I heard a story about a woman, Elizabeth Makaila, who invited everyone into her kitchen. If you knew her, she would have invited you too. She would have insisted that you pull up a chair to her table, the legs of which were nicked from kids bumping in and out, and a dog that preferred wood to rawhide.
Elizabeth, or Betty or Liz as people called her, learned how to cook from her Italian grandmother, and more times than not, a secret family tomato sauce with meatballs would simmer on the stove as you walked into her kitchen. From its window she would holler at her boys coming and going, and shout a hello to a neighbor, or point your attention to butterflies hovering in the garden’s thrush of basil and mint.
She had almost no financial reserves, but she had a spiritual reservoir that brimmed full of heart-touching hospitality and life-enriching encouragement.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).
Sometimes we get caught up checking off to-do lists, attending meetings, making phone calls. Sometimes we lose sight of the power of sauce simmering, of basil and mint growing, of butterflies hovering. Sometimes, while we so fully focus on our Savior’s coming to meet us in the air, we forget to see Jesus in the details of our current surroundings.
Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Though we have God’s unshakeable promise of reward—of life with Him in heaven—we also have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us in this life (Josh. 1:5). We can make a difference here because He makes all the difference.
The woman that I mention above is dying. She is about to receive her reward. She won’t be on any list of U.S. presidents for schoolchildren to memorize, or have a statue of her in any Hall of Fame, but her kitchen ministry was heartier than any of those things. For years she worked with teenagers at her church, screaming and jumping about their accomplishments, and crying and comforting them in their struggles. They knew that her kitchen was always open, and by allowing them access this woman knocked down many closed doors for Christ.
We can be emboldened by her example to live with zest, to love others the way Christ loves us in the simplicity of our kitchens, in the sharing of meals, in any act of Christlike sacrificing. We can be certain of God’s promise that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Like this woman, we too can live in the corners of our world where God has placed us and give many cups of water in His name.
—Charles R. Swindoll