me to re-evaluate my own ministry. As a student leader in InterVarsity, I made a habit of inviting friends to our events, longing for them to experience the fun, intimate, diverse community God built in my chapter. Unfortunately I could not convince anyone to take part. I started to understand why they rejected my invitations, as I reflected on my experiences with unfamiliar groups. I remembered how vulnerable I felt each time I sat down for a meal with a stranger, and I can imagine coming to an InterVarsity event must have evoked some of the same feelings.
I began to rethink my methods of engaging with my friends. Instead of continuing to invite them to InterVarsity events, I began to look for opportunities to receive their hospitality, to join them in a meal, and to hear their stories. They welcomed me, even though I didn’t necessarily “fit in” in their sacred spaces, their group gatherings, or their homes. I knew that the grace and hospitality they showed me was a reflection of God, and I hoped I could be a reflection of Him back to my hosts.
We weaved in and out of conversations about faith, but mostly, we connected as students trying to figure things out in this stage of our lives. We learned from each other, despite our different belief systems or world views. What began as a search for free meals became a new method of ministry, of sharing faiths, beliefs, advice, and hospitality.
Show your table! Share a meal with someone from a different culture, faith, or way of life — and then upload a photo from the meal. The pictures uploaded will be used in an art installation at Urbana 12!