Serving the Lord by Serving Meals
by Scott Dreyer, with Art McCleary
It's 6:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. As the line at William Carey International University's cafeteria shuffles forward, I pick up my dinner of baked cod, steamed broccoli, corn and home-baked bread. I notice that Warren Gleason, food services manager, observes the scene with a look of satisfaction. Smiling, pleasant, he reminds me of my uncle.
The WCIU dining room is calm today, but behind the wall that separates the serving area from the kitchen, an astonishing drama has been played out over the past two years.
Gleason walked into a difficult situation when he arrived in September 1986. Plate waste was embarrassingly high÷a sign of either widespread customer dissatisfaction. further, the cafeteria was operating in the red it the time it was $21,000 in debt), and the kitchen and cafeteria facilities were outdated.
Gleason had three clear-cut goals to achieve: 1) balance the budget, 2) satisfy the desires of a mixed clientele (young, mostly American, but with a variety of other nationlities), and 3) fulfill the demands of a whole foods" policy that emphasized the use, wherever possible, of minimally- processed foods, low in sugars, salt and fat. [is professional background in purchasing, and his part-time interest in catering helped him accomplish all three.
Gleason's recipe for success included implementing a six- to eight-week menu cycle, standardizing portions, and pursuing a rigorous purchasing schedule that has him out in local grocery and produce stores picking up the best deals in fresh foods.
By easing up on what had been an extremely strict "whole foods" menu, he was able to reduce costs, add variety, and increase customer satisfaction.
He did it all as a service to the Lord: to meet the nutritional needs of people who are preparing themselves to meet the spiritual needs of peoples who don't know Christ. The WCIU cafeteria's clientele is primarily dorm residents: missionaries who work in the campus organizations focused on Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, and other unreached peoples, and students preparing for service in underdeveloped parts of the world.
Gleason, however, has struggled without adequate help. For two years now, he's been in the kitchen by 5:30 a.m. six days a week. Monday through Friday he doesn't normally leave till 7:30 p.m. He takes only a few hours' rest at home between meals.
At 67, he can no longer take the strain, so he and his wife. Harriet, plan to retire from the Center at the end of August
The five people remaining on staff at the cafeteria need someone to supervise them.
Art McCleary, general manager of the Center, said Gleason's need for an assistant has not gone unnoticed. "I've been looking for an assistant, I believe God has prepared , someone to help, but for some reason they just haven't heard God's call."
He said that now with Gleason leaving, he is looking for two people: a food services manager and an assistant manager.
Fortunately, the next managers will have easier jobs: not only because they can share responsibilities but, thanks to Gleason, the food service is now a profitable operation with a satisfied clientele. The dining hall has new carpeting and drapes, and the kitchen sports a new vegetable steamer, water spigots above the stove, and a pantry arranged for easy access.
Building on the menus, policies and procedures already in place, a new manager and assistant should be able to minister to some of God's choicest servants without many of the pressures Gleason had to endure.
McCleary says he's looking forward to finding out who will pick up the baton that Gleason has had to lay down. "It may be retirees who can volunteer their services. On the other hand, maybe someone younger will come÷someone who is willing to serve on a missionary income. Whoever it is, they'll be engaged in a vital service!"
If you believe God may be calling you to this or some other service opportunity at the Center÷clerical, maintenance, library,... you name it!÷write to the USCWM Personnel Dept., 1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104; or call (818) 398-2330.