by Emily Morrison
For tens of thousands of people, the biggest event of their year is something you’ve probably never heard of. Each summer, The Rainbow Gathering draws members of a traveling community, including traveling homeless youth, to a national forest for a time of spiritual seeking and a sense of home and belonging together.
Each year, Woodland Hills-supported missionaries, Ben and Teresa Pothier, travel to The Rainbow Gathering to love and serve thousands of people through a ministry called the Jesus Kitchen. People come hungry for food, hungry for love and peace, and hungry for Jesus. Since 1995, the Jesus Kitchen has been a safe and welcoming space for people who have fallen through the cracks of society.
Joining the Pothiers this summer was a group of four Woodland volunteers: first-timer Christi, as well as Jeff, Sage and Amelia who were all returning for a second year.
A typical day serving with the Jesus Kitchen starts early with coffee and breakfast served to anyone who shows up. Meals throughout the day include second breakfast, lunch (announced by loudly yelling “Free food in the woods!”) and dinner. During and between meal times, the team talks, listens, sings, hugs, loves and prays with those who come through. And, of course, there are always dishes to be done!
To get a sense of what the trip is like, we asked members of the team to share their Jesus Kitchen experience with us.
Christi signed up for this trip out of a heart for people who have a negative history with the church. She wanted to show people “a different picture of God from the one they’ve encountered before.” She shares: “I love to cook and feed people and I also love to camp. By working in the Jesus Kitchen, I was able to do these things and I was super impressed with the love and peace and joy that seemed to permeate the Jesus Kitchen encampment.”
For Jeff, the joy was seeing the impact of moments both big and small: “A man walked into camp and just stood there and started sobbing. All he could say is how beautiful it felt. A very troubled young man came into camp, desperately in need of prayer and rest, and he kept coming back finding it a place of safety and peace.”
Sage shared the experience of a foot washing station. “In a lot of ways people’s feet at the gathering are reminiscent, in terms of grossness, of people’s feet when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. People were barefoot and dirty or hadn’t taken shoes off in days, so they were ultra-sweaty and gross. People were reluctant to have their feet washed because of this but I think this made it all the more powerful when they let us. After washing people’s feet we’d pray for them; praying for somebody when coming from such a humble place as one gets into when washing dirty feet made it feel like the Lord blessed that prayer even more.”
Amelia spoke of staying up until 4am with the Rainbow family: “It was such a wonderful scene to be a part of. We laughed together, ate and drank together, prayed so much together, and found rest by the fire together.”
To summarize the trip, Ben told us, “When we first started the Jesus Kitchen in the mid-90s Jesus was highly rejected. Now people will welcome us with hugs and cry when we leave. We have changed many lives and have led many to start a relationship with Christ. We overheard numerous people out on the trail saying how much they loved the Jesus Kitchen and how safe they felt there.”
To learn more about the Pothiers and Jesus Kitchen you can click here.