By Jennifer Baergen Davis
You may have heard it said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; but it is actually the way to this woman’s heart. I love to be cooked for, served food and to eat. Little did I know how much delicious food (along with warm hospitality) I would be served while ministering with families from Afghanistan these past few months. In fact, little did I know how many blessings would be in store for me in this new ministry opportunity.
One of the class requirements toward my Master of Divinity degree at Central Seminary was to complete an internship ministering in a cross cultural environment. I was fortunate enough to work with the wonderful Karen Morrow, CBF field personnel stationed in Fort Worth, Texas. Karen has ministered with refugees in Fort Worth for the past 13 ½ years. When she agreed to be my supervisor for this experience, I knew it would be a blessing. What I didn’t know was how many other ways in which I would be blessed in this experience.
Hospitality: Karen and I visited several families from Afghanistan who had recently resettled in Fort Worth. In every home we entered, the people invited us to come in and sit down. They served us hot tea and a tray of goodies that included pistachios, walnuts and dried black mulberries. I spent a lot of time with one family in particular and the mother in this family, Taara, and I have become friends. She has served me many delicious meals around her table that included delicious rice pilau, lamb and homemade naan. I often joked with her that I don’t like to cook, but I did love to eat. One time, I told her how I made my son jealous every evening on my way home when I would call him to tell him about the tasty food I had been served. The next thing I knew she was taking a sauce pot and filling it with leftovers for me to take home to him. I expressed that wasn’t necessary, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Joy: Getting to know Taara and her children brought me great joy. Spending time with them in their home, playing with the kids on the floor, and helping them with their homework reminded me of how similar children are all across the world. After a while, when I would see the oldest daughter, she would run to me, yell my name, and give me a big hug. One time I was struggling to buckle her in her car seat. When I finally got it, she yelled out with her limited English, “Good job, Jennifer!” I laughed out loud. She gets her sense of humor from her mother who once told me when I was butchering the Dari language that although she had an “English problem,” I also had a “Persian problem.”
Love: Another woman I got to meet, Brishna, is a single woman who escaped on her own from Afghanistan. She speaks very good English and has served as a translator for our assistance with families. I am thankful to say that Brishna is now one of my good friends. She is open, gracious, wise and has a beautiful smile. I have learned much about her life and her family, her dreams in America and what she loves about her religion. When my friend and I took her to dinner for her birthday, she was so happy and grateful. We gave her a simple gift and she hugged me tightly. In that moment I was filled with gratitude as I simply accepted this love and grace from my new friend as a gift from God at a time when I really needed it.
Inspiration: Ministering alongside Karen Morrow is truly inspiring. She has developed friendships with families from all parts of the world, some of whom she has been friends with for over 13 years. I observed her to be consistently respectful, friendly and having a knack for putting people at ease. With all of her experience, she knows how to help people get the immediate things they need; but she is also confident in her role to encourage and empower these new friends to learn to do things on their own. She helps the women learn English and encourages them to learn to drive. She teaches the preschoolers skills to get ready for school. Often asking questions, Karen shows a deep humility and respect for other cultures and faiths in that she acknowledges that she still has much to learn from others. She taught me that becoming friends with these new neighbors is the most important thing we can do for them. Karen would inspire anyone who can follow in her footsteps as she is daily showing the love of God to the stranger in our midst.
This assignment surprisingly turned into an experience where this minister was ministered to as much if not more by these beautiful children of God. And enjoying Taara’s delicious food didn’t hurt either.
Jennifer Baergen Davis serves as Pastor of Family Ministries at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas and is working toward completion of the Master of Divinity degree from Central Baptist Theological Seminary.