PC: KSB

The sixth love language: food

An open door created a pathway between young adults laughing at the center table and napping on the back couch to Eva, the woman who made the office a home for them. A loveseat and cushioned chair encircled her table of snacks: today a full loaf of bread with a large peanut butter jar sidling up to grape jelly and some Mexican candies, the standard cheeseballs and animal crackers seated on her desk next to the Keurig and hot tea. If God is a provider, and if he has any love, he made himself clear through her food.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the five love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, giving gifts, acts of service, and quality time. The Office of Multicultural Development, described above, held conversations about this very thing. How do you give love? How do you receive it?

The OMD, as we called the earth-toned space, also taught me that our conversations were incomplete. It was Eva that taught me the sixth love language: food.

African food and friends: beans made Angolan style, foufou, pilipili PC: KSB

African food and friends: beans made Angolan style, foufou, pilipili — all in the Illinois kitchen where I hosted so many friends. PC: KSB

God gave us food for many reasons: It gives us the energy and nutrients to physically sustain our bodies. It grants us joy through its countless flavors and even touches our souls when done with excellence. It creates community when people cook or dine together. It communicates culture as well.

Sharing food with others could be seen as a gift – say you deliver cookies to your friends during finals or mail your best friend a box of protein bars to make sure she is eating. It could be seen as an act of service, bringing rice porridge to someone who is ill or keeping mandazi and chai on hand for your wife when she’s recently brought a new life into the world. Even quality time and the sharing of food go together like PB&J. Thus, I don’t believe it fits in any one love language; I believe it is one to itself.

Personally, I feel loved by food. I feel both taken care of and cared for. Aside from Eva’s “care days,” or grand parties to bring students into the office and show them love, she offered her regular snacks daily—one of her rules was that you had to take something from her office once you stepped foot in it, even if it was just a teabag—and kept a secret stash of almonds just for me when I had dietary limitations.

Eva was so thoughtful, and in all practicality, she and the OMD provided my lunches for much of my college career. That’s how I was sustained, and that’s part of why I felt so loved there. Eva knew her students and what they liked and could or couldn’t have. She gave food out of the love in her heart.

She’s not the only one to love through food; it’s a large part of hospitality in Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandan cultures, for example. You’re sure to be served ugali, water, chai, Fanta if it’s on hand.

Once, my Rwandan friend picked me up from an airport and took me to his family’s apartment, where, although it was at least 10 pm and perhaps closer to midnight, I was made to eat a platter of vegetables and rice before I could sleep. More food, I’m always told I need more food. Food is vital to life, central to hospitality, and part of how people love others.

I currently work at a restaurant, and I have dubbed one of my coworkers “Official Sandwich Maker of the KSB (my initials)” since he thoughtfully puts together delectable, healthy sandwiches out of foods we can no longer serve to customers. I feel loved when I see him staring at the line thinking about what I would most like after I request something to fill my breakfast-deprived stomach, or when he gives me a fresh egg that was “definitely expired,” or when he pops around the corner to hand me a brown box with his creation simply as a surprise. Whether he is aware of this or not, he loves me through food.

I’ll forever be thankful to the OMD for loving me and for teaching me how to love others a little better. As part of being hospitable, I too enjoy giving food. One of my favorite activities is cooking together with friends, dancing around the kitchen to Kenyan pop while catching up on life and testing flavors to create something excellent. Biting into something so delicious draws me closer to God, enhancing our relationship in that moment of gratitude. Finally, I am honored to serve others food when they are sad, sick, or struggling. Thus, food connects with so many love languages and yet is its own.

 

Hanging out with my young friend, eating ugali and sombe. PC: KSB

Hanging out with my young friend, sharing ugali and sombe. PC: KSB

 

What are your love languages? How can you relate to the love language of giving or receiving food?

 

Birthday ice cream with one of my best friends. PC: KSB

Birthday ice cream with one of my best friends, Ili. PC: KSB

 

 

For more posts on this subject, read “Lunchtime in the DRC (Learning How to Eat),” which mentions Mama Julienne and how she loved me through food, and “MuKappa: A Taste of Heaven,” which hits on the communal aspect of food.

 

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As MuKappa, our Sunday events were centered around dinner. This particular photo captures the surprise birthday party that Cabinet threw me, complete with homemade soft pretzels. PC: KSB

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Planks and specks: a response to criticism about the Asian American fellowship at Wheaton College

Ever since I came to Wheaton, students and staff have been criticizing Koinonia, the Asian and Asian American fellowship on campus, for being exclusive. A few people, some of whom I know and love, have had bad experiences in the group, and many students make assumptions about it based on what they viewed as Korean cliques on campus. But I’d wager many of these critics have never gone to an event or taken the time to know the purpose and people of Koinonia, which incidentally is composed of much more than Koreans.

I have been participating in Koinonia Large Groups for a couple years now, ever since Michael, my American friend of Chinese descent, invited me, an American of European descent. I’d like to tell you about the organization and its events to correct any toxic notions floating around campus. To start, Large Groups happen monthly. We usually play crazy fun, often awkward ice breakers – real ice breakers that create laughter and gleeful memories, not the basic what’s-your-name-and-major kind. We munch on snacks. We listen to a speaker share his or her testimony or speak on a given topic. (This last Saturday two Wheaton staff held a conversation on intercultural relationships.) The praise team often leads us in worship as well.

That’s why I fell in love with Large Groups last year—the worship. The prayer over and among us and the music we all sang together was powerful. Tangible. The organization also has Saturday morning prayer from time to time, and it begins each school year by praying over each class. I love how Koinonia prays.

