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Sep22FriI thought I’d lost my calling. Then God showed up. September 22, 2017 by Julie Whalen
I loved being a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. It was a privilege to spend my days with my two beautiful children, Noah and Hannah, teaching them and celebrating each milestone as they grew.
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Although motherhood brought many joys, it also brought loneliness and feelings of failure. I vividly remember God calling me to full-time ministry while at Camp Starrigan in Newfoundland and Labrador when I was 15, and I loved being a youth pastor at Scarborough Citadel in Toronto. But for many years, my days were filled with feedings, diaper changes, laundry, housework, making meals—and the list goes on. I felt like I was losing myself.
Just when I feared I had walked away from my calling, God showed up and gave me a new calling. I’ve always loved to cook and bake. My parents, Lt-Colonels Junior and Verna Hynes, had several appointments as divisional youth secretaries, and I spent my summers at camp, where I learned from the cooks. They even made me my own apron. And my mother always let me experiment and make a mess in the kitchen.
I began to feel a connection between food and faith. Food is the cornerstone of health and nourishment for our bodies, and it brings people together—we share a meal to celebrate, to mourn, to comfort. I began looking at every relationship as an opportunity to serve others and share my faith, through the expression of God’s love.
It started with things such as bringing a meal to a new mom or a friend who was ill, inviting a new neighbour over for dinner, or having coffee with someone who needed a listening ear. God made it clear that my passion for food and cooking was a gift from him, and he could use me in significant ways, even when I felt lost and insignificant in my service for him.
When God blessed us with a kitchen renovation, I dedicated it back to him, promising to use it as a place to serve him. One of the first things I did in our new kitchen was host a dinner party called “Stepping Up to the Plate” with some other moms from the neighbourhood. We cooked a three-course meal and enjoyed sharing it together. Everyone brought donations for the local food bank, and we filled the back of my minivan.
When the tsunami hit Japan a number of years ago, my kids wanted to do something to help. We got together with some of their friends from school, and their moms, to bake and decorate sugar cookies, which they sold—raising $1,000 for The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Japan. Moments like this made me realize God could use me “full time” from home to serve him.
But then it turned into even bigger opportunities, such as helping prepare and serve meals for various events at church, making baked goods and serving coffee to mothers at a local moms and tots program. In 2013, I started volunteering with The Salvation Army Markham Ministries to lead a weekly cooking class, teaching low-income families how to cook healthy meals on a budget.
Right from the beginning, we wanted “What’s Cooking” to be not only about food for the body but also food for the soul. After preparing and sharing a meal together, I lead a devotional time, offering words of encouragement from Scripture. It has become a supportive group as people share their needs, struggles and victories, and we pray for one another. After the class, they take home the recipe and leftovers for their families. We also offer a program called “Soul Food,” providing lunch to people visiting the food bank next door.
It warms my heart to see someone enjoy a meal I’ve prepared. And as I help and serve others, God feeds me.