It’s the wee hours of the morning and there are lights on at Heritage Baptist Church. The warmers are growling to life, the coffee is dripping, bacon and biscuits perfume the air while not quite awake girls crack eggs.
It’s time for our annual Southern Baptist Founders Conference-South West.
Thursday-Saturday, we welcome men, women, children, and families from all over Texas and our outlying states into our church for preaching and fellowship. Neither of these would be complete without some food, and the food wouldn’t happen if the Lord hadn’t provided our church with men and women, boys and girls who love to serve. It was my privilege last year and this to direct a group of these women, boys, and girls in the kitchen. What a joy to work with them and serve the church.
Preparation for the conference starts weeks in advance. For my part, I’m planning menus, picking Glyn’s (the previous meal master) brain, lining up help, and trying not to think about it. Cindy Cason feeds me numbers as soon as they start rolling in and the speculation on the number of guests begins.
This year, Liz Groves and I tackled the bulletin boards in the weeks before the Conference, hoping to spruce them up a bit. It turned out to be a much bigger job than we anticipated which narrowed our focus from all of them to four.
Picture by Liz.
Me, Liz and Imogene.
Picture by Emily Shiflet. The finished product.
During this time, a flurry of emails goes out to the families of HBC with lists of the food needed and slots to fill. Women commit and file their instructions away. Some will bring burgers, some salads, some fruit, some wait in the sidelines in case there are empty slots just days before the Conference. Everyone takes on an extra burden to make sure there is enough food and I can’t thank these women enough.
The Sunday before plans are laid with helpers for decorating, and arrivals.
Now it’s the week of the conference.
Monday morning is shopping!
Wanda, my extra Mom, and big conference helper with me at Sam’s.
Tuesday enough bacon is cooked to feed an army!
If you cook enough bacon you can almost make yourself sick of it. Almost.
Wednesday is TAARBC’s meeting and biscuit cooking!
Enough biscuits for three meals.
Now’s the day! Thursday. Heritage is alive with activity. Decorations go up. Helpers arrive. Food arrives in abundance. The first meal is laid out and shared with friends. Success!
The decorators and cookie cookers!
Friday is the long day. Early in the morning, before even the sun is up, women in aprons, smiling teens, and lots of coffee arrive. Breakfast is served at 800 am, and without even a pause, lunch is begun. Clean up, clean up, clean up. A few hours to visit with friends old and new comes our way and then prep for dinner begins. Friday night is our biggest meal of the Conference and this year was no exception. Happy and exhausted, I send everyone home to start again on Saturday.
Most of these girls have been serving food for years and we have new recruits being trained. Spending the week with them is one of my favorite parts about the Conference. Picture by Emily Shiflet.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Picture by Emily Shiflet.
Seeing people who are dear to your heart is one of the other joys of the Conference. Emily Shiflet and myself.
The greatest serving crew a woman could ask for, plus lots of other wonderful young people who come every year. Picture by Emily Shiflet.
Many of our servers took off work or gave up valuable study time to help. We are so thankful for them. This is Raelea cleaning up after one of the meals. Picture by Emily Shiflet.
Saturday we have one goal. Get everything settled enough to hear Pastor Steve’s sermon. We can do it. Again, coffee, bacon, biscuits, eggs. Again, clean up, clean up, clean up. But this time, this morning, things have to be put back into place for Sunday lunch. Tables are moved, refrigerators are evaluated and reshuffled, more coffee is drunk.
We made it.
Tired helpers sneak into the service, glad to hear a man we love give the word of God, glad to have served, glad everyone was fed, glad it all tasted moderately good.
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls? It was an honor serving with you and we’ll do it again next year…or actually maybe in January, or December. 🙂
Thank you Emily, for sharing your pictures. Thank you ladies, for giving your time and encouragement and support, thank you young people for giving your energy, laughter, willing work, and for our very strange conversations between meals. I love you all.