Visitors Eager to Share Stories at The Gospel CafeApril 9, 2010
Lisa Wingate's book "The Summer Kitchen" was shaped by what she saw at The Gospel Cafe, a ministry providing free meals and love to the Kate Ross community in Waco. The doors open for lunch at the light blue building, a former house where it's believed that drug deals used to take place, and a line that's been developing for at least an hour before the opening files in. It gets busy very quickly.
Between 100 and 150 people will eat in the short time the cafe opens, a majority of them in need. Some are homeless, jobless, or just struggling. Others have mental illnesses and need attention. All of them receive a personal greeting and feel the love that the volunteers speak of when describing the cafe. Sherry Castello of Cross Ties Ministries knows them and has come to know what they're dealing with.
That gentleman was given a ride home after an illness the week prior. After him, the line continues to snake through the tables in the multi-room house. John Calhoun, a volunteer and Cross Ties member, threads through the crowd and serves people at their tables, one of whom wanted to make sure we knew something.
Henry enjoys interacting with people from the community, and many come not just to eat, but to visit. Author Lisa Wingate was amazed to watch the cross-section of the community interact, and it takes place regularly on a typical day. Another young woman requests Calhoun's help. The line is very long, and she has to get to school. He makes sure she's covered.
A few minutes in, a man named Virgil waits in the line for his meal. You may not know Virgil, but if you've driven the streets around Baylor or Kate Ross, you might have seen him going about his daily routine, walking the streets with a large stick in flowing robes, praying for the people that pass by.
It's that love that he finds at The Gospel Cafe.
Virgil visits as Mary sits at a cash register nearby, where some donate for their meals. Mary was once in line, now she serves. At a particularly low point in her life, two doctors who knew of the Gospel Cafe's work thought it might be just the prescription to make her well.
Mary now recognizes that she needed a community that accepted her. She found it.
There are too many stories to tell in a few short minutes, but the multitudes of people who visit the Cafe have plenty to share with anyone who cares to join them. They did so with Lisa Wingate, who hopes that her book "The Summer Kitchen" inspires Wacoans this spring, as well as readers worldwide, to think about they can transform their community, maybe by turning an abandoned house into a welcoming place.
You can hear prior stories about The Gospel Cafe and One Book One Waco online at kwbu.org. The One Book One Waco project continues year-round, with "The Summer Kitchen" as the featured work in the coming weeks. The Gospel Cafe is open for lunch Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays each week. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.