A Dining Room Made Hallowed Ground


Guest Post: Donna Oehrig

As prayers go, it wasn’t much: a couple of sentences that sketched out a dedication of our newly-remodeled kitchen and dining room. I was trying to overcome disappointment that we didn’t have enough funds to make that space larger. But here it was with new everything, and we were asking God to help us use it for his glory. It felt like a silly prayer to me: how could such a small place be used for much, especially God’s glory?

A week later, Bob came home from his job of resettling refugees, with a big problem: there had been a huge influx of refugees in the past few weeks, and he and his staff could not find affordable housing for a family of 6 arriving from Iraq. When he told me the ages of the children, I said they were small enough bodies that the entire family could occupy our two upstairs bedrooms. We expanded our table with its one leaf and later that night opened the door to a travel-weary family with four children under the age of 5.

Only the father, E*, could speak English. Nonetheless, I showed Z* my pots and pans. She took them each out, studied them, and then said, “OK.” I took her to the bathroom and showed her how to work the shower/tub faucet. I opened my fridge and pantry and told her she could help herself to whatever she needed to fix her family their meals while we were at work. E* followed behind, translating as fast as he could. Z*’s large, brown eyes sparkled with intelligence and purpose. Each time she understood what I was communicating to her, she would give her head a sharp nod and say, “OK!” And she never forgot.

Unfortunately for the family, my larder was woefully inadequate for Kurdish tastes. Soon the pantry and fridge were stuffed with bags of rice, vegetables, flat breads, and spices I had no idea existed. Did you know you don’t really need to “pre-drain” eggplant before you cook it?

Grape Leaves

One day, Z* pulled me down to the floor in the kitchen, and with her 3-year-old daughter, she showed me how to wrap grape leaves around a meat-rice-eggplant-and other stuff combo, placing them carefully in my largest pot, to be steamed for dinner. One day Z* took my hand and brought me to the couch where E* and the kids were enjoying Skype conversations with family back home. There, she introduced me to her mother. Another day Z* produced a CD and we watched the wedding ceremony of her only brother that had taken place just before they left home. She showed me her own wedding album, and she showed me pictures of her sisters – all 13 of them – and called them each by name, insisting I say each name back to her. E* and Z* showed us pictures from news agencies back home of atrocities being committed against their people group in towns not far from where their own family and friends live.

And on that day, on that day, something irrevocably shifted in my world. What happened to Mom or brother and his new wife, or the sisters and their kids suddenly, urgently mattered to me. What did NOT matter – at all – was the dining room and table that I had thought too small to be of service. For on that day, E* and Z* had pulled back the curtains and had ushered me to the hallowed ground of their suffering.

photo credit: Kara Newhouse via photopin cc

 Donna OehrigDonna Oehrig lives in Minnesota with her husband of 38+ years, Bob, and is the mother of 5 mostly-grown children. She grew up in Liberia and lived a decade-plus of her adult life in Kenya. She currently lives in a very, very quiet neighborhood where nothing super exiting ever happens. And yet, the most fascinating people keep crossing her threshold.


We are increasingly convinced that resisting violence in this world requires a lifestyle of radical hospitality. Our small acts of kindness beyond the borders of family, tribe, nation, religion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender, denomination, political affiliation, economic class are not only preparation for resisting more violent situations, but are also themselves the embodiment of love that create a more peaceful world. This September we are sharing a few of our own reflections, and those of our friends, on hospitality.



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