People who come to the Arthur Weaver home in Northville, Michigan, to share an adventure in eating, soon find "soul food" prominent on the menu. Whether it's the do-it-yourself salad or the let-Christ-do-it spiritual emphasis, the Weavers can't say, but a number of their guests have been baptized. "Anyone who can put a meal together can cooperate with Christ to put lives together," say the Weavers.
For some time Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Weaver had wondered how they could improve their witness in their suburban Detroit community. The answer they came up with is so simple, they say, that any household can duplicate it.
"We found that many people are desperately lonely," says Natalie, a petite but vivacious brunette in her fifties. "Even our professional associates, busy as they were, needed to feel that some one cared for them on a personal level. So we decided to major in hospitality."
Dr. Weaver is a graying man in his mid-fifties who is a surgeon on the full-time teaching faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit. "A few years ago," he says, "Natalie and I deter mined to turn our lives completely over to the Lord. Believing that our Saviour will return soon, we began to look for ways to be used by Him."
Two statements from Ellen White particularly impressed the Weavers. One, in Early Writings (page 58), urges Christ's followers to "live and act wholly in reference to the coming of the Son of man." The other, familiar to most Adventists, says that there would be "one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one" if we would "humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful" (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 189).
"In other words," explains Dr. Weaver, "the key to successful soul winning is to become interested in, and involved with, people."
The Weavers began their new witness emphasis with one advantage over some fellow church members. Dr. Weaver had held a number of widely publicized Five-Day Plans in the Detroit area. And Natalie had such a reputation for vegetarian cookery, based on her cooking schools, that Detroit newspapers and radio and television stations would occasionally refer people to her who ex pressed an interest in healthful living. So the Weavers began by inviting callers to their home for a meal.
Says Mrs. Weaver: "Several times we have introduced ourselves to strangers at the front door and parted friends a few hours later, after sharing a meal. Some how people anticipate a special relation ship when you care enough to invite them—strangers—into your home for a meal. And in this atmosphere one has a very good opportunity not only to get acquainted but to determine interest in cultivating spiritual insights.
"Inviting them to our home instead of going to theirs has other advantages," Mrs. Weaver continues. "We have no television programs or dietary problems. We are in control of the situation. And inviting people into your home says something right away about their importance to you. In today's society, with its frantic pace and impersonal relation ships, there is nothing more impressive we can share than time—our time."
The Weavers proceeded with their hospitality format. They invited people—one or more an evening—to their home over a several-week period. Then they called them up and invited them to join an interdenominational Bible study group—to be associated with a buffet-type meal.
"This procedure," the Weavers emphasize, "allows the people to become familiar with vegetarian cooking which in some cases was their interest in the first place. It also indicates our continuing interest in them and allows time for relaxed conversation, during which one can learn of their particular needs.
"The meals are never elaborate," says Natalie. "What people need most is companionship, and a buffet is a good format for mingling. I usually serve a casserole dish, a common vegetable, and perhaps one not so common, to introduce a new flavor. Or I may serve pea soup, stew, or a bowl of chili. The salad is usually a do-it-yourself type, which allows our guests to shape something to their own taste. If one particularly likes garbanzos, he can heap them on; if an other likes onions, he can pile them on.
"My dessert is usually simple: a fruit cup, chunks of pineapple, melon, oat meal cookies. I serve a simple fruit drink. But I try to vary the menu each night—which is why we call the meal 'Adventures in Eating.'"
The Weavers stress an informal atmosphere. The buffet meal is eaten on trays. With more than a dozen people often present, Mrs. Weaver uses styrofoam plates, thus reducing the time she has to spend in the kitchen after the meal. "Guests don't feel they are putting you to a lot of effort when you keep it simple," she says.
The Weavers usually begin the Bible studies with emphasis on the authenticity of the Bible. After this basic preparation they often take up topics suggested by the group. "These have ranged from what the Bible says about women's lib to speaking in tongues, spiritism, and the new sexual morality. Whatever the subject, our emphasis is on what the Bible says about these modern issues. We do not let the study degenerate into a 'this is what I think' type of discussion."
By taking up the subjects their guests suggest, the Weavers avoid any feeling that they are trying to sell a preconceived point of view. And they have found that someone will suggest topics of special Adventist interest, such as the Sabbath. Says Dr. Weaver: "I usually will reply that we should study the law of God first, and then, if the person wants, we can get to the Sabbath issue."
If questions stray too far from the subject, the Weavers tactfully suggest that they will bring a Bible answer to that issue next week, or include it in a future study. Before a study, Dr. Weaver types out the Bible texts, with the pages on which they can be found in the Bible version being used.
The Weavers begin their meal around six-thirty to seven o'clock. The Bible study begins forty-five minutes to an hour later, and they generally conclude by nine o'clock. Once a Bible study series is begun—usually on Wednesday or Friday evenings—the Weavers seek to avoid postponing any session. If a member misses a study, the Weavers call and, when possible, try to make up the study before the group meets again.
"At the close of each study, we always form a prayer circle," says Mrs. Weaver. "Early in our series we study prayer. At the close of this subject I invite anyone who wishes to say a short sentence prayer. We have found this procedure permits an easy transition to participation in the prayer circle. We always invite special requests. Frequently someone will share very real problems at this time. God has remark ably rewarded simple prayers for employment, for health and family problems. We also encourage prayer for one another in the group. Members are delighted when they see God working for them and through them, and this experience encourages them to place their trust in Him."
During the past few years several members of the study group have been baptized. But the Weavers carefully avoid pressuring anyone to take a stand. The result is that those who have not made a decision still feel comfortable in the group. And, since most of the topics have been of their own choosing, they continue to study the Bible and the Lord continues to work on their hearts.
John Schlomon, an auto motive engineer who once studied to become a priest, is one of the "graduates" of the Weavers' "Adventures in Eating" program. John, who was recently baptized, now answers his phone: "John SDA." John's wife, Helen, and their four children (two boys and two girls), as well as John's mother, Aileen, all at tend the meals and Bible studies in the Weaver home. Helen, Aileen, and the two girls plan to follow John in baptism soon.
"Our lives have been changed through contact with the Weavers," says Helen Schlomon, "and our relation ship with God has taken on new meaning. John has changed from a man who each day smoked three packs of cigarettes and drank fifteen cups of coffee and four martinis into a vegetarian, jogging, Bible-studying Seventh-day Adventist!"
Such results bring joy to the Weavers' hearts, although they would be the first to point out that their only role is to plan simple means for the Holy Spirit to use in reaching lives.
And it all started with an adventure in eating!