By Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner, Director of The Wesley Foundation of Tucson (affectionately known as Frontera Wesley)
The Thursday after Easter, the delicate ballet that we have been practicing since the beginning of COVID commenced once again. The challenge has been to bring home-cooked, much-needed, and appreciated food to the University of Arizona and Pima students spread out in dorm rooms and apartments throughout Tucson without bringing them together to crowd in one spot. It was a challenge we had faced with creativity and collaboration. A map is drawn, color-coded, and intricate. It is constantly updated to account for which students have gone home and which students have come back to campus. Vegetarian, Vegan, and Omnivore meals are marked out. Assignments are made and people take their places on the stage.
Masked and vaccinated student leaders arrive at the parking lot of the Campus Christian Center at the edge of the gates of the University of Arizona and eagerly await the arrival of food from Chef Roy. With extravagant generosity and great love, Chef Roy has been preparing catered meals for the students throughout the year. It has helped us to create a way of feeling together; a way of remembering the rituals and memories we have shared; a way of holding onto the traditions we have created over the past few years.
Instead of a Labor Day Cook Out at Dottie’s house, we had a catered cookout-style meal delivered on Labor Day. Instead of a Harvest Festival with the children at The Inn, we had small pumpkins and homemade candy delivered. Instead of a Thanksgiving Dinner, we had packages of turkey or Vegetarian squash dinners that we opened together each in our own homes on a Thursday night. We have found a way of holding on to the things that make us feel like ourselves. Just transformed into what they need to be during this season.
Food, I’ve learned, is not just necessary for the body – it is truly necessary for the soul. Food that is given or shared or made with love feeds the weary and isolated spirit in a way that transcends mere physical hunger. It is a sign of the connection to a community outside ourselves that loves us and supports us. It is a reminder that we are not alone, even when it feels like we are.
So, we take our places. Lined up in our cars in the parking spaces behind the Campus Christian Center. The Chef arrives and -masked and socially distanced- meals are loaded into cars and one by one they pull out of their spots and head off to the part of the city assigned to them. 4 Vegetarian meals and 5 Omnivores nestled in the back seat of Thomas’ car, to be safely dropped off at the address of students hungry for love and sustenance. Caitlin heads back to Honors Village with 5 Omnivore meals for the Freshmen that live close together there. Each person spins out of their spot on the stage and heads off to execute their own carefully choreographed solo dance. Each solo performance a part of what makes us whole.
The stage empties. I pull out southbound towards the students at The Ranch. Chef Roy is left to clean up the stage, exhausted but encouraged, with the deep gratitude of students who have been reminded that they are loved, that they are part of a community larger than themselves, and they are most certainly not alone.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to make a difference and provide nourishment for students, please donate at https://bit.ly/2021Mission or send Visa gift cards in $25 increments to your nearest campus ministry. Find out more about this mission project at https://www.dscumc.org/mission-project. Find out more about campus ministries at https://dscumc.org/campus-ministry/.
Resources for local church use to share information about this year’s Annual Conference Mission Project are available at https://www.dscumc.org/mission-project. The most recent resource added is a short video featuring Rev. Jamie Booth.