Joy did not even begin to describe the feelings I had the day an old friend walked back into Micah.

Many years ago, she had spent close to a decade on the street believing her family had been taken away from her. She was a college graduate. She had been a substitute at my local elementary school, and her children had played field hockey with my sister. But in her season of homelessness she was well known on the streets.

She could often be found crocheting hats to earn a little bit of cash. If you stopped just long enough to chat, she just might capture you in a mesmerizing tale of how her family would some day come and rescue her from the terrible circumstances she had been forced to live in for the sake of everyone’s protection.

Then one day, they did.

Her brother, who lived in another state came and got her, helped her get the treatment she had needed for a long time and she got well enough that she could return to the community, find a place to live and begin to rekindle a relationship with her children. She did so well that she even picked up a part-time job and started cleaning business.

But she got sick again, walked out of her apartment one day and disappeared.

It was more than a year later that she turned up again—homeless and refusing to speak to any of us. I had almost given up on our outreach attempts when I walked into the lobby one day, and there she was.

In our warm embrace, she told me of how tired, cold and hungry she had gotten. She knew that in her darkest moment, the churches of Fredericksburg could help, and she decided it was time to come back.

We had lunch that day together in the community café, a new restaurant-style eatery located that the Micah churches operate from the fellowship hall at Fredericksburg Baptist Church. Guests, whether they can pay or not, order from a menu, get served at tables and are invited to make a donation on their way out.

Over a Rueben sandwich and a glass of iced tea, my friend caught me up on all that had been going on—an expired ID, her hopes to re-establish income and plans to get back into housing. She asked about my family, our recent holiday trip and we reminisced how she made the sweet blue blanket that covered my newborn on his way home from the hospital.

A few days later, I sat busily typing away in my office when her sweet face appeared in my doorway.

“I just wondered,” she said. “Would you like to have lunch with me again today.”

A woman with no home, who sometimes did not even believe the people trying to help her were themselves, had been transformed over a meal and a little bit of company. When was the last time my friend got a chance to invite someone else to lunch, I wondered? Was it the food? Was it the quality time? Or was it simply a place she could finally belong?

In that moment, I gained a whole new appreciation for what feeding the hungry really means. Our meal that day was so much more than nourishment for our stomachs; it was a restoration of a relationship, sustenance for both of our souls.

The community Café is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11am to 2pm. All are welcome. Those interested in volunteering can attend one of our monthly volunteer orientations on fourth Fridays at 10am, 1016 Caroline St. or email [email protected] to schedule an alternate time.