Gluten-Free Friendships


Can you recall encountering the love of Christ in a mealtime?

When I first moved to Chicago in August to be part of Emmaus’s Kaio Community, I did not know anyone and was in desperate need of friendships. I found out that a married couple who had both graduated from my alma mater (Franciscan University of Steubenville) lived close by, so I contacted them right away. As it turns out, Jenny and Bob only live five blocks from Emmaus, and they invited me over for dessert my first week here.

I always dread going to people’s homes for a meal because I am allergic to gluten. Usually when someone invites me over for dinner, I suggest coming over later in the evening and bringing wine. Wine is safe. That way, I’m not burdening anyone with my dietary restrictions, because I feel bad when people make adjustments because of me. So when Jenny invited me over for dessert, I gave my allergy spiel and proposed wine, which she quickly declined because “creating a gluten free dessert is a great challenge.”

When I walked into Jenny and Bob’s kitchen that Friday evening, there were at least fifteen different ingredients splayed out on the countertops. Jenny was making brownies. Now when I make gluten free brownies, I just buy a box from Trader Joe’s. But not this couple. They were making everything from scratch, even though I highly doubt that they usually have flax meal, gluten free flour, etc. in their kitchen cupboards. Bob brought a chair into the kitchen for me while they were baking, and started the kettle because I mentioned I loved tea. They felt bad for not feeding me dinner, so Bob heated up leftover chili, even though I insisted I was not hungry. I was completely overwhelmed by their hospitality. That night, they lived to serve me.

The brownies did not taste like brownies, but I couldn’t have cared less. We had a beautiful conversation, and I felt completely and totally loved. Jenny and Bob bombarded me with questions about Emmaus and my life; they wouldn’t allow me to ask about themselves. I’ll never forget this evening with Jenny and Bob. I profusely thanked them at the end of the night, and Jenny said, “Katie, Bob and I are in awe of what you are doing at Emmaus. You are serving these men, so we want to serve you.”

I have been over to Jenny and Bob’s house a dozen times since that night, and every time they treat me like royalty. They constantly thank me for who I am and what I’m doing. When I step into their house, the tea kettle is on and there is always a dish I can eat on the table. They buy gluten free snacks just in case I ever stop by. I honestly do not know what I would do without them in Chicago. These friends have not only fed me extremely well, but they have showered me with love and affirmation.

I want to celebrate the men of Emmaus like Jenny and Bob celebrate me. My desire is that each man feels like a distinguished guest when he walks through the doors of Emmaus. I want to be the face of hospitality to our men. Preparing a good meal for them is necessary, but I also want to feed them with love and affirmation. Modeling my new friends, I will strive to remember small details about their lives and preferences so they know I care and am invested. There are few greater feelings in life than feeling welcomed and wanted. I pray I can embody the love Jenny and Bob have shown me and share it with the men of Emmaus.

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