To say that this semester was crazy and interesting is an understatement!
Throughout this semester of Jesus Lunch we have stayed largely quiet on what has been occurring, outside of a couple public statements, for numerous reasons. For one, this is not a situation we sought after nor expected, and none of us are experts in such craziness. We needed to process this on our own. Second, the publicity created even more attention - double the amount of students (at times even more), media attention, and supporters from everywhere reaching out. This isn't our full time job, so we have been swamped!
So…what even happened!? What is going to happen next!? How were the remaining Jesus Lunches after the first few weeks!?
We hope to answer some of these questions in this post and future posts - to give you a glimpse beyond the craziness of the situation or the varying stories being published (many far from accurate). It felt like the game of telephone we played as children. What started out as "yellow crayon" suddenly ended as "purple elephants and bananas". What a whirlwind!
The Story of Jesus Lunch (short version)
One of these days we will go in depth to the long story of Jesus Lunch, but short version - it started because we were in a life group together, and we had difficulty finding time to meet with our high schoolers to do devotions, discuss their faith, and really just hear what's going on in their lives. They would leave 6am for pre-school workouts and not return until after sport practices, going straight to bed or trapped late doing homework. Our solution? Have lunch with them once a week during their lunch break! We naturally chose Fireman's park because of the picnic tables, and that's where it began.
Our kids brought their friends, and never having a desire to turn them away we brought food for them, too. To our surprise, those friends invited their friends, who invited their friends, and what started as a simple lunch with our kids grew over the course of a couple years into hundreds of students. As it grew, we started to call the lunch "Momma's Lunches". Fun fact: The kids renamed it. While we called it Momma's Lunches, they called it "Jesus Lunch". In fall of 2015 we asked the kids if that's what they preferred to call it, so that's what it became. Jesus Lunch.
God is kind of funny like that, isn't He? This was not what we envisioned, but yet He had other ideas. And we still had no idea what was yet to come!
Even though it grew in size, we mainly kept the same format from when we first met with our kids. At the beginning, we share a short Biblical message that students can discuss if they choose during lunch. For some kids, they came to just hear the message and not eat lunch. Others came only for lunch and not to hear the message. Most were in between. This was okay with us, for the Bible calls us to serve others. "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10, ESV). If one of our "gifts" was having the ability to provide a meal for students (some who don't even have the same opportunity at home), or provide a safe and warm environment for them during the school day - then so be it. Many have shared that in addition to the Biblical truth, they came to meet new friends. If community is something that Jesus Lunch provided, then more power to it! "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them…" (Matthew 18:20, ESV).
In addition, we were thankful for the opportunity it gave our own children to have a part of what this event became. They would meet with us weekly and help choose food, Biblical topics, and at times even go around to facilitate conversations. Other students that were not our own children became key players in Jesus Lunch - and we are thankful they were able to grow in their own faith in these leadership roles.
It was actually because of these students that Jesus Lunch continued through the trials of this semester. The school issued us a letter requesting that we no longer hold Jesus Lunch, despite the lease we had with the City of Middleton. We asked students of Jesus Lunch during the first week of the spring 2016 semester if they wished for us to continue. The outpouring yes sent us forward.
One of the moms knew a lawyer and requested that he look into the lease situation to see if we had legal right to be there. "Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists who God has appointed…" (Romans 13:2, ESV). If we did not have a right, and Middleton did indeed own the property, we knew we had to back down. His research concluded, however, that we had the right to be there. The school's lease of Fireman's Park was non-exclusive, resulting in why we had the ability to lease Fireman's Park pavilion ourselves in the first place. Yes, we had a lease of the Fireman's Park pavilion, and have in the past, as well.
Phillip Stamman told us he would represent us and respond to such requests from the school - a relief to us, as we had enough on our plate. He advised the school that he looked into their lease and it was non-exclusive, so we would continue with Jesus Lunch and not cancel our lease of the Fireman's Park pavilion for the spring 2016 semester as they requested.
Many misinterpreted this as us threatening to sue the school, taking an offensive position to create trouble or push a political agenda. This situation, however, was purely defensive. We did not instigate this conflict. A legal battle is the last thing any of us desire or have time for. If it was a legal battle we desired, we could have picked a fight years ago when Jesus Lunch began. A request had been made of us, however, and as a result we had to respond that we planned to continue Jesus Lunch, just as the students asked of us. We simply stated that we legally had a right to be in Fireman's Park.
In Acts 22, Paul is wrongfully accused and the commander ordered that he be flogged. Before he was, however, Paul asked the centurion, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" (Acts 22:25, NIV). In this situation, Paul used the court system and his legal rights to defend himself. He was released. The Bible speaks often of justice and defending innocent people. There are times, as well, that the Bible demonstrates examples of Christ followers not fighting back to the point of losing their lives. Peter is a great example. Is this a contradiction? Of course not. The Bible does not provide us black and white answers for every situation. It's not a book of rules! It's a relationship with Christ. God has the power to use various responses in various situations.
What did we do? We made decisions one day at a time. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34, NIV). We had meetings often and ensured we made decisions unanimously. This took time. We are each very different. Some of us are not phased by potential conflict, others have the desire to run at the thought of it. That's okay - God uses each of us in His own way to bring us together as one. And day by day, He revealed to us His desires by giving us all peace when we decided on our next step moving forward. Sometimes this took days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes minutes. But day by day, minute by minute, we pressed forward through the chaos.
And each week joy filled our hearts as we saw students pouring down the hill and into the pavilion, their smiling faces, the "hello's" and "thank you's", and the conversations we had while building friendships. None of this was for us. This was for them. This was for the students who attended Jesus Lunch, found value and a safe place in it.
We are by no means perfect. No Christ follower is expected to be. The Bible is clear that we cannot be, which is why it states that, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NIV). And my goodness, is that true! That is why we must accept Jesus's sacrifice and accept Him into our lives to gain the grace God offered to us - the opportunity to be with Him forever. But it also says that the Lord will guide you (Isaiah 58:11), and that's Who we relied on. We didn't ask for this - we loved our peaceful gatherings, regardless of size, and the focus purely on the students - not the media, not others nationwide, and not even on ourselves.
We will continue to pursue Jesus Lunch next year. We have obtained a lease, and we know that the City of Middleton is still discussing Fireman's Park. We will take time this summer to rejuvenate, pray, and continue to make decisions day by day as God directs. We aren't here to start a fight, but we will defend Jesus Lunch for the students. Peace during Jesus Lunch is our ultimate goal. That's how it used to be, and that's how we hope it to remain. Protestors dwindled to none by the end of the semester, and that same peace and safe place for the students we had that week, and all other semesters, is the same environment we will continue to strive for.
There will always be disagreement on this. We also understand that when one is so far removed from the situation and media/other sources is their only source knowledge, it can be easily misinterpreted. Like we said, "yellow crayon" to "purple elephants and bananas". But for us, we are ultimately trying to follow God's will.
"For am I now seeking approval of man, or of God?...If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10, ESV)
"But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tested our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NIV)