We have this cool ministry at our church called “Mealmates.” What you do is sign up and you get put on a list with a bunch of other people and a schedule gets put out every 8-10 weeks of your new “Mealmates” group. Then you organize among yourselves where to meet and everyone pitches in and brings something along.
Well it was our turn last Sunday. Francelle prepared some food and it was my job to fire up the BBQ. Then the guests started to arrive. Remember – you don’t really know until the day who is going to turn up. Well lo and behold Sue turns up (who was on the list) with her husband. Sue has been coming to our church for the past 5 years at least. But I’ve never met her husband. So I was a bit surprised when he turned up… pleasantly surprised.
Then I thought to myself, ‘How awkward – being landed with a bunch of Christians. And you’re the only one whose not.’ I have a very clear memory of THOSE settings in my past, so I jumped in real quick.
“Well Vince, it’s great you came. Tell me – what do you do for a living?”
“I work in the area of ocular prosthesis,” he answered.
I racked my brain… prosthesis… sounds like prosthetics – I took a stab:
“Oh – so you deal with artificial limbs”
“No, artificial eyes and noses and ears,” he replied.
“Your kidding me!” I said.
I was genuinely interested. Not just interested – fascinated. I’m an engineer. I love thinking and learning about how things are designed and made. I found a connection – instantly. Wonderful. I knew he didn’t have to remain alienated for the rest of the afternoon (like with lots of talk about God). And the rest of us really did talk a lot about God. We can’t help it. You get together with brothers and sisters in Christ and it just flows naturally, or should I say supernaturally.
So we are all sitting there at the table and talking about how the Lord did this and that and all the rest and I could see Vince smiling pleasantly, but not really being part of it so I interrupted the conversation and said,
“Hey everyone, did you know what Vince does? He makes artificial eyes and noses for people.”
“Really?” someone said.
“Truly?” someone else added.
“Absolutely,” I replied, “Right Vince?”
Vince pulls out his phone and shows us some ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of people who have lost eyes and noses and ears through cancer and accidents. This is not Vince (I wish I got a photo of him) but this is the type of work that he does. Pretty cool isn’t it? Everyone at our table thought so as well. Vince is only 1 of 8 people in NZ who makes artificial eyes and 1 of 4 who can make ears and noses as well. What amazing abilities that God gives people in our world.
I learned a good lesson on Sunday. If you want to reach out to people and build a relationship with them, meet them in their world. Take an interest in what they are doing – whatever it is. You can pull the most alienated person into your setting. This is really important if you’re a Christian trying to build bridges with those who are not.
Mealmates is a great idea. Maybe you ought to think about it for your church. You never know who might turn up and what opportunities or doors God might open. And you often get blessed yourself. While we were serving, we apologized for having so few spoons and forks. It’s because our kids keep taking them to school and losing them. Well Sue and Vince picked up on this and the next day they dropped off a whole cutlery set they weren’t using. Wow – thanks guys!
And one last thing; as everyone was going out the door, Vince turned around and invited us all to their place next for the next Mealmates. “Great,” everyone said; “We’ll be there.”
I beamed. We had made a friend.