Invited to the Table

It has been such a joy through the years to be invited to the table by family, friends and those we did not know. I grew up in a home where hospitality was offered on a regular basis. My mom could bake her famous Hot Milk Sponge in half an hour and never needed more warning than that to invite friends over for tea. My mom always encouraged my twin sister and I to invite our friends to our home and made them very welcome. At times she helped us plan fun parties and special events that we hosted. I love this photo as it is the only one I have with both my grannies, my mom, my daughter, an aunt and cousin all together. It was taken in our home in Cape Town and I think this was my granny's birthday celebration.

My parents still host me regularly and love to have me at their table (or relaxing on the couch with our food on our laps!) Brett's mom, affectionately known as Ma, loves to welcome us to her home in South Africa and it is such a joy for us to spend time with her and the rest of our South African family. Brett's sister Sally hosted us and served very traditional food made with water lilies called Waterblommetjiebredie (see if you can pronounce that!) The table is set with the national flower of South Africa, the Protea.

On another occasion we were able to take some people who were traveling with us to see the ministry that Sally and Brett's mom help run. We stood in the kitchen and heard about the amazing work they do in feeding thousands of poor children. (Check out Life Community Services.) We were honoured to eat at the centre that is used to serve so many needy young people. You can see Ma with her apron on, explaining how this simply stocked kitchen serves so many meals each week. Inspiring! 

Building lasting family relationships takes time, commitment and financial resources. Brett's mom visited his other sister in Maryland, USA and we realised that this would be a good time for our whole family to connect and also for Ma to meet her newest great-grandchild. So we all traveled to the East Coast and spent the July 4 weekend together. You can see the joy on Brett's mom's face to have part of her family that she doesn't see very often around the table!

A year ago Rebecca, who is like a daughter to us, was married in Tuscany. A group of 18 of us stayed with the bride and groom in a big, old villa near Florence. The week was filled with rich fellowship, fun tourist activities and preparations for the wedding. The night before the wedding, friends and family from different countries around the world gathered around the large dinner table, held hands and prayed blessing over Rig and Rebecca.

The following day this same table was set with exquisite Italian dinnerware and flowers to create one of the most stunning table settings I have ever seen. The 34 guests who attended this intimate wedding, were treated to a gourmet Tuscan dinner served family style. (On a later blog I will share more photos as Rebecca and Rig's beautiful wedding photos were featured in Italian Vogue Bridal Magazine!)

After the wedding we enjoyed a Tuscan picnic in the garden of a local artist, before everyone headed home again. We had left-overs from the abundant provision of food at the wedding and this pretty table was filled with tasty treats and the wedding flowers. We were thankful that we had the time to relax together in the warmth of the Italian countryside and spend our last day together. The guests in this photo live in India, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA! Isn't that amazing? 

Through the years Brett and I have been hosted by people all over the world and have received such warm hospitality. Last year we took a group of people who volunteered their time with our non-profit rēp to South Africa. We stayed at T'Niqua Stable Inn in Plettenberg Bay. The owners Michiel and Bettina Meyer have beautiful Percheron horses and took us down to the coast for a picnic in a carriage! It is not every day that one can picnic out in the veld overlooking the Indian Ocean and even have a table on which to arrange all the food. It was transported down there on a horse cart! Such fun! 

A few years ago we went to Egypt right before Arab Spring.  We were so deeply touched by the hospitality we received from the local Egyptians we met. This delightful woman, Nirvana invited us to her home in Cairo right after meeting us and prepared a special meal for us. She cooked fish that her dad had brought from the Red Sea and even though her baby was due in just a few weeks, she opened up her home and heart to us. We felt such an affinity with the people we met in Egypt that we returned to visit again. Hospitality bridges people from different cultures and opens doors for on-going connection and community building.

A table can be so much more than a table. It can be an oasis, a fortress, a bridge, a door, a key, a gift, and the start of new ways to be generous. I encourage you to make the time to "Set the Table" today.

Questions:

When have you been impacted by an invitation to the table?

Please share a memory of a special dinner you have attended in the comments below.