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First Pentecostal Church showcases unity with global food court

by Frank E. Lockwood | November 17, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.
At First Pentecostal Church's international food court, Chris Herring, dressed like a member of the Queen's Guard, stood watch near the United Kingdom booth, pausing from time to time to pose for pictures with passersby. The event, part of the congregation's All Nations Sunday events, was held on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021 in the church's parking lot in North Little Rock.

At a time when the country is polarized, First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock decided to showcase its unity and its diversity.

So its members organized an international food festival, promoting it on social media and mailing out roughly 20,000 invitations.

"Within our church, we have a lot of different nationalities, cultures and ethnicities and we wanted to celebrate that," Pastor Nathan Holmes said. "Especially in our climate, it's so divisive and we just felt like we needed to come together as a church [and] as a community."

Billed as "All Nations Sunday," the event featured an outdoor worship service, a concert and a free global food court in one of the church's vast parking lots.

Many of the participants wore clothing that is representative of the nations they sought to highlight.

The more than foot long menu featured delicacies from nearly two dozen nations: Russian-style borscht soup; German bratwurst, sauerkraut and pretzels; Greek roasted olives and dolmades with rice filling; and Turkish kabobs.

The popular American booth featured cheeseburgers, chips and Coca Cola.

Donning an Uncle Sam outfit he'd rented for $25, Ken Bourn grilled 480 beef patties while his wife, Marlo, dressed up as Betsy Ross, prepared 480 buns.

The burgers were quickly consumed.

"In less than an hour. The line didn't stop; they were gone," Bourn said.

Several parking spaces to the west, Sherwood restaurateur Darin Keith manned the Holland booth, passing out a variety of cheeses.

"We've got regular gouda, smoked gouda, we've got a beemster goat cheese, a havarti," Keith said before rattling off a couple of other European varieties.

The restaurant he owns, Bennett's by Keith & Co., doesn't specialize in food from the Low Countries.

"It's all American cuisine over there. I don't serve any Holland food," he said.

Keith nonetheless quickly agreed to provide visitors with a taste of the Netherlands.

"This has been our first year doing it so we really didn't know what to expect, but it's really been fun," he said. "The crowd was great. The people were great. It was fun, exciting. I see this as being an annual event."

Savory options included Guatemalan street corn; Mexican tamales, Moroccan couscous, Southern fried chicken, Italian bruschetta and Brazilian cheese bread.

Sweet items included French macarons and crepes; Spanish churros and tres leches; Belgian waffles and British scones.

At the United Kingdom booth, visitors could sip tea or sample wassail, warm glasses of mulled cider mingled with spices.

Towering over the booth stood Chris Herring, dressed like a member of the Queen's Guard, with a faux-bear-skin cap sitting atop his head.

Now 43, Herring was a teenager on Dec. 5, 1993, the day he visited the church for the first time.

"I've been here close to 30 years," he said. "It's amazing: the experience, the Holy Ghost, it's just life changing," he said.

Sunday's food festival was a way to attract more first-time visitors.

By holding the event outside, the church helped minimize the risk posed by covid-19.

The pandemic has left many Americans feeling isolated, disconnected and alone. First Pentecostal Church seeks to bring people together, Holmes said.

"The purpose of this church is to connect people with God and one another. It's that simple. Church is about community. It's about loving your brother or your sister as yourself, which is what Jesus told us to do."

At least 200 people volunteered to help make the event possible, said Holmes, who donned a Bavarian outfit he'd picked up on a trip to Germany.

Given the response, this won't be the last international food festival at First Pentecostal Church.

"We're excited about next time," Holmes said.

Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Photos at First Pentecostal Church's All Nations Sunday Celebration in North Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
A choir sings Sunday at the All Nations Sunday event hosted on Oct. 31, 2021 by First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock.  The person on the far left is named Scarlet Rodriguez of North Little Rock
A choir sings Sunday at the All Nations Sunday event hosted on Oct. 31, 2021 by First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock. The person on the far left is named Scarlet Rodriguez of North Little Rock
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