December 11, 2018

A white-linen meal for Tegucigalpa homeless

Written by  Micah Brickner
On December 24, the historic city center of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, will be lined with tables and chairs for more than 2,000 dinner guests. On December 24, the historic city center of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, will be lined with tables and chairs for more than 2,000 dinner guests. Photos provided by Talita Cumi unless indicated otherwise.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — On Christmas Eve, nearly 2,000 people — many of whom are homeless — will be invited to a beautiful white-linen meal in Tegucigalpa. For the sixth year, this free meal, Una Cena con el Rey (A Dinner with the King), will be held in the historic city center by the ministry Talita Cumi.

Even days before the event, coordinators rarely know whether they will have everything for the event. However, miraculously they end up with more food than they need. Last year they were able to share the extra food with patients’ family members at a local hospital.

This meal is supported by donations requested via social media. People are invited to give what they can, whether it is money or specific items needed for the meal.

Cristiana Godoy, a resident of Tegucigalpa, helps to oversee this annual event. Godoy is the spiritual life co-coordinator for the elementary school of Academia Los Pinares — a Christian school founded by workers from Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM).

This is Godoy’s second year co-leading the event — it was originally founded by Anthony Rodríguez, who still supports the event but now lives in the U.S.

Rodríguez's inspiration for this event was to “love the ones that are loved by no one,” said Godoy. “The vision … is to make a banquet table for whoever needs it. We have seen homeless, shoeless people sit beside well-dressed suited guys that were walking by.”

Several nights before Christmas Eve, volunteers walk through the city’s downtown area interacting with people living in the streets. The volunteers provide hot chocolate, cookies, and an invitation to the dinner.

However, this is not a Christmas dinner, “this is Jesus showing His love and care for each of us,” said Godoy.

A woman approached Godoy last year and hugged her for five minutes. The woman said to Godoy, “That is the hug I have longed for, for years.” Godoy sensed this special moment helped provide peace and restoration for this woman.

A significant influence in Godoy’s missional calling was her service with EMM. Godoy served on EMM’s 2000–01 YES team to Thailand. The team worked with a house church planting network in the province of Isaan, Life Enrichment Church.

During her time with YES, Godoy had a conversation with a former EMM worker, Skip Tobin, about her calling. Tobin encouraged her to always be available to God.

Godoy shared, in response to Tobin’s words, that she is “always trying to be available and diligent in opportunities to show God’s love to others.” In this way, Godoy has become passionate about meeting the needs of people experiencing poverty in her home country of Honduras.

In addition to this annual dinner, Godoy leads a ministry on the southern coast of Honduras. Godoy mentors young adults and takes them to the coast to help local pastors provide meals for the community.

Before her outreach experience in Thailand, Godoy underwent training at EMM’s Harrisburg (Pa.) Discipleship Center. Here, Godoy had the opportunity to meet Melanie Nofziger, who was then the assistant director of the center.

More than a decade later, after Nofziger and her family began working in Honduras, the two reconnected on Facebook and realized that they both lived in Tegucigalpa. Godoy had not yet begun working for Academia Los Pinares. “She came up [to the school] and visited … it was the start of an inspiring re-friendship!” said Nofziger.

As Nofziger reconnected with Godoy, her family also became involved with the Christmas Eve dinner and Godoy’s ministry on the southern coast of Honduras.

Nofziger and her husband, Wendell, serve as EMM’s regional representatives for Central America, overseeing the programs and personnel in the region. Melanie Nofziger runs small business training, as well as teaching others how to administer the training. Wendell Nofziger serves as the elementary school principal at Academia Los Pinares.

You can learn more about and support this event at facebook.com/talitacumihn.