The ministry of preparing and serving meals to the residents at Bethlehem House has been years in the making. In the year 2000 a unique man entered my life named Jack. His real name was John Jude O’Reilly. Jack’s mother named him after St. Jude the patron saint of hopeless/lost causes. Little did I know how the intercession of St. Jude would led me to service at Bethlehem House. Jack and I married in 2011. Being a retired educator, he was always coming up with projects for us to do together.
One day when I came home from work, he shared with me his desire to start serving meals at a homeless shelter in Conway called Bethlehem House. I was somewhat nervous about the whole thought of it. It wasn’t that I was opposed to serving meals, I was just apprehensive about what to expect. Jack reassured me that it was the perfect plan. He understood what I did not, which was this, the face of Jesus is all around, especially in those who are homeless, sick and suffering.
In the beginning, we started out serving meals occasionally when time allowed. This quickly changed to preparing/serving monthly meals. Through the ministry at the Bethlehem House I quickly came to understand that cooking in Jack’s style meant preparation weeks in advance of smoking meat and preparing home-made dishes. This was Jack’s idea of evangelization and throwing in a meal just for fun. I went from being a fearful right-hand-gal to Jack, while serving at Bethlehem House, to knowing and loving the staff and residents. I developed long-lasting friendships with Godly people.
Jack died in 2015 after an unexpected illness. Through his self-less love and modeling, I continued the meal ministry at Bethlehem House. Not only have I involved my family and friends, but have extended this opportunity to those in my church community at St. Joseph’s Church. Each third Tuesday of the month, volunteers from St. Joseph’s prepare, serve, and enjoy the fellowship with the residents of Bethlehem House. I have seen the face of Jesus through the work accomplished at the Bethlehem House.
Jack’s Mexican Stew
2 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped white onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
3 (15.5) cans hominy, drained and rinsed (I use white hominy)
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes (I use diced tomatoes)
4 cups unsalted chicken cooking stock, (I added one additional can)
2 dried ancho chilies
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
Sauté pork in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 minutes. Place pork in a 7-qt slow cooker. Stir in onions, next 8 ingredients, and 2 cups stock into slow cooker with pork.
Microwave remaining 2 cups stock in a microwave safe bowl on HIGH 3 minutes or until boiling. Add dried chilies, and let stand 10 minutes. Remove and discard tops of chilies. Process broth and chilies in a blend until smooth. Stir chili mixture into pork mixtures. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours or until pork is very tender