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Open Table, Open Hearts

Posted: 2/13/19 at 9:00am. Written by Carrie Hayner.

The weather forecast has taken on new significance for the members of Downtown Baptist Church in Old Town Alexandria. It’s no longer simply information for how to dress for the day or whether getting to work or school will be a challenge.

On January 30, 2019, our congregation celebrated the two-year anniversary of Open Table—a breakfast ministry on Wednesday mornings from 6:00-8:00 am. Two churches in our community preceded us serving breakfasts on Mondays and Thursdays, respectively.

Open Table has opened our hearts to those who struggle to have a roof over their head or enough to eat. Weather forecasts with low temperatures, rain, or snow, now leave us wondering if our neighbors have shelter. In the heat of the summer, we’re praying they have adequate water.

During the planning stages of this ministry, our Associate Pastor, Brian Hoysa, inspired us with the challenge to know our neighbors by their names rather than their needs. We have discovered that conversations and camaraderie, among diverse volunteers and guests, are sweeter than the cinnamon rolls—and more filling than the biscuits and gravy we serve.

Every week we all join hands to give thanks to God. Our guests have become friends.

A big bear of a man enjoys playing jokes on us; we have fun teasing him in return.

A young man who works on a construction crew rushes in and out dressed in his fluorescent safety vest and unfailing smile.

A shy woman who joins us to stretch her paycheck is modest with requests and generous with thanks.

One gentleman often arrives with an offering of flavored coffee creamer and stays late to clean the tables.

It’s a good day when one of our guests, who carries the burden of a mental illness, makes eye contact with us and shares a conversation.

We’ve also had the joy of seeing guests who were gruff or withdrawn become pleasantly approachable.

Our volunteers have become friends as well. Getting to know one another on mission has changed strangers into family. Shared life on a weekday brings the joy of knowing more of the people in the pews around you on Sundays.

If your church decides to start an Open Table ministry, I have a “high confidence” forecast for you: hearts will be stirred, volunteers and guests alike will be refreshed, names will be known, and God will be glorified.

 “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed!”  Proverbs 11:25b 

This story was submitted by Carrie Hayner, a member of Downtown Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. Do you have a story to share about something happening at your church? Write it up and email it with a photo attached to Jennifer Law, BGAV Marketing Associate, at jennifer.law@bgav.org.