If there is one common ground that almost everyone can enjoy, it is gathering together for a wonderful meal. Until 2020, the Mentone church had a long-standing tradition of hosting a weekly fellowship dinner as well as many additional events that would bring the congregation together. This year, as COVID restrictions started to ease, the church sought to rebuild that community feeling by planning a celebration of the diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds within their congregation. On April 25, the church welcomed over 200 members and guests to the International Food Festival.
“We hosted the first International Food Festival three years ago,” said Pastor John Anderson. “After having to take a break for 2020, we were blessed with a huge attendance this year, and we hope to make this an annual tradition.”
To ensure safety and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) compliance, food items at the festival were individually wrapped and ready to serve. Over 30 countries were represented by the international flavors, which included Colombian arepas, Lebanese hummus and tabouli, Indian gulab jamun, Bolivian alfahores, Korean veggie yachaejeon, German sauerkraut, Nigerian jollof rice, Guatemalan nance, Brazilian desserts, Romanian polenta, and Filipino palabok. As a finishing dessert, a church member brought cupcakes sporting national flags from around the world.
After a year of physical distancing from church family, those who attended were overjoyed. “As a newly transferred member to the Mentone church, I wanted to attend all the events they had,” said Karen Lafferty. “The International Food Festival was a wonderful opportunity for the church members to come together and socialize. And no one went away hungry!”
Many of those who attended wore the colorful indigenous attire of a variety of nations. Grace Pimentel, a Mentone church youth member, wore a beautifully handmade Apache camp dress while she enjoyed the festival. “It’s hard for me to say which of the costumes or dishes would’ve been my favorite,” Pimentel said. “They were all so unique, delicious, and beautiful.”
Visitors from the neighborhood surrounding the church were invited, and many came to enjoy an environment of fellowship and friendship. Sherry Yap, the event coordinator, was pleased with the final result of the weeks of preparation. “By celebrating our diverse cultures and backgrounds, the International Food Festival was a way to fulfill our church’s mission statement,” said Yap. “We aim to educate and empower members to take the three angels’ messages to all the world.”
By Suzette Catalon Peterson and Tricia Murdoch Zmaj