I attended public school for the first 13 years of my childhood and with it, came the sense of uniqueness. Being unable to discuss or share religion in class made me feel as if I were one of the few children in the community who worshiped God the way my family and I did. Attending university amongst other believers my age washed those feelings of solitude away and replaced them with unity, fellowship, and love. I was beginning my adult life in a community of Sabbath keepers and people who had the same morals and values I grew up believing in. But then “adult life” began. After graduation, I was thrown into the world, of “reality." Living in downtown Dallas, Texas tested my faith and beliefs daily. The festival is on Sabbath; should I go? My new friends want to hang out Friday night; what do I tell them? I wasn’t in the Christian bubble my University kept me in any longer.
I didn’t immediately enter the workforce after graduation. I pursued my dream of attending Culinary School. Within our classes, we were split into groups of four for the entire semester. The Chef would teach a recipe that the entire class will make in their teams and present for review. After presentation, we would eat our creations. There were times when we would prepare and cook unclean meats such as shrimp, clams, and pork. This never bothered me and I would follow directions and assist my team in the preparation. It wasn’t until it was time to eat, that my teammates asked, “Why aren’t you eating?” It was then God opened a small door for me to share my faith. I explained how in my faith I don’t eat certain types of food. My group felt bad and apologized and I assured them that they have nothing to apologize for. I truly didn’t mind.
Weeks had gone by and another pork recipe came about. After the Chef gave the class prep, he pulled me aside. “I heard from some of the students that you don’t eat pork, is that correct?” “Yes Chef, ” I replied. “I brought you some chicken to substitute for the recipe.” It was a small gesture for him, but a huge show of respect for me. For the rest of the semester, my group continued to modify recipes so that I would be able to enjoy them as well. My heart filled with astonishment and gratitude for their consideration.
A class collaboration project came up. Each group was in charge of a course. The main course was of course, pork. The sides were collard greens sautéed in lard. Polenta cooked with more lard. Needless to say, it was going to be difficult to find something for me to munch on. Our entire class sat down family style at a long dinner table. As the courses were being served, I noticed that one wasn’t served for me. A separate group, apart from my team, came to me and presented me with a special plate. “We made this one for you! It doesn’t have pork in it. We sautéed the greens separately and made a separate polenta just for you. We wanted you to enjoy the meal with us.”
I never sought for accommodations, but God found ways to impress upon me the kindness of others. Although I am an outgoing person, sharing my faith and beliefs publicly was not something I would normally do. By continuing to live my lifestyle no matter what environment I was in, the people around me began to notice that I am different. Instead of being met with annoyance, I was met with consideration, respect, and love. Not only did God provide for me, he used my beliefs to witness to my class. In Philippians chapter 13, Paul and Timothy urge us to follow Christ’s example and to live a Christian life as they did. “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” If we claim to be Christians, we must live as such every day of our lives. Verse 12 states, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
My experience in Culinary School showed me that you don't have to shout what you believe in from the rooftops. I mentioned my faith once to my group and from then on, it spread to every person in my class. My positive actions and attitude towards unclean meat allowed God to use me as a witness. Allow God to use you today. Stand up for your faith. Be different. Be unique. That my friend is always a good thing in God’s eyes.
Alejandra Rodriguez Clark is an elementary school teacher and currently resides in McAllen, Texas.