So much love goes into the preparation of each meal” Junior Jordan Hale said. “Dinner at Debs really is something special.”
Dinner at Debs is a free meal held every Tuesday night at Calvary Chapel for Northwest Missouri State University students. The dinner was originally called Calvary Chapel College Student Ministry, but quickly earned the nickname of Dinner at Debs.
Dinner at Debs got its start and nickname when Calvary chapel member, Debra Hill began weekly dinners in her home with members of Gamma Alpha Lambda.
“We keep a door count of how many students attend each week,” Hill said. “When we started this three years ago, we had around 40 attendees each week. This year, we have had as many as 240.”
Each week, a main meal, sides and variety of desserts are offered. Each meal is funded by donations from Calvary Chapel.
Volunteers including Debra and her husband, Michael, prepare, serve and clean up after the meals.
“We usually have around 17-20 volunteers each week.” Hill said. “More than likely, the volunteers are people who attend the church and the youth of the church.”
When deciding what meal to prepare each week, Deb and her husband take a look at past meals that students have enjoyed.
“My husband is the main cook and checks each week what is on sale at local stores.” Hill said. “We try to be frugal about what we purchase. ”
They also like to take a look at making sure that every student who attends can eat the things being served.
“We don’t have other options for those with food allergies; however we do try to accommodate to students that are gluten free or have peanut allergies by staying away form those products. “ Hill said.
Typically, the two try to never serve the same meal twice throughout the semester.
When students leave the dinner, they are handed a Bible verse and told to have a good week.
When the dinner first started, Deb chose the verses each week by praying and seeking the Lord on what verse should be shared.
Today, the pastor’s wife, Jenny Dirks, and their son, JC Dirks, choose the verses for each week.
“We just want it to be something than can bless them and encourage them as they go out the door,” Hill said. “The original intent was to just bless the students and to have a meal with them and not get them there to “drill” the Lord into them.”
Many students in the community who attend “Dinner at Deb’s” have found a sense of “home” by attending weekly.
“It feels like home,” Freshman Kylee Metzger said. “The food is great, and leaving with a Bible verse is just the icing on the cake to a perfect Tuesday night.”
Deb said that she felt as though she was called on by the Lord to start this meal.
“Every August, I felt that the Lord was tugging on my heart encouraging me to start something like this.” Hill said.
The dinner has since encouraged many of the college students to attend Calvary Chapel for Sunday services.
“On average, about 50-60 of the students that attend “Dinner at Debs” now consistently attend Calvary Chapel on Sundays,” Hill said.
Aside from “Dinner at Debs” and Sunday services, Calvary Chapel also does other events including Wednesday worship services, Bible studies, prayer services, mentoring, and community service.