Esther Nelson is a valued member of Northside and a key leader in a new ministry called Around The Table, a women’s gathering that seeks to encourage and uplift through conversation and cooking. Here, she shares her heart behind beginning this ministry and her past experiences that led her to value community.

What is the name of your new ministry and what is its purpose?

The name of our ministry is called “Around the Table.”  The purpose is to begin to create an environment where we can break bread with our sisters in Christ.  The idea is to come together, learn recipes through cooking demonstrations, and dine with one another around the table where we can share intimate conversations through a word of encouragement.

What we want to see happening is people connecting, building community, and walking away feeling encouraged and full; in both their bellies and their spirit.

When did you discover your love of cooking?

I have always grown up in the kitchen helping my mom with every meal or event my parents would host as missionaries, but at that time it was more of a chore than a passion.  It really wasn’t until I lived in Florence, Italy that I fell in love with the simplicity of fresh ingredients and bringing them together to make mouth-watering meals. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bowl of fresh made  pasta, locally pressed extra virgin olive oil, fresh grown aromatic herbs and endless amounts of grated Parmesan cheese (and more cheese)?

Do you find you can use food as a way to evangelize?

There is something profound about food and serving a meal around the table where people can connect, converse, and build relationships.  Food ultimately win hearts over!  There are times I wish I had been bold enough to go out and strike up conversation with anyone at any place and share the Good News of the Gospel.  But if I can be really honest, God has given me a passion for Him and for people and the best way that I can connect people to Christ is through my God given passion – food!  I believe my duty to share Christ are in moments when I can invite someone or people  over for a meal.  The invitation is the initial step of evangelism and the meal is the conduit to open up the door to conversation and discipleship.

You spent some time in Italy a few years ago. Did that come to shape any part of your faith and cultural understanding?

Again, if I can be honest, there are times I wonder if I was meant to be born Italian! Simply because of their cultural values around families, relationships, conversations, and time.  What I take away from the Italian culture is the way they dine around the table. Firstly, a delicious meal is prepared and served.  Secondly, you share that meal with family and friends.  Thirdly, you are led by endless conversations, and interactions without the distraction of time pulling you away.

If Italy has a love language, it would be quality time and acts of service.  This is what shapes my ministry, to be relational and to value the time it takes to prepare a meal with the purpose to serve and to bless.

As an Italian girl, I love reading that! Did your time in Italy influence how you cook and approach food? What is something from Italian culture that you love?

I have learned to always cook more than enough in case you have unexpected guests!  I have also learned to be flexible and not be restricted by time.  That is why I will always communicate the start time but never an end time because you never know what conversations can happen around the table…

Thank you so much Esther! We wish you all the best in your new ministry! 

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