Our Wednesday night “Family Dinners” started back in Austin, Texas, in 2008. We went as a family every Wednesday night to the same restaurant, Enchiladas y Mas. This became a tradition we looked forward to and almost relied on to get us through the rest of the week. Sometimes new people would pop in and join us—friends, other family members, sometimes a new neighbor we’d met. It was a night that many looked forward to and we continued this weekly tradition until we moved away from Austin in 2012.
When we moved to Temple-Belton, we hopped around from restaurant to restaurant, looking for that one place that would stick for our Wednesday night family dinners. We just never settled on any particular place. But when we finished remodeling our new house out on seven acres in Belton, and I was walking through it before we moved in, I realized how great the house was going to be for hosting. So I began to envision what that would look like. I wanted it full of people. I wanted people to feel loved at my house. To laugh and have fun. To be fed. I wanted an open-door policy that people would really use. And out of that moment, the idea of a community-wide Wednesday night family dinner was birthed. I shot a text to a big group of my friends and said: “We are going to start opening our home on Wednesday nights for dinner for ANYONE. This is a perfect opportunity to invite your neighbor, your co-worker or the homeless man on your corner.”
I started my invitations with my mom, who is the athletic secretary at Temple College. My cousin is also the men’s basketball coach there. I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to get to know and love on some of those kids, so I told her she should invite some of the athletes. I expected them to come that first time, say, “Thank you,” and probably not come back. But they came back. Every single Wednesday. They still come. Every single Wednesday. And they invite more friends and more players. They play basketball, ride the golf cart, hit golf balls, play Barbies and tag with my children, and help some of the younger kids who come work on their basketball form. They thank me over and over for opening my home and feeding them. They feel like I’m making some sort of difference in their lives. But really, they’re making a difference in mine.
We’ve begun to build relationships with some of these kids that go beyond just a meal on Wednesday nights. We hang out with them, give them advice, pray for them, grocery shop with them, and sometimes help with schoolwork and studying. These kids are all away from home—away from their parents and most of their family. They just want a safe place to hang out, eat a good meal, and play games like they’re little kids again. We are happiest when we get to provide that for them.
Wednesday nights have made a huge difference in my life, the lives of my family, and for a lot of people in the community. My kids are growing up with a house full of people on Wednesday nights that they might not ever know otherwise. God has stretched me in the process of opening my home and it has taught me that my home is not my own. That it’s God’s, and He’s graciously given it to me for right now. That it’s meant to be shared. That it might be pretty but everything in it is replaceable and I care more about the souls that walk through my door than I care about having a clean house. We’ve had church groups donate money, gift cards, and food. One week a restaurant in the community found out what we were doing and donated 75 meals! I have friends who come every week to help me cook, clean, and pour into the kids, just as Nate and I do. We’ve started going to their games to support them. My grandmother who taught for over 30 years has helped with tests and homework. It’s not just changing the lives of some college kids. It’s changing all of us.