When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves* and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
For many years Alberta Hairston was the Catholic campus minister at North Carolina A&T University and Bennett College, both traditionally black institutions. She operated out of a house named for Sr. Thea Bowman, a great African-American sister and evangelist who helped found the Black Catholic Sisters Conference. It was a small house on one of the campuses, but was open to all students, Catholic or non-Catholic. When Momma H, as she was called, started in the ministry, she had no advanced degree but she had experience helping the campus minister before her. Also, she had a great love of the Lord and His people. She also had a tremendously powerful tool of evangelization: the kitchen.
Alberta knew that if she could have a chance to feed their tummies, she could then begin to feed their souls. Of course, she could never be certain how many students might show up at a meal. But that did not matter, because somehow there was always enough. Did she perform miracles, like Jesus feeding the 5000? Well, a tray of cornbread never instantly became 3 trays of cornbread! But she did have one of the same key characteristics as Jesus: love. You see, there was always enough food for everyone because Momma H wasn’t feeding college students just cornbread, chicken, and mac and cheese; she was feeding them with love.
Love changes everything. It can lead to a lost soul feeling like they belong. It can help a blind person see the truth. Love is the root of true hospitality, and both Jesus and Momma H have that. There are people all throughout our lives that feel like there is not enough in this life for them. But with our actions of love, they miraculously are filled with what they need. Of course, a tray of good cornbread doesn’t hurt either.