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Locally Grown: Feeding Tigers at Zion

By Andrew Sharp
Staff Writer

There can be a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about what Mennonites are like and what they believe, even in communities with a Mennonite church. In Pryor, Oklahoma, some in Zion Mennonite Church are bridging that information gap by connecting through something they do well—good Mennonite cooking.

Several years ago, the youth minister at Zion, Scott Miller, had a son who joined the local high school football team, the Pryor Tigers. He became aware that some of the local churches were hosting a pregame meal for the team, so he volunteered to host one of these meals at Zion. Scott and his father made smoked chicken, and some of the women of the church cooked side dishes and desserts for the 80 people who showed up—players, coaches, and the cheerleading squad.

The food was a hit. Scott said he overheard the coach warning his players that although the food looked good, they should remember that they had a game to play in a couple of hours. Despite his warning, the team devoured the food. Scott and his wife attended the game that evening, and when the opposing team started the game with a touchdown, people were asking them “What did you feed them?” But there was a happy ending—fueled by the chicken and peanut butter pie, the team was able to come back and win the game.

As the tradition continued, the team grew enthusiastic about their annual meal at the Mennonite church. The coach eventually asked Zion if, in addition to donating the meal, they would host the football banquet as a fundraiser. So the church agreed and this past year they fed 175 people, including the players’ families.

Scott said providing this meal has been a positive for the church, adding that it’s all about getting out into the community and serving them. He mentioned the preconceived ideas that hang on the word “Mennonite.” When he was in high school and people found out about his faith tradition, they would ask him, “Where’s your buggy?” When the church hosts the meal, with volunteers cooking and serving, it gives the community a chance to see where the church is, meet genuine Mennonites, and find out what they are really like. After one of the meals, the coach even asked them to explain what Mennonites believe, so they were able to share with him and get to know him better.

In our “Locally Grown” column, we feature stories about what local churches are doing to reach out to their communities, as well as ideas and advice from RMM personnel and others. If you know of a church outreach or ministry we should feature, e-mail us at mosaic@rmmoffice.org.