For over 20 years, Ben and Teresa Pothier have been building relationships with traveling homeless people, and especially youth, through a ministry called Jesus Kitchen. They serve meals and make connections at events called Rainbow Gatherings, which bring thousands of people together at national parks in search of love and belonging.
At these gatherings, Ben says, “Everyone is searching for something spiritual—it’s easy to talk about Jesus.” The Jesus Kitchen hopes to help heal wounds that have been caused by the church by showing the love of Jesus, staying nonjudgmental and helping people start a journey to relationship with God. Ben says, “Over the years we have seen amazing transformations in people’s lives, and some even come back to gatherings years later to tell us that they are now following Jesus because of the time they spent at the Jesus Kitchen.”
Woodland’s latest team went to a regional gathering where they had this kind of encounter helping someone start their journey. One night, Ben felt God wanted the group to pray for a woman that was hanging out and helping at the camp. “The next morning, I asked her permission and had everyone from our group surround her and pray for her. She was blown away and said that no one had ever done this for her before. She instantly teared up and after the prayer you could tell that her journey with Jesus had started.”
This year’s team included first-time volunteer Gabe who joined because, “I wanted to experience the Rainbow family firsthand and meet God in his forest splendor. Mission accomplished!”
At their campsite in a moss-covered clearing by the relaxing sounds of the Jumbo River, Gabe experienced the joys of cowboy coffee and conversation, prayer and praise, and “learning how to guesstimate measurements for feeding 40-60+ people—lots of chopping!”
Gabe adds, “I experienced God in his beautiful creation when gazing up at the starry sky at night, and the grateful smiles of fed folk after a Main Circle meal.”
What’s a day-in-the-life like at Jesus Kitchen? Here’s a taste, in Ben’s own words:
“You wake up from your tent surrounded by the beauty of nature’s best morning sunshine warming your heart and soul. You make your way to the kitchen that has been painstakingly set up in the woods to provide nourishment to travelers who have come from around the country. You grab your “bliss” (dining ware) and some hot coffee and soaked oats, prepared by another volunteer, and take a seat at the fire pit to enjoy the morning conversation with travelers as they also sip their coffee and eat.
Then we move into prayer and worship, and people who we have just met or have only known for a few days start to join. As people pray, God starts to fill you up with feelings and words and soon you find that you are praying over new friends and allowing God to speak to them and encourage them through your prayers. You become emotional as you realize that God loves these people out in the woods so much that he chose you to be here and show them how much he loves them.
After the morning meeting you help around the camp, having conversations with people as you listen to their stories and ask them questions. As the day moves into evening, the cooks finish up dinner for a community meal at Main Circle where just about everyone at Rainbow Gathering will be attending. At Main Circle, you chat and laugh and start to understand why Rainbow Gathering is so important to so many people. After dinner you head back to a campfire where people are gathering for a fun evening of snacks and hot chocolate. Some people head off to the Heart Circle—a bigger fire pit in the shape of a heart—where the drum circle plays into the wee hours of the night. For the rest, though, it’s off to bed to prepare for a new day!”
If this day-in-the-life has you intrigued and you’re interested in Jesus Kitchen, you can find out more about Ben and Teresa and their work here. Keep an ear out for their next trip!