Editor’s Note: The Floris Guest House is a program at Floris United Methodist Church (Floris UMC) in Herndon, Virginia. During one week in January, Floris UMC hosts about 40 homeless individuals each night 5 p.m.-7 a.m. Guests receive a hot dinner, breakfast, a place to sleep, a shower and the opportunity to participate in various evening activities. The following post was written by one of the Floris Guest House 2017 volunteers, Susanne Keating.

I have a new friend. (My kids would exclaim, “You always say you have a new friend!”) And they are right. I love to meet new people and develop new relationships. Maybe that is why I enjoyed my time at the Floris Guest House.

This year my new friend seemed to know me before we were even introduced. We immediately hit it off and started chatting about the beautiful facilities at Floris UMC and her appreciation for the hospitality shown by our congregation.

When she told me she was originally from Atlanta, I asked if she would help me brainstorm ideas for food to represent the Atlanta Falcons on Super Bowl Sunday. She rattled off a list that included Brunswick stew, peach cobbler, peach sweet tea and more. We debated the merits of frozen peachesI was skeptical!

I confessed that I am not a very confident cook, which is especially embarrassing to me because my grandmother was a home economics teacher. Then my new friend asked me what I like to eat, and we began the first of many “cooking lessons.” Over the course of the week I took very detailed notes.

Early on she diagnosed my biggest challenge as a cook: I lack patience. My friend explained each recipe slowly and lovingly while I peppered her with questions. She finally said, “Suzanne, be patient!” With each new recipe she emphasized and even demonstrated the need to slowly stir then “Let it be.” She often reminded me of the importance of letting the ingredients take their time to develop the perfect flavor.

Most of her recipes began with her saying, “Of course you start with the Holy Trinity!” Thank goodness I remembered something from my grandmother and was able to knowingly nod my head and say, “Onions, peppers and celerygot it!”

She explained how her cooking had evolved over time to entice her daughters to try new foods. She said she was always ” reinventing her dishes” as well as imitating her favorite TV chefs. She had a certain apron that put her in a “Julia Child mode,” but she also loved Emeril’s signature, “BAM!”

At home I worked on honing my cooking skills (and patience). Each evening she shared bits and pieces of her lifeboth the blessings and the challenges. She treated me to a few serenades with her beautiful singing voice.

On our final day together she arrived with a computer she had received from the Lamb Center. She pulled up her Facebook page, devoted to positive messages and inspirational Bible verses. It turned out that for many years she ran a women’s ministry that served several cities in the South, supporting women and their physical and spiritual needs. She scrolled through the many fliers and postings she had created over the past few years.

My friend hopes to continue these programs in the near future. She told me that she thinks God brought us together to help hear her voice. I told her I would pray for her success. So I follow her Facebook page and watch hopefully to see her ministries reach the Women of the D.C. area.

P.S. She even helped me perfect the art of cooking kale. My husband says he would even eat it for breakfast.

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