By Sean Lem
Over the past month and a half, we have been trying out a new ministry we like to call, “Sean’s Dinner Party!” Nope, I did not narcissistically place my own name in the title. However, it was conceived through a general consensus throughout our little group that my name had to be there because it made it more personal. Also partially because I’m not the admin of the WhatsApp group there is not much I can do to change the name even if I wanted to.
Simply put, prior to Tuesday (Our day of service) a family is chosen by my friend Zukisani. It is explained to the family that a chef will come and serve them dinner as long as they abide by two rules. The first being that only people on the attendance list collected prior to Tuesday night are allowed to participate, and secondly that there is a no alcohol policy. The location, number of people, names, age, time of service, dietary restrictions, and other significant information is passed along to myself, and I then decide upon the menu.
Monday I buy and prepare the dinner, which is a 2 course meal. The food is prepared for a French service dinning experience. This means that the food is mostly prepared in the kitchen, and then finished off table side. Tuesday comes and we arrive at the family’s home at the scheduled time. Always before we start we ask once more if it is ok if we are able to commence with the ministry. Once given the okay to continue we set up. This entails the placement of a table, chairs, table cloth, plates, cups, and cutlery. I quickly explain who I am, why I like to cook, and why we are doing this for them. Dinner is served, and while they eat I prepare the dessert before the table as the translators encourage conversation among the family members. We end the night with a few last words, and a picture. Clean up and debrief happen once we are all at home.
I’ll have to admit this ministry was not conceived through my own thoughts, but propositioned to me by my friend Jung who has been helping me along with my walk in South Africa. He has taken a great interest in me and my well being, drawing me closer to Christ. The concept was brought to life after I explained to him my theory on cooking, and what made being a cook worth while. I personally believe that the reason why I cook is because it brings people together. It sets up an atmosphere where people from all walks of life, young or old, rich or poor, people you love or hate, can come together and enjoy the show, which is presented through the art of culinary. You can go anywhere in the world, enjoy a meal with someone, and get to know them a little better.
Thus saying even though the ministry displays a nice show with decent food, we want to show people who are hurting or angry what it’s like to be free. Free for them to be who they really are, with out the baggage that comes with life in the township. I’m not saying that culturally they are eating dinner wrong, and that there is one way better then another. I’m simply saying that what we do paints a window for the family to see, “this is what our family is like when we are free to laugh, and enjoy each other.” Placing behind all the burdens, annoyances and hatred. It allows them to dream, and see a picture of what Christ really intended when He puts together a family.
Lastly we only visit the families once, and after that night we don’t revisit them. Understand, this is a cultural barrier we have had to over come. We would love to see the families again; However, without the shock value the families will start praising the gift rather then the good gift giver which is Christ. If we continue to come back, they will associate the window of family and happiness with us being the source rather then understanding that within the family already there is that potential. There is a lot of corporations that come to the townships, and hand out goods. The people have come accustom to just taking the free stuff and not thinking past that. We wanted to do something a little different, something to get the families to cherish what’s already within their own home.