Faith, Fellowship and a Food Truck

Shobi's Table in St. Paul, Minnesota

by Margaret Kelly

In 2 Samuel 17, Shobi provides radical hospitality in the form of food, fellowship and safety for King David’s soldiers. Shobi’s Table tries to do the same for people living on the margins of our communities.

Courtesy of Shobi’s Table

People frequently say that Shobi’s Table is a “new” thing. I would argue that a food truck church is about as back to basics as you can get.  We cook food together, we feed people together, we read Scripture together and we pray together. I’m pretty sure Jesus spent a lot of time doing several of those things. And you know what? It works.

As a pastor and a clinical social worker, I was called to be a pastor-developer in the Saint  Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). I was given a mandate to build a community in which the charter membership comes from those on the socioeconomic margins. As I wondered how to do this, the Holy Spirit nudged me, and I observed four barriers in the community.

First, people lack access to transportation. So while we do not seek to solve issues of transportation, we are overcoming that as a barrier to participation in church community by creating a mobile food distribution site. We bring the church to people.

Second, people lack access to healthy food. Sure, there are lots of free meals to be had, but often they contain highly processed foods. In my work as a social worker, I have had clients with mental illnesses who were prescribed medications that serve their illness, but also increase metabolic disorders. At Shobi’s Table, we serve minimally processed, home-cooked food, and we provide for free.

Similarly, people also lack access to meaningful work. Not everyone can work a standard job 40 hours per week, nor are they able to easily get hired even if they can. Yet work is healthy and provides meaning in our lives. The community of Shobi’s Table cooks the food and manages the food truck. By doing so, we provide opportunities for meaningful work.

And finally, people lack access to meaningful community, so Shobi’s Table is actually more than a food truck. We gather together on Thursdays to cook a meal that we will serve to our friends and neighbors on the east side of St. Paul, and we park in the same spot each week and feed between 50 and 80 of our neighbors. We pray with them as they come and go. We have a worship service on the street. We read Scripture, say our prayers and share holy communion.

A food truck ministry may seem new, but in a community that is hungry to receive love and hear the good news, I think we are going back to the basics—just doing what we are called to do.

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