On Sunday, December 13, the Word of Life Assembly of God in Burney hosted a delightful “Chili Cook-off with Live Music” as a part of their December Starry Nights series.
About 150 people attended. My wife Linda and I arrived just before 6 p.m. and were greeted at the door by a jolly gentleman who asked me if I would like a cup of coffee and directed me to a lovely coffee bar.
After getting a cup of coffee I saw Kaylynn Harper busy preparing things. Kaylynn had told me earlier in the week about the chili cook-off but she didn’t tell me that this year she was responsible for organizing it. She said she had never been to a chili cook-off before but she did a wonderful job preparing. She said 15 other members of the church had helped her to organize it.
It struck me that this is in the spirit of one of the new themes that Head Pastor Ken Frazier has been stressing lately, “Do Life Together.” Studying the Bible together, praying together, sharing life and activities as a means of “building His Kingdom in the Intermountain Area.”
The main room was beautifully decorated with white table cloths on large round tables. At the head of the room a slide show showed pictures of Biblical scenes and Christmas themes.
The program began just after 6 p.m. Pastor Frazier introduced himself and his assistant pastor Cory Yake. The two worked as a team. If laughter is good for the soul, their introduction was truly a healing balm. They embellished their explanation of the contest with friendly humor that brought roars of laughter from the crowd.
Serving over 150 people 14 different kinds of chili is no small task. However, the line flowed smoothly and the time passed quickly due to friendly conversation and the efficiency of the servers.
There were 14 different kinds of chili served in small plastic cups. Each cup had a number on it so the diners could keep track of the chili they were tasting. There was also three kinds of cornbread, butter, cheese and sour cream.
Each chili was unique – different beans, varied spices, a range from mild to very hot, beef chili and chicken chili. Number 12 was a bit hot for me but Number 14 was delicious. It ranked number 1 on my palate until I tasted chili Number 9. Then I was faced with a tough decision. 9 or 14. I found it interesting that my birthday is 9/14. Such a feast of flavor, I felt like my taste buds were being reborn.
It turned out that the cook of chili Number 9, Rick Yochum, was seated at my table. That pushed me over the edge. I voted for Number 9. But when I went back for another bowl I loaded up on chili Number 14.
Throughout the evening of culinary delight and conviviality, we were also treated to beautiful music. Preston Jacobs sang and played guitar.
A 7:45 p.m. the voting was done, and the winners were announced.
Morgan Deavers and Rick Yochum (chili Number 9) tied for third place. they each received a loud round of applause and a box of candy. Jennifer Penn won second place and a box of candy. First prize of $25 dollars went to a young man who had cooked his first chili for this event, Eryn Biles. (Number 14)
During the event, I asked Pastor Cory for a quote. He said, “We like to do stuff that’s fun and open to the community to show them that we love them.”
I asked Kaylynn Harper for her thoughts. She said, “No perfect people allowed. That’s the motto of our church.”
So when I thanked Pastor Ken for the wonderful evening, I told him that since Jesus said ” “Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” I would like to be perfect, but I’m not there yet.
Then I reflected that events like this and the work that Word of Life is doing are guiding us on the road toward perfection. Jesus prefaced his injunction to be perfect by explaining that God makes the sun to shine on the good and the evil alike. So loving God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind and sharing that love with the community is indeed kingdom-building.
The next Starry Nights program at Word of Life will be an evening of singing traditional Christmas carols on December 20 from 6-9 p.m.