Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner in Bolivia Anna Metzger reveals the tenderness that lies within the seemingly common kitchen. She shares different stories of how this space has become sacred to her through meaningful connections.
Before my time with FMS, I worked for another mission organization called YouthWorks. During my summers with YouthWorks, I spent many hours in the kitchen prepping meals with teenagers. At training, YouthWorks full-time staff would always tell us that meaningful conversations take place in the kitchen, and I found that to be very true. The countless hours in the kitchen with teenagers were not meaningless. While we stood and chopped vegetables, stirred a pot, filled up drink coolers, or washed the dishes, conversations were taking place. It was a chance to simply be in companionship, enjoying conversation and laughter, and learning more about one another. I began to learn the sacredness of being in the kitchen together during my time with YouthWorks, and I continue to experience the same sacred space now, in Bolivia with FMS.
At Cristo Rey, I enjoy lunch with a group of boys each day, and after finishing our meal together, each one gets up from the table and completes his household chore. I always seem to jump in and help with the dishes. During the meal, the boys are joking around with one another and laughter surely does take place! However, when time creates space for individual interaction, it gives opportunity for meaningful conversation. So, as I help one or two boys with the dishes, we can have conversation between just the two or three of us. It is an opportunity for the boys to ask me any and all questions, which are usually about the English language or life in the United States, and for me to get to know the boys a bit better. I usually ask about their families, and enjoy learning more about who they are. This time also often involves the splashing of water, my laughter that ends in a snort which then turns into more laughter, and singing along to the radio. The simple act of washing the dishes after a meal is a sacred moment that I cherish each day.
Conversation with the boys at Cristo Rey is usually lighthearted and fun, which is good for the joyous heart, but conversation with my coworkers at CLIMA is taken to a deeper level. Each day after the professors finish class, we take time to prepare lunch and enjoy a meal together. Sometimes, four of us are all in the kitchen at once, helping to get lunch ready. Other times, I find myself in the kitchen with just one other person. In both situations, conversation happens organically. Yet when I am alone with one other person, our conversation goes to a level that penetrates the vulnerable heart. With Osvaldo, we discuss language and culture and its richness. With Karla, we always end up on the topic of faith and Jesus’ impact in our lives. With Viviana, we talk about life experiences and our deepest emotions. Each conversation takes its own shape and form, and each one gives me wisdom and insight. The memories I have in the kitchen with my coworkers are some of my very favorites.
The end of a day of ministry often takes me to the kitchen in my own home where I spend time preparing dinner for myself and my community mate. While in the kitchen alone, I do one of two things: listen to worship music or a Christian podcast, or talk on the phone to a friend from back home. While listening to worship music or a Christian podcast, I connect on a Spiritual level and end up having a conversation with the Lord. This time with the Lord is time for me to process the day that took place or talk through emotions or confusions that I may have. When talking to a friend on the phone, I am eager to hear about their lives back home and share all the wonderful things happening to me in Bolivia. It is a time for connection and laughter with those close to my heart, yet far in distance. During my time in Cochabamba, I have learned that cooking is therapeutic for me. When I feel off or overwhelmed, I head to the kitchen to do something… like make homemade granola, chocolate chip cookies, or prep for dinner. The kitchen in our apartment has become a space for me to clear my mind and experience sacredness in my heart.
These moments in the kitchen either start or end with a group of people gathered around a table, sharing a meal together. Most often I find myself with the boys at Cristo Rey, my coworkers at CLIMA, my community mate, Nora, the Montalvo family or the Flores family. With each circle of people, I feel at home and with family. There are values and shared experiences that tie us together, and conversations that deepen our relationships. These minutes in time are what shape my life in Cochabamba, and my heart is grateful for the countless hours I spend in the sacred space of the kitchen.
Reflection: In what ways are time and space being created within your daily life? How can you honor and express gratitude to these moments?