Because many of our Special Gathering members were not able to attend the memorial service for one of their Bible teachers, we had a short memorial time at our Melbourne Special Gathering on Sunday morning. Special Gathering members are mentally challenged adults. The mission of our ministry is evangelism and discipleship. We don’t do group homes but we have chapel services and Bible classes. This teacher, Frank, had taught a Bible class for about ten years. His students loved him. Therefore, as part of the memorial, our Melbourne members were asked to comment about Frank, sharing a favorite memory.
Our members spoke about the times they remembered the most. I was a bit surprised. Several of the members talked about the class he taught. However, almost all of our members said, “I went to his house to eat.” His last meal, in fact, was shared with five of our Special Gathering members. Their van driver lives in Vero but she needed to do some catch-up paper work in Melbourne; and his wife invited the members to come and eat at their home.
After that meal, Frank took a large downturn; and he was no longer able to eat.
Over the years, I’ve studied the importance in the Scriptures regarding the meal. The Bible indicates that there is a bonding that happens at meal time and with the breaking of bread. This unique time does not seem to happen during any other activity.
The meal plays a significant part in each milestone of developing our Christian faith. Only mentioning a few, Abraham shared a meal with the Angel of the Lord before receiving God’s promise to become a great nation. The Passover was a Seder meal. Moving to the New Testament, the last supper was an important time of communion for Jesus and his disciples. Even after his resurrection, we know of two meals that Jesus shared with his followers. The last meal was breakfast on the beach and Jesus prepared the food himself.
I am more and more convinced that to develop a working and compatible relationship with people or family members that we desire to influence for Christ, the meal will help. Several years ago, our executive director at Special Gathering, Richard Stimson, decided that we should invite our members to come to our homes and have a meal with them and their families. We invited each family whose child participated to our home. We spent time with them. Though it has been years, our parents still bring up how much they appreciated coming to our home.
Of course, inviting people to our homes is not the only way we can create that bond. Sharing meals at restaurants, church fellowships and picnics will accomplish the same goal. Weekend spiritual retreats are often life changing experiences and I’m convinced that a big part of that transformation is because of eating with other Christians.
God in his infinite wisdom has made the meal a time of pleasure and bonding that melts heart together in a unique way. Connections are made that last a lifetime.