Sauerkraut Anyone? Practicing Hospitality with the ‘Kraut

Each mid-September, (for I don’t know how many years), the folks at Zion Lutheran in Muscatine, Iowa (the church I’m called to serve as pastor) serves up some of the tastiest sauerkraut this side of the Atlantic.

I’m not joking.  I help with the supper.  I’m the chief meat slicer for the meal. This year, I sliced 318 pounds of pork roast.

I know what you might be thinking.   “I don’t like sauerkraut.  Why would I come?”  I thought that way about the sauerkraut too, but over the past 5 years, I’ve come to like it. Dare I say, it’s really good!

I also seat the guests who come in droves as their noses follow the pungent aroma of sauerkraut wafting up from the Mississippi River. Each year we serve 400 meals (or more some years when there’s an early fall).  Sales are better when it’s cooler outside.

Fact is, I’ve come to understand this event not as another “pride” event, but as an event in which it takes a whole lot of people to make happen.

Our’s is a congregation that rolls-up her sleeves and works together to pull-off this dinner.

And for good cause.

We use most all the proceeds to fund outreach ministries that we would like to include in our general fund benevolence, but simply can’t afford to make happen. In 2015, we funded ministries to:  the University of Iowa Hospital Chaplain, the Lutheran Campus ministry at University of Iowa, Muscatine County “Almoner’s Fund“, the Pastor’s Discretion Fund, and the “Jesus Mission” feeding ministry in Muscatine.  We use a small amount of the proceeds to cover the electricity cost associated with the event.

The thing is, folks around here still love an old fashion meal. Not kidding.  Everything is prepared as my grandmother in Texas would prepare for a dinner with the family. She’d be proud.

This year, I even sliced the meat a little thicker than last year. It’s a little secret, I didn’t tell anyone. No one complained about the thickness, s0 I’m guessing they liked it!

All served family-style. Tables are set with real plates and silverware, and servers come by and refill any empty bowls.

Here’s our food stats:

  • 318 pounds of roasted pork (from Reason’s meat locker across the river in Illinois)
  • 20 gallons of sauerkraut
  • 40 pounds of old-fashion butter noodles from the Amana Colonies in Iowa
  • 170 pounds of potatoes mashed by two workers
  • 2 cases of butter
  • 24 gallons of green beans with 8 pounds of bacon added for flavor
  • 12 gallons of apple sauce
  • 34 dozen rolls
  • 75 pies with 8 tubs of whipped cream
  • 15 gallons of milk
  • 2 200-ounce coffee 

And the labor of 67 members of the congregation.

Two members preparing roasters full of sauerkraut.

Left-overs are minimal; we’ve got this down to a science.   This year we only had six slices of pie left from the 75 donated homemade pies. Any food left over goes to the local shelter.

The hospitality ministry from our members is the sweet spot for this community feeding ministry.   It truly requires a group of folks who can work together with one another to pull off a meal like this. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t step on each others toes in the process, it’s just an example of when folks are committed to a common goal or vision, they can make anything happen.

I say it’s well worth the amount of labor it takes to pull this off. Our capacity to ‘do‘ ministry increases.  For example, this year, we expanded our social ministry to include the “Garden of Eatin‘” our garden ministry which provides our neighbors access to fresh produce.  It was a so successful, we’re planning to expand the garden 30% (two additional boxes) and add fresh herbs to the mix.

The thing is:  we are able to serve others through this meal and have a little fun in the process.

Can I say I’m crazy about the sauerkraut supper?  No.  But it’s neat to step back after the event and thank God we made it through another meal.

And then there’s the benevolence to other ministries.  In 2015 we directed over $3,000 to ministries outside the congregation.

It’s definitely worth the effort.

Get a ticket and join the folks for a meal you won’t soon forget. I promise.

If not, I’ll give you a refund.  From my own pocket of course.




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