Mary's Table®

Where It All Started

The simple spiritual practice of hospitality and service at Mary's Table® teaches us always to have our lives and homes open to those who have needs, and to encourage those who benefit from such generosity to do the same.

Mary's Table® provides key help to  families through one of our Center Peace Initiatives. I, Larry Ashlock, frequently visited Hollis and Mary Shirley, the parents of a beloved mentor Jakie Shirley, when I was serving as a young pastor in Big Spring, Texas, in the mid-1980s. My visits often occurred around the noon hour after I had made nearby hospital visits. I would find Mary preparing lunch in the kitchen. I could not help but notice that she always set an extra place at the table and, when I asked her about this practice, she told me that her father had taught her to include an extra place at the table for an unexpected guest. Mary made a habit of caring for the hungry, which is both good manners and good theology (Mark 6:37; John 6:32, 35). Mary's example inspires the Baptist Center for Global Concerns to do the same.

The Enormous Need

Together hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to health worldwide and both are riveted to poverty. Here in America, 44.2 million individuals,  nearly 3 .5 million households, lack the food needed for healthy lives.  Eighteen percent (18%) of homes in Texas are food insecure, meaning "consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year." Amazingly, one in four  children in the state of Texas under the age of 18 lacks food security! The need ranges from reduced food intake to a total disruption of eating patterns.

The Big Challenge

Our study of those with food needs helped us to determine that there were some specific things we could do to provide assistance to those who live with a level of anxiety about having enough money to purchase food or families lacking food security. With hunger in mind, I asked Shawna Ashlock to rise to an incredible challenge. She already felt compassion for the hungry, so I encouraged her to take on a tough assignment. I asked her to find a way to feed women and their families evening meals for one week on less than $75. Then, I asked her to teach women  how to cook healthy meals. She joyfully took this ministry in hand and the results have far exceeded our wildest dreams.

What It Looks Like

Mary's Table® has a primary goal to offer God's whole peace (shalom) to women who have needs. Our method is to offer a "dignity-based" ministry, which allows us to touch individual lives personally. There are many wonderful large-scale ministries reaching the hungry, but we choose to practice the simple hospitality of Mary Shirley at the table.

Therefore, we  invite 10 women to attend a cooking class where Shawna teaches ways to prepare, cook, and present healthy, home-cooked meals. Our classes are offered here at the Center in Granbury, Texas, and in various locations in Arlington, Texas, through our longstanding partnership with Mission Arlington.  

We sit down with the women, once the various meal items have been cooked, and eat what they have prepared. We spend precious moments listening to their needs, and then we pray for them, and they pray for us! Both the women and our Mary's Table® team leave blessed.
There is more! Shawna has compiled easy-to-make recipes into a recipe book we provide as a gift to the women. It also includes a meal plan to make it easier to organize family mealtimes. We provide a week's supply of groceries packed inside a 68 qt. tub filled with healthy food items. The "Silk Sewing Ministry"  in Dallas, Texas, sews aprons for the women. Many of these dear Mary's Table®  participants have never owned an apron, and their joy is evident when they receive them. We have even been supplied with donations of honey from a most generous beekeeper near Tyler, Texas, to place in their boxes.  And, a precious woman who lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, crochets blankets to give to the women! The smiles on their faces speak volumes to us.  Afterward, we invite the women to extend the mission of Mary's Table® by keeping their homes open  to help others in need.

By the Numbers

  • Each household receives 70 items of food, in the categories of canned, boxed, and other packaged goods, frozen meat and vegetables, dairy items, fresh produce, and bread.
  • Each participant receives 98 pounds of groceries, which are packed into one large storage tub and three produce, meat, and dairy bags, and then loaded into her vehicle.
  • For each event, we purchase, sort, pack, and load 1,077 pounds of food items.
  • Since we began, the Mary's Table® ministry has now distributed more than 14 tons of food.
  • Each woman participant also receives an apron, made with love by the Silk Sewing Ministry, a blanket, and a recipe book filled with healthy menus for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. 
  • Our Mary’s Table® Ministry costs approximately $7200 per year.

How Can I Be Involved?

Contact us at [email protected]