On a recent Wednesday night on our Cornerstone campus, there were 3 different dinner options within a couple hundred yards of each other. Our dining hall featured the every day, every meal spread that offers several different entrée options, pasta, cold sandwiches, salad bar, Panini’s, cereals, and a host of dessert and drink options. To be honest, many of the hundreds of students and staff that eat there every day are often indifferent or even a bit negative about what they can choose from to eat in our serving space. The second option features hot and cold sandwiches and other snacks and desserts and drinks for those who don’t have the time to sit down to eat with others in the dining room because their schedule is too filled with other activities of greater significance. And the third option was off to the side in our student union area, and featured a large metal container that held a porridge made from corn and soy that is often given to people suffering from malnutrition and who are desperately hungry in places all over our world. Plastic bowls were being handed out and chairs had been moved to open up some space on the floor where people could spoon up the mixture while reading a card that featured a story of a child who was deeply affected by hunger in Asia, Africa, or Latin America.
A core group of students from our ACTS group on our campus had done some grass-roots publicity to inform people about this Broken Bread Meal option they were offering as part of their student organization’s mission to raise awareness and response on our campus concerning issues of global poverty and justice. I have served this year as an initiator and faculty advisor to this group over the course of the school year, and I arrived late to this particular event after an administrative team meeting. To be honest, I had no real idea as to what the participation level in our meal would be on this night. It is our initial year as a student group on campus, and social issues like hunger and AIDS and orphans have historically been more on the periphery of our campus concerns. Many students went ahead and scanned their ID cards to enter the dining commons while others ordered at the counter where the sandwiches and coffee makers were on display.
But to my surprise, there was a large group sitting on the carpet eating porridge and signing their names and ID numbers to a list so they could donate the meal cost to a project feeding orphans in Haiti. As I grabbed my own bowl and sat down to talk with some students about what they thought of the mixture they were eating, I was struck by who I saw sitting around me. Most of the time when you enter into a college dining hall, you can easily identify which student group each of the tables represents as you look at their physical appearances and listen to their conversations. Students, even on a smaller campus like ours, very much flock to their own kind when it comes time to sit at tables to eat together. In many ways, this host of tables serves to perpetuate jealousy and separation between students who are attending the same school, but on this night without tables I experienced a little different reality.
Sitting within a couple yards of me on the floor were two distinct groups. One group featured a crew of athletes I had gotten to know well, some upperclassmen soccer players. The group right next to them was a handful of freshman girls from one of the residence halls on campus. I am fairly certain that these two groups of students had not mixed at any point during our academic school year; in fact, I am quite sure that no one in either group knew the name of one person in the circle beside them. One group was viewed as popular and even a bit boisterous at times on our campus; the other group was relatively unknown and very compliant with what was expected of them on campus. One group didn’t fit the profile of the “spiritual” group on campus; the other group served as a typical profile of the horde of “good” Christian kids on campus. I didn’t have the guts to ask, but have a strong suspicion that the girls eating their porridge didn’t expect these particular guys to be their dinner partners on this March night.
And as I spooned up my own food, I was once again struck by the community and unity that caring for the poor so often brings to the church. People who seemingly have nothing in common are brought together by a shared heart that aches for people in suffering, and can respond together to make things more reflect they way God intends them to be. On this night at Cornerstone, the call to enter the world of the least, those who were hungry, did something that just about every other program and event couldn’t do on campus; it brought together guys and girls, athletes and non-athletes; and they came together to grow in their love for Christ and His people in need across the globe. The broken bread meal connected us to children in other communities far away from us, and it connected us as a student community across our own Grand Rapids campus. That is the power of the Gospel, it’s the reach of the Kingdom…and may we continue to together become a community that is unified in our concern for the things and the people that break God’s heart in our generation.
May we Lord Jesus, be the ones who offer the bread of life in word and deed to all who you bring into our lives in our year ahead at CU…
ACTS 4:32-34…All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them.