One of my ministries is cooking for the guests at Tabor House. Tabor House offers shelter, safety, and support to people experiencing homelessness in and around Birmingham. It is the city’s only permanent night shelter, supporting vulnerable men and women. It offers its guests a hot meal, breakfast, a shower and safe shelter from the cold, desolate streets.
When I first started volunteering at Tabor house my tasks were cleaning, laundry and fixing the bedroom for new guests which meant I had little or no interaction with guests and no opportunity to chat. Now I volunteer to cook because this is gives me the opportunity to sit with them to eat and for me to get to know them.
Meals always bring people together and this is one of the purposes of Tabor House – to ensure the guests are welcomed and not isolated. Besides us volunteers getting to know the guests, they can get to know each other better through sharing meals.
Every time it is my turn to cook, I make sure I cook with love, as it is through this action of cooking I am able to show that I care and respect each of our guests. I always ask Mother Mary to help me, especially on occasions when I’m under pressure, when time is running out or I am short on ingredients. I ask for her guidance too when I have limited resources in the kitchen, we have a full house of guests or I need creativity to use leftover foods to rustle up a new meal. Although these scenarios challenge me, I enjoy the challenge and I find it fun! I enjoy cooking Asian food, which I know the guests enjoy eating very much! There’s often a lot of Western dishes on the menu so I feel it is good to have something different and I’m pleased I can bring my Asian foods to the table.
This ministry makes me very humble and fulfilled. The guests always come first, the volunteers always last. There are times when some of the guests take the initiative to help us wash the dishes, tidy the table and throw away the rubbish. They smile once they are full with delicious, warm and healthy food and this is my reward. I know they are happy, and I believe God is happy too.
Because of my positive attitude and my respect of the guests, eventually I have been able to gain their trust and people have begun confiding in me. It is a privilege to hear all about their lives and I have learned not to judge people. Often the guests have very low self-esteem and are going through unthinkable challenges in life. Some, because of the situation they are in, have no courage to contact their family. They fight hard to make their life normal and to be accepted by society.
I pray that these homeless friends of mine may understand that Jesus loves them and that He is trying to reach out to them.