When I moved to Bowling Green for school my old youth pastor texted me. He reminded me his ex-girlfriend Paige lives here if I ever need anything. She sent me a similar message. They dated when I was in eighth grade and she was a junior at WKU. When she was in town she worked with my youth group and stayed the night at my house in Lexington a few times. She was an amazing role model as she clearly loved the Lord with her whole heart and I was overjoyed to have the chance to reconnect with her. When the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was assigned I knew I did not want to go home nor do the project with my friend group and a class mate’s. So, I opted for the host home option but when I found out host homes were sparse I remembered Paige. Before Paige could confirm dinner plans two girls from the other class, Lexi and Merritt, were assigned to the kitchen table I was supposed to be providing. Paige explained that while it would be hard to set up a dinner she may be able to work something out with her friend Jessie. By the time we finally had a date set Lexi decided to do the project at home.
Merritt and I arrived in the neighborhood at about the same time. We met for the first time outside searching for Jessie’s house. Paige welcomed us in and explained the situation to Merritt; she, her son Bo, her husband Eric, Jessie, Jessie’s daughter Lucy, and Jessie’s husband Joel would all be moving to Turkey within the year so they were staying together while Eric and Joel were in Turkey at a training. Paige was simultaneously caring for her baby boy, Jessie’s baby girl, and cooking dinner. Jessie was out taking a meal to some international friends of hers. We offered and brought dessert and while she was very appreciative Paige explained that they have guests over so often they were drowning in food to offer us instead. She and Jessie suggested we take our dessert and share it with people on campus as an outreach to build community.
We sat down and began getting to know each other before we discussed anything related to the course. Paige is great with teenagers and people in general so although she is in a completely different stage of life than us our conversation was fluid. We took turns explaining different parts of our lives. Merritt talked about her upbringing with two brothers and two loving while protective parents. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school in Louisville. She is now participating in Greek life just like her mother and father were when they were in college. She also mentioned her family’s fondness of sports. Paige talked about her hometown only thirty minutes away from Bowling Green. She talked about how she met my old youth pastor and now her marriage to Eric. All the while being interrupted by babies, cooking and eventually Jessie returning home. Jessie talked about her job on campus at WKU where she and her husband are leaders at the Baptist Student Ministry. She related her work to Merritt’s sorority involvement and asked if Merritt had heard of a famous speaker. The woman used to find her identity in her sorority but once she graduated she did not know what to do. She ended up finding the Lord and speaking at sororities across the United states. Jessie talked about her impact on her after listening and her potential impact on so many more people.
When they were both home and sitting at the table they started explaining their impending move to Turkey. They will start working as missionaries for the International Mission Board with their families. They talked about short mission trips to Turkey they had each taken years prior. There was a specific unreached people group they wanted to reach-out to but they were going to have to enter the country and live in Istanbul for a while before they could. Their plan is to live in Istanbul learning Turkish for three years until it would make more sense to move to the part of Turkey they want to reach. At that point they would have to begin learning another new language, that of the Zazas. It was incredible to hear their long-term mind-set. The two had lived together before and were in it for the long-haul planning to live together again in Turkey. The two shared how they met at a church that outreaches to the housing projects in Bowling Green and had lived together before. God was working in their lives even then. Paige and her husband knew the neighborhood they wanted to live in and there was only one home available. When Jessie got married a few months later she and her husband wanted to live in the same neighborhood but no houses were available. The house was too big for the young couple but it worked out perfectly so Jessie and her husband could sublease with Paige and her husband.
Afterward, we began discussing what it means to be a citizen. Jessie talked about how she had never really considered it before. She said she did not value her citizenship as much as she should especially because in the United States we are awarded many more rights than other countries offer. Specifically as a woman she spoke of being very grateful for the society and country we live in. Paige agreed and they both talked about their citizenship in heaven. I was very interested in their perspective since they will soon be changing their citizenship. But they explained their earthly citizenship to no matter which country means little in comparison to their home in God’s house. They both are very thankful for their citizenship though. They feel a responsibility to support their governments and fellow citizens as Americans and as Christians. Merritt talked about how she had also never really considered her citizenship before this course. She explained that now that she can vote she is beginning to think about and learn more about government and how she can contribute to it. At dinner I was reminded of poverty and service, empathy, and learning from others weeks as a lot of our conversation was about how to live well with others.
When 7 o’clock rolled around so did the children’s bed time. We were welcomed back anytime and we all departed smiling and grateful.
I was very grateful to have learned from each of the beautiful people I had dinner with. I learned hospitality and outreach, a care for the people around me and a care for people around the world. I learned immediate love and long-term appreciation for people, respect for parents and affection for siblings and friends. I learned gentle peace and ambition, duty and perspective. I am very thankful for our dinner and our conversation. I am thankful for the chance to learn and connect with a peer I might never have met as well as citizens of Bowling Green in a different stage of life. I was really blessed by this experience and hope to continue my relationships with each of these ladies.