Annual prayer over each class at the first Large Group, Aug. 2014. PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Annual prayer over each class at the first Large Group, Aug. 2014.
PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Koinonia also has the best fundraisers (better even than Mu Kappa’s, I regret to say, although our campus-wide game of Espionage is pretty epic, so be sure to join us in that this spring. Yet Koinonia is smart—I mean, who can resist bubble tea? Twice? Not me…and the Pepero sale is about to start—#sharethelove #withthispoorcollegegirl. 😉 )

The organization offers multiple activities throughout the year such as the Fall Retreat, Under-Upper Football and Family Group Olympics. Family groups, another name for small groups, generally meet weekly to establish close knit communities under the larger umbrella of Koinonia. Koinonia also hosts the annual Lunar New Year Festival, which was one of my favorite events freshman year. If you read my article for the Wheaton Record that year, you could not have walked away feeling excluded; the then-president made it his mantra that the event was open for the entire campus!

So why does Koinonia get such a bad rap? It’s one of the largest organizations in the Office of Multicultural Development, and Asians are the largest racial category on campus, so perhaps it’s simply better known. But it seems better known in name than in heart.

Last year’s president, Jen Fu, did a fantastic job of making me feel wanted in Koinonia, and this year I have several friends on Cabinet. I’m as involved in Koinonia as I can be without being in a family group. And as a participating member of the group, I would be blind if I overlooked the mission of this year’s Cabinet in relation to engaging with the broader campus. The Cabinet wants Koinonia to be a support base for Asian students yet not be these students’ entire collegiate world.

One last thing: Friends generally become friends because of some commonality. In sociology we call this homophily. In a place where one may be the minority, racial or cultural similarities can be an extra draw. Everyone needs friends who can understand each other. I rejoice that Koinonia is a context where a racial minority group in the broader U.S. society can come together in a sort of ethnic enclave and actually have power and can celebrate its various cultures in a safe space. This homophilous group only becomes cliquish and thus sinful when it excludes others. For example, white students group together all over campus. Why then do many people pick on the minority for this?

Kois have fun at the 2015 Fall Retreat PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Kois have fun at the 2015 Fall Retreat
PC: Wheaton Koinonia

I beg these critics to stop picking on the organization of Koinonia, other Asians or Asian Americans and specifically people of Korean heritage, who tend to be pegged as the most cliquish. Please examine your own friend group. Look for a plank in your eye before you point out a speck in another’s. Being composed of humans, Koinonia is not perfect, but the accusations against the organization no longer seem appropriate.

The Koinonia of today is vastly different than the one about which I’ve heard decade-old stories. If you have accused Koinonia of being exclusive, you should come to an event some time. See what it’s about. Break out of your own groups, and break the double standard that minority students cannot group together but majority students can. If you’re not Asian, getting to know people in Koinonia is a way to value other cultures, to learn about God’s beautiful diversity and to work towards multiculturalism for all. (And if you know me, you know I’m a strong proponent for multiculturalism!)

I plead with you to respect Koinonia and the people in it and to give the organization a chance before you judge it. Do not perpetuate incorrect, negative assumptions and stereotypes about other Asians on Wheaton’s campus either. As for Koinonia, the organization boasts phenomenal people who are truly building up Christ’s church. I ask you to do the same.

Introduction

The idea of autobiographies has always seemed egotistical to me, but I must write one for the sake of this blog. Let’s call it a testimony to all readers instead of a biography, for my life is not mine, and this blog is not about me. It is about my Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God who came down to earth’s level to redeem His people. I am a prospective journalist and missionary, and my goal is that both of these future goals will converge in this blog.

My name, Katelyn Skye, contains my life’s purpose. It reflects my identity in Jesus Christ. Katelyn means purity, and Skye comes from Psalm 19, which says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” To glorify God in everything I think, say, and do and before everyone I meet is the purpose of my life as a Christian, and God is so worthy of praise. Fellow believers, our God is awesome.

What else is important to me besides Jesus, people, and writing? That’s a difficult question because most of my life ties back to God; He’s created my quirks and has given me my passions. I worship God through playing and writing music, I have a cactus named Fred, I enjoy coloring to relax in any spare time, dark chocolate is my favorite, and I go to Wheaton College in Illinois, where I’m studying sociology and journalism. Wheaton is an awesome place full of Christ-like and (get ready for this, Wheaties) intentional community. Besides being a place to grow spiritually, it has challenged me both academically and socially, profoundly impacting my life. I am so blessed to be here, but that’s enough about Wheaton College for now. Let’s talk about Jesus again.

The good news that Jesus came to bring disobedient, selfish, rebellious humans to Himself through His agonizing sacrifice on the cross–this news is not for me alone. His defeat of death when He rose from the dead is not for white Americans alone. Jesus said to His Jewish disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). In His time on earth, He brought Greeks and Jews together to become His church; this amazing feat demonstrates the racial and ethnic unity that God desires throughout the world. No person deserves His mercy and grace, but He extends it to everyone who would believe in Jesus Christ. He values humanity; that’s why He came to earth. Whether praise and worship takes the form of gospel music, Indian dancing, kneeling in a prayer chapel, repeated Korean choruses, frying flautas to serve others, rapping, finger picking on guitar, or painting, God is delighted and given glory. The time has come when men and women from all nations, states, races, ethnicities, and socializations worship Him in the Spirit and in truth (John 4). “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:8).

To conclude, I’ll share something that the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1:13-15).