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First off, I highly recommend this book. It’s overdue from the library right now because I couldn’t give it back yet.

Take This Bread is labeled as both “A Radical Conversion” and “The spiritual memoir of a twenty-first-century Christian.”  Sara Miles was an atheist until she wandered into a neighborhood church and found a home.

She didn’t just find a church home, though (and she didn’t always get along well with others in the church). She became a new kind of church planter.

Sara Miles decided to start a food pantry at her church. But it wasn’t just a food pantry. It became a church service of a kind itself, and a new congregation.  And her food pantry has gone on to help plant other food pantries. To Miles, giving away food is Holy Communion, every bit as much as handing out wafers or bread in a traditional service.

The food pantry has had its own problems. This isn’t a story of perfect miracles. In fact, Miles makes some disturbing statements about Russian and Chinese people in San Francisco.  But it’s an incredible story, well worth reading, especially for anyone who has been disillusioned by the institutional church.

I open the door, and see a young girl. Thinking she’s probably selling something, I open the screen door (you can’t see through it from the outside), and say “Hi, hon, what can I do for you?”

“Is Suzy here?” she inquires. Oh. My seven year old actually has a visitor! Not the best timing, but…

“Hi, Fabiana!” exclaims Suzy from behind me.

“Can Suzy come to my sister’s birthday party?” asks Fabiana. “I asked her yesterday. We’ll walk her home when it’s over.”

I peer out at the two teenagers who accompanied Fabiana to our house. “You’ll walk with them? “ I ask. They nod.

My husband has met Fabiana’s grandfather before; he probably heard about the party, but forgot to say anything.

“Okay, but I think I’ll walk with you,” I reply. I try to be a good mom. I’ll go check the place out and meet the adults myself, although I have a bad cold and I really don’t want to be out.

I bundle our toddler into the stroller, and everyone gets their shoes on. We decide that five-year old Beth can go to the party too.

Fabiana’s house is about two blocks directly behind ours, although we do have to walk out and around, making it probably 6 blocks to walk in total. Halfway there, we’re met by young family members on bikes, joking and laughing with the teenagers. I realize that they’re actually speaking in another language part of the time.

“What language do you speak?” I ask the older girl.

“Creole,” she replies. “From ‘Aiti. Off the coast of Cuba.”

“Oh, I’ve never heard Creole before,” I answer.

We arrive at the house, walking down a long driveway. Kids are swooping up and down the driveway on bikes. Others are running around in the yard. The garage door is open, and under a bright light men huddle around a card table playing dominoes. The girls run on in with Fabiana, and I poke my head into the kitchen to introduce myself, but I’m not sure who to talk to – there are so many people here!

An older woman turns from the stove to greet me, and I introduce myself. She doesn’t seem to speak much English, but manages my name after a couple of tries. She appears to be the matriarch of this clan.

Another woman invites me to stay. “Thanks, but I have to go home,” I say regretfully. I’d love to stay, but I’m feeling pretty lousy still.

“You want a taste of something then?” she asks. There are gigantic dishes of food completely covering the kitchen counter, and weighing down the dining room table. They’re still cooking, too!

“Okay, sure, thanks.” I say. I do enjoy trying different kinds of food, and I wouldn’t want to offend her anyway.

She starts filling a plate. I’ve just eaten, but I figure it would be rude to protest. When the plate is full, she turns and asks if I want to try a certain dish. I try saying, “Oh, that’s OK, that’s enough.”

“No, no,” she says. “Try a taste.” She holds out a forkful of some type of vegetable salad with a red tint. I grasp a bite with my fingers and try it. It is, in fact delicious, and tastes like a mixture of potato salad and beets, with some seasoning I don’t recognize.

My hostess continues filling the plate with more things I don’t recognize, then finally stops. The matriarch is presiding over the deep fryer, and pulls out something that resembles a pierogi, placing it on a small plate with something that looks like coleslaw (but isn’t). Now I’ve got one plate stacked about six inches high, plus a salad plate, to take with me. Good grief! That’s hospitality. A good, big taste to take home. I feel bad about not staying now, but they’ve gone and fixed the plate for me, and no one else is eating yet, so I take our toddler on home.

Wow! I’m intrigued. We have a Haitian family, possibly a Haitian community, right in our neighborhood. What a great opportunity to experience another culture! And yet, am I being condescending in saying that? I hope not. I truly do enjoy being with people from other cultures, and I definitely don’t look down on them as being inferior.

Well, I look forward to getting to know this family. Suzy and Fabiana seem to be becoming good friends, and they’re very close by. I wasn’t able to stick around tonight, but I definitely would make the effort next time, and maybe we can invite them over here, too.