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COME TO THE TABLE -- Meals That Were Ministries in My Life . . . and a recipe

I probably wasn't aware of it at the time, but when I was 10, I began to experience meals that were a direct result of the ministry efforts of others. In 1960, my father was asked to leave his job as a mathematician at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, move to Troy, Alabama, and become the Assistant Superintendent of the Alabama Baptist Children's Home. His earlier life experience as a teacher, coach, and school principal was known by one of the Home's board members, who believed dad would be valuable in the Children's Home ministry. Even though it involved a 50% pay cut and uprooting our family with close family ties in Athens, my parents felt they should make the move. On a Saturday in November of 1960, we went from being a nuclear family of 5 living in a subdivision to being in the center of a campus housing 200 children. The first of many "culture shocks" in my life.

Part of my dad's new salary package included a can of milk (straight from the Children's Home's cows) and two live chickens delivered in a crate. Now, folks, I had a very prissy Momma. It took some time, and some help, for her to turn those live chickens into fried chicken on our table. Momma was also given once-a-week "storeroom privileges." In those days, grocery stores would often donate canned goods to the Home, but even more so, Baptist ladies around the state would can vegetables from their gardens and send hundreds of jars to Troy. Mom was allowed to go in and choose some for our family. Thank you, Baptist ladies of Alabama!

Each cottage at the Home housed about 20 children and a set of houseparents. Occasionally, our family was invited to join a cottage for a meal, and they were always wonderful and delicious -- made possible by offerings given to the Children's Home. Again, thank you, Alabama Baptists! Just think about how much food was needed for that many people on a daily basis.

During my high school years in Troy, my dream was to go to Samford University, major in music, and study piano with Dr. Betty Sue Shepherd. While I practiced and prepared, Dad and Mom saved and figured out ways to make my dream happen. On his Children's Home salary, that was a HUGE sacrifice for them. I wish they were here today, so I could thank them again.

In my freshman year at Samford, I remember the welcome sight of the bus from Dawson Memorial Baptist Church picking up students on Sunday morning. That church would feed us breakfast, teach us during S.S. and church, and often feed us lunch, too. What a ministry! Since my parents could only afford a 9-meal-a-week dining hall ticket, that was a wonderful treat!

One of my years at Samford, I was asked to be the organist at First Baptist Church of Trussville. A good friend was the organist for the Methodist church. She'd drive us from campus, park in the middle, and we'd make our way to our separate churches. She had an aunt and uncle who lived in Trussville who often invited us over for Sunday lunch. Again, such a welcome gesture on their part.

After Steve and I married and were still students at Auburn, I played the organ for the First Independent Methodist Church in town making $15 a week. Believe it or not, that paid for a tank of gas and the week's groceries! But, even more special was a man in the church named Hugo Estes. Almost every Sunday, he'd stick a $5 bill in Steve's pocket and say, "Take that pretty bride of yours out for lunch." Or sometimes he and his wife Elsie would have us over to their house. Such sweet, sweet memories of giving, generous people.

Today's memories represent meals that were made possible because people understood the importance of meeting physical needs.

Jesus understood that, too. He knew it was difficult for people to receive spiritual truths when they were hungry. In Luke 9, more than 5000 people were following Jesus around, hanging on every word, but He recognized that they were hungry and performed a miracle to meet their physical need for food.

Luke 9:10-17

10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging because we are in a remote place here.”

13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were leftover.

In 2007, a cookbook called "Home Cookin'" was compiled with recipes from various staff members of the Children's Home. One that is special to me is "Pearlie's Rolls." Pearlie was a large, African-American cook who worked in the Children's Home infirmary which was right behind our house. Mom would occasionally buy a pan of her rolls for us to enjoy at home, and they were absolutely amazing. This recipe was contributed by her daughter from a handwritten recipe of Pearlie's dated April 13, 1961.


1 c. milk, scalded and cooled

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

4 T. shortening

1 yeast cake (or envelope), dissolved in 1/4 c. hot water

3 c. flour

2 sticks butter, melted

Put sugar, yeast, shortening, and salt in lukewarm milk. Stir in 3 c. flour, 1 cup at a time. Beat well. If not stiff enough to roll, add a little more flour. Roll out. Butter top, cut rolls, fold over, and butter top again. Place in greased pan. Set in warm place to rise. If you make them up by 10:00 a.m., they are ready to bake in a 400-degree oven by noon. Cook until the tops are golden brown.

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