Mama K. In 2010 that was the nickname given to me by a high school student a couple of days into our short-term missions trip to Corozal Town, Belize. Mama K?
I was only thirty-eight years old and suddenly college students and post-grads were calling me “Mama K”. The first few times that I heard it I smiled while dying a little on the inside, thinking to myself that it made me feel so old. Not mature or wise or nurturing, just old.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit softened my heart and righted my thinking before I voiced my displeasure out loud.
I began to realize that I needed a radical perspective shift. Quickly. Because “Mama K” had been spoken over me as a term of honor. My resistance to that title was rooted in vanity. And if I chose to keep looking backwards to grasp at my own youthfulness, I would miss an incredible blessing that had opened up before me. The calling to step into an intentional relationship of mentor, discipler, and friend to some pretty amazing young adults.
Five years later I bear the title of Mama K fondly. Because the name that has guided me into mid-life brings me immeasurable joy.
After we returned home from this trip a couple of the young women we traveled and served with asked me if I would lead a bible study for them and some of their friends. And a few of the young men began coming to our home for a weekly meal.
Our community dinners were born. Monday night girls. Thursday night guys.
These young adults found a much needed place of belonging in our home at the crossroads of their challenging life transitions. They began inviting friends, roommates, and co-workers. So our front door and our hearts opened wider. And now every week I serve 20-30 young adults dinner, with my family, around our table.
But really the story of how our home became a place of relational ministry begins years before Belize. Because Ryan and I tried and failed several times at establishing community in our home before we signed up to co-lead a summer missions trip in 2010.
Our first attempt was modeled after our mentors – opening our home to young families for Sunday lunch. We called it “Soup Group”. We also tried leading adult small groups and bible studies in our living room. And hosted youth group events in our backyard. Everyone always seemed to enjoy themselves, but nothing stuck and made roots.
Making our home a place of belonging for people seeking deeper connections required perseverance. Patience. The willingness to try, fail, and try again. Commitment to prayer. And the hard work of intentional conversations with wise mentors, trusted friends, and each other before Ryan and I discovered our niche. Inviting young adults to be a part of our family as they discover their paths towards living great stories of faith, work, and relationships. Pouring love and affirmation into them as they pour love and blessing back into us, our boys, and our home.
This is one of my favorite photographs from that fateful trip to Belize. It is a picture of my son Jordan, who was nine years old at the time, being lifted up and thrown into Corozal Bay by other members of our team. It is a memory of pure and utter delight. Two of the young men photographed catapulting Jordan have now sat at my table almost weekly for five years. During that time we have openly shared some of our most difficult moments, and celebrated our victories. Lifting one another up and journeying closely as we launch into new seasons.
The community we love and share life with, the community of people who have been woven into the very fabric of my home and family is generally – with some exceptions – young adults navigating the gap between college and thirty. But the community waiting to be born in your home may look very different.
Who is your community? Is it young adults? Teens? The spouses of deployed military? Single parents? Families with young children? Empty-nesters? What ignites passion and purpose in you that can be channeled into using your home a resource for the much needed gift of authentic community? The gift of knowing others and being truly known.
Because our homes (regardless of whether it is an apartment, a duplex, or a house) are one of our greatest resources. My home is a provision from God, intended to be more than a place for my family to live. It is meant to be shared. And the size and the beauty of it is irrelevant as long as it is a place where people are seen and loved.
If you share the calling to make your home a place of community, invite some people to join you around your table for good food and good conversation. Some people will come back, some people may not. But keep inviting. You will discover the community that best fits the design of your heart and the rhythms of your home through the people who stick. The relationships that make roots into the very foundation where you dwell.
An open door, a warm meal, nourishing conversations. Simple gifts presented to a world in desperate need of meaningful ways to connect. Offerings that that hold the power to create a community around our tables that can transform our hearts and souls.