The More Things Change

The student meals at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center have been changing through the years. The change is exciting to see because it makes us wonder what new twists will come in the future.

Originally in 1985, the meals were called Rice Day Meals. International students at Slippery Rock University gathered around the old oak kitchen table to prepare the meals. Everyone enjoyed chopping vegetables, frying chicken, and cooking their favorite food: rice. Rice was such a favorite that the large yellow banner advertising the meal called it The Rice Day Meal.

Later on All Saints Fellowship president, Sherry Henry suggested that we show movies after the meals. At that time a number of students from the SRU Dance Department joined us for the meals, bringing many Americans in. As a result, we added pizza, baked cookies, and fried pumpkin seeds to the menu. We showed Christian movies like Fireproof, a big hit. As time went by movies lost their appeal because gradually students began to have easy access to movies on campus.

One day my husband told me that he would pray for someone to cook homemade meals for the student dinners because pizza had become ho-hum. It wasn’t long after that that Jo Dublin, a native of South Korea, came in asking if I would like her to cook our student meals. Jo works on campus, loves students, and is an outstanding cook. To top it off she is a fervent Christian and absolutely would not take any money to pay for cooking the shrimp, her wonderful dumplings, and other goodies. She cooks for the Lord. That was in 2009. Answered prayer! Jo’s cooking attracted many international and SRU American students and gradually became known as the Korean Meal.

Recently more and more Grove City College students have come to the meals, not so easy to do when you have to drive here from Grove City. Also, this year, senior adults from the community have been coming in. They enjoy the delicious meal, the companionship, and interaction with those around them. At the same time, a growing number of SRU professors now are bringing their friends and families to the meals. At the last meal, we had six professors (if you include my retired husband). Our wonderful problem is that so many attend that our All Saints Fellowship president, Akelah Hughes, has to consider carefully what furniture to put where in order to make enough room. We are increasingly aware of how small our undercroft is for entertaining 60–70 people.

Although the style of the student meals has changed throughout the years, the purpose has not. We have one purpose and that is to use these meals as a time to share the Gospel through friendship. With this in mind, we invite everyone at the meals to feel welcome to come to All Saints worship, Bible classes, and just to drop in to talk. As an icebreaker, we often ask our guests where they go to church, letting them know we would be happy if they came to our services. A professor who brought his family said he had once been a Lutheran, but no longer believes or attends church. Another professor whose students raved about the meals said he was so pleased with his and his wife’s experience at the meal that he would personally tell more students to come. When asked if he had a church, he and his wife said they were atheists and preferred sleeping in on Sundays. They didn’t say this with hostility. They seemed to appreciate our invitation to come in any way to hear what gives us so much joy.

Our challenge is to encourage those who come to the meals to come more often. At our February meal, Moses Greenspan, a Grove City College senior, showed slides and told us about his summer in Ethiopia. What impressed me was that students were willing to come upstairs to the sanctuary to hear his talk, including five Japanese students who are not Christians. Akelah plans to ask students at the next meal what topics they would most appreciate hearing about: we are thinking about thirty-minute talks describing Christian marriage, clinical depression, obtaining visas, and financing a college education.

No matter what style the meal takes it still is a blessing and needed comfort. John (not his real name), an American student, came to my office recently for Bible study. He looked so down, so sad that I asked if he were well. He said that he had just found out that a dear Christian friend and mentor had taken his own life. This friend was a Christian senior adult he had deeply respected. John was brokenhearted. It is good to be here for students especially at times like this. He comes to the meals, where he found out that we care about him. He comes to the meals. He knows we care and, most important, that God cares.

If you are in the area, you are welcome to join us for a student meal. Our door is always open. The food and friendship are great. We will have a meal in March, April, and May. Call 724-794-4334.

Augusta R. Mennell

Campus Ministry Director

All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center

Slippery Rock, PA