Let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago, our church council did some brainstorming around how to begin reaching out to our neighbours. Because our church is located in a rural community, the possibilities are limited and come with significant hurdles.
During the discussion, one person piped up, “Why don’t we have a food-truck night?” Every Friday night, she went on to explain, there would be food trucks parked on our property. People travelling home from work could stop and grab a bite to eat while visiting with their neighbours. Brilliant idea. It fit perfectly with our mandate. Nothing happened.
Fast forward to this past summer: the summer of COVID-19. A couple I’ve known for years hauled in their fifth-wheel trailer and set up camp for the summer on the church property. Long story. On one occasion, they approached me with what they believed to be a brilliant, creative idea: Why doesn’t the church bring in some food trucks? It would be so great, they said. Their friends from Calgary would be here in a heartbeat. Ring a bell? Great idea, right? Nothing happened.
There is an idiom which goes, “The third time's the charm.” It means that if the first two attempts at something don’t work, perhaps the third will be successful. This being said, picture another church council meeting this past summer. During the meeting, one person shared that her husband had recently met a man who had just moved into the area. Oh, the best part? He owned a food truck! Could we consider approaching this person, she asked? Perhaps he might be willing to bring his food truck to the church property. The bells were not only ringing, they were clanging like in Notre Dame Cathedral.
How was it humanly possible that three people, on three separate occasions, could bring up the subject of a food truck as a way to build community in this rural area? Absurd, right? God, it seemed, was in the food truck business. Only God could have directed a random couple from B.C. to set up a food truck between two sloughs in the middle of rural Alberta, just a couple of kilometres away from the church. Not a recommended business strategy, by the way.
During Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019, Elaine Heath presented four key points associated with living life in a contemplative stance: show up; pay attention; cooperate with God; release the outcome. Our responsibility, in this case, was to simply respond to what God was doing right under our noses. We didn’t have to lift a finger. It was actually rather humbling. Not every relevant mission effort emerges out of the church. Sometimes, the very thing we are searching for is already happening in our surrounding communities.
This summer, I made it my mission to cooperate with what God was doing just down the road. In the process, I met, for the first time, some great people from outside the church, encouraged a fledgling business with a vision for creating community, indulged in delicious food and gained a few pounds in the process.
The summer of COVID-19 was a hard summer indeed! I’m already anticipating the return of the food truck in the spring. Perhaps we can partner with the owners in a way that not only feeds the body but also nourishes the soul.
Anna-Lisa Salo is pastor of Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, Alta. This reflection originally appeared in the Dec.2, 2020 edition of The MCA Communiqué, MC Alberta’s weekly e-newsletter.