Rachel and Logan Runnalls live in Caronport, SK, home to Briercrest College and Seminary and easy driving distance from the city of Moose Jaw. They have a close and active friend group of thirty-something families who are in and out of each other’s homes for meals, celebrations, book clubs and house concerts. Over the last decade, Rachel and Logan saw half of their friend group leave church. “We realized that the only time these friends gathered with other Christians was when they were in our home or yard.”
The Runnalls wanted to provide a space with intentional Christian practices for their “done” friends and press into what was already happening in their friend group in terms of connection and hospitality. They partnered with another couple to form a gathering called The Table. They meet bi-weekly to share a potuck meal, communion, a story from the gospels, and kid-friendly songs about Jesus. In typical God fashion, The Table hasn’t turned out to be the thing the Runnalls thought it would be. “The truth is none of our done friends feel like they need something like The Table. Some are looking for a deeper connection: one on one and not in a group, and others have pulled away from our friendship as they leave the faith we used to share.”
Instead, The Table has connected with families with multiple children who find a Sunday service format challenging, and young adults who are hungry for a family-style gathering that welcomes their questions and life-struggles. A weekly young adults gathering, dubbed the ‘Wooly Renegades,’ has emerged and makes space for twenty-somethings to ask their tough questions about God and the Bible, pray for and support one another through their life struggles, and be mentored as they step into adulthood.
The Runalls are grappling with some sadness because many of the friends they care about and had in mind have not been interested in joining them at The Table. “But something is happening, even if it’s not what we anticipated, and we are excited to figure out how to cooperate with God in the work that He is doing.
The following is an update about one of the ongoing ‘God-stories’ out of The Table ministry that Rachel shared at the Saskatchewan Regional Gathering in May of this year.
This spring God provided for us to buy our own home, a trailer in Caronport. There’s space to host 20+ people, and an additional bedroom and bathroom – not to mention a garden and a root cellar. As God was opening the door to this home, one of my youth group kids came back into our life.
Dyllan has been in the grip of serious drug addiction for the past two years. When he hit the bottom, he reached out to us, asked us to bring him to church, and meet with us for prayer ministry after. He was just three days clean, thin as a rail, shaking, sweating – he looked wrecked. This is a kid who’s been trying to make it on his own since he was 15 – in and out of foster care, shelters, treatment centres, or just couch surfing and living on the street. He’s turning 22 on Tuesday. A pair of young adults connected with the Table took the initiative to pick him up weekly for the Gathering church in Caronport, and the Table meal every other week. These Christian relationships were a thin thread of hope for Dyllan.
In January, he checked himself into a two week detox program and he came out with a mental clarity that he hadn’t had in years. He booked himself into the follow up 28-day treatment program – but it was six weeks away, and he was camping out on his mom’s couch in Moose Jaw, with ‘friends’ more than willing to provide substances for him just on the other side of her door.
Logan and I took possession of our new home a week and a half after Dyllan returned from detox. We made a lifestyle contract with him and said, “Come help us move, and we’ll give you a place to stay while you get clean and make a new life.” That was ten 10 weeks ago. Dyllan successfully completed the very strict 28 day treatment program and returned to our home. He’s picked up weight, he smiles all the time – he takes the kids out to play soccer with them, he works in the kitchen with me 12 hours a week – we cook big meals not only for our family but for a foster family that lives up the street. (Since Regional Gathering, Dyllan landed a full-time job caring for men with disabilities in a home environment. He commutes between Moose Jaw and his home with the Runnalls in Caronport.)
At the time of his move in, I (Rachel) said, “Listen, church attendance is not a requirement of your stay here. You want to get clean and be someone who gives back to your community – we want to help you succeed at that. You don’t have to share our beliefs to be with us.” And Dyllan just looked at me like I was crazy: “I go to church for me, because I need that time.” In fact, he goes to church twice – a service Sunday morning and The Table on the Sunday evenings that we gather. A small group of young adults has formed around him and they meet in our home every week for Bible study and prayer. There’s a smoke break half-way through our discussion, and the language gets a little salty, but Dyllan gets it: Christian community is life, and The Table hospitality was the open door for him to come into that life, messy as he was and still kinda is.
Please pray for God to continue to provide the personal and financial resources for the Table ministry. We are all volunteers, serving out of the overflow of what God has done for us. Between ourselves and the couple we host The Table with, we juggle five jobs, four kids, three boards – and our friends are expecting their third child in the fall. Life together is rich – but it is also full.
Pray for favour with other believers who maybe have never seen something like what we’re doing. Pray for favour with non-believers in our neighbourhood and for those who need hope and healing to find their way to the Table.