On the last Sunday of every month, there is a marvelous cross-cultural gathering of Missio Dei church members, homeless individuals and Latinos who have been involved in earning their citizenship through the efforts of Norma Gallegos of World Relief Spokane.
The event is called a convivio — a Spanish word meaning (sharing life together) living or sharing together. This is something that needs to happen more often in our communities — bringing people together to share food, conversation and support. We are all too frequently isolated from people who we share the community with but who have vastly different experiences.
Pastor Thom Nees, a good friend and former colleague at The World, invited me to participate in this unique event on Sunday. Missio Dei is a community service-oriented church that operates out of the World's old press room (which later was the Pressroom Theatre) and World Relief shares space and conducts citizenship classes in that space.
Nees freely admits that if the church had tried to design a cross-cultural gathering on its own, it more than likely would have failed. It was through a relationship that Nees and Gallegos have formed over the past several years that brought the idea of a shared meal, or convivio. It's more than a tradition potluck — it's a place for community to gather and share together. They're on to something important.
On this particular Sunday, a group of women were busy making homemade tortillas in the kitchen at the church. A vat of beans was bubbling on the stove, plus potatoes, rice, huevos rancheros and a selection of homemade salsas. It was quite a feast and the food was filling, hearty and darned tasty.
While we ate, Jose Luis High, the news director for La Nueva radio station, was entertaining with a guitar and vocals. He's quite a musician.
While Mexican food is on the menu the last Sunday of the month, breakfast is served at 9 am. every week. Homeless individuals find Missio Dei to be a comfortable place to visit on Sundays where they are welcomed and valued on the basis of our shared humanity. They are able to get a cup of coffee, a mealand a listening ear. It is a place where everyone is welcome to come as they are. I spoke with a 21-year-old woman who is living in a tent in East Wenatchee and is hoping to land a job with one of the fruit companies in. She lamented that another homeless guy had been hassling her and she was concerned for her safety.
The folks who were homeless were respectful, courteous and according to Nees are sincerely appreciative.
Church members have really fixed up the inside of the old press room to look like a cafe. They'll make you a cappuccino or a latte — don't bother asking for drip coffee. They'd prefer to craft a great cup for you.
Gallegos oversees citizenship classes in seven locations throughout the region for World Relief, a faith-based organization which is dedicated to helping immigrants.
At the recent TEDx Event here in Wenatchee, the theme was "Connecting The Dots," which refers to the need to stop addressing issues in isolation and work together to make the community more resllient.
The convivio is a perfect illustration of the kind of creative effort that we can take to make this a reality.