Breaking bread over stew and chili for thirty years

Posted 10/29/20

Two families, one church and a barn full of good will. That may be the most accurate summary of the senior stew event hosted by the Lyles and Jones families of Alba and Golden.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Breaking bread over stew and chili for thirty years


Two families, one church and a barn full of good will. That may be the most accurate summary of the senior stew event hosted by the Lyles and Jones families of Alba and Golden. 

Gathered in a semi-circle around two large simmering pots – one full of stew and the other chili – Scott and Yolanda Lyles and Phil and Sue Jones talked about their event.

“We are lucky to be part of the community at Sand Springs Baptist Church,” Scott explained.  “They are a kind, loving people.”

Thirty years ago the Lyleses and the Joneses collectively decided to sponsor an annual meal for the church congregation. Originally, the focus was for youth, but the event transformed into an annual gathering for the seniors.

“We just love our seniors,” Yolanda offered. 

The initial senior stew was held in the backyard at Phil and Sue Jones’ sweet potato farm. Since then, every October, the two families have produced an afternoon of food and fellowship for their neighboring churchgoers.

Two Saturdays past, the families hosted 147 people in the Lyles’ large barn at their farm off of County Road 3388. The modern barn was spotless and outfitted with round tables. Having recently been used for a family wedding, it remained decorated from the celebration. Neighboring musicians from the Jackson family provided gospel music for entertainment. 

The setting could not have been better. Through the open doors one could see into young trees of the Lyles’ commercial tree growing acreage. The sun broke through the clouds in the late afternoon and provided perfect conditions for an outing. 

What awaited those who attended was a bowl of beef stew or chili, and as the Joneses are yet commercial sweet potato farmers, sweet potato desserts. 

Sand Springs Baptist Church has been a local fixture since its founding. As all small country churches, it had times of growing membership and times when the church wasn’t full. 

The group reminisced about first joining the church. Scott Lyles explained how when they first attended there were only 13 members at the service. “Only 13, but they were all one body,” he noted.

The Lyles family stayed and joined that group. 

Both families could not speak about Sand Springs without talking of Jim Parker, their long-time pastor. Parker retired seven years ago after serving at Sand Springs for 30 years. He had been tapped to return out of retirement to fill a lapse between permanent pastors. He unfortunately was not in attendance as he was visiting a hospitalized family member.

“He loves the people, and he taught us,” Yolanda offered. 

The fellowship built in that church was in full view in Scott Lyles’ barn, as the visitors were catered to by family members sporting Bright Star Farm t-shirts.

“The servers are our children and grandchildren,” Scott said with a nod.

The field next to the barn steadily filled with pickups and SUVs.

Periodically stirring the two big pots was Winford Going.

“There is 45 pounds of beef in each of these pots,” Going remarked.

The group would not disclose the recipes for the stew or chili and held firm to the company line of “a little dab of this and a whole lot of that.”

Having come to the area for work, Going described how he visited a number of churches until he walked into Sand Springs.

“It was where I belonged,” he affirmed. Going was particularly proud of the relationship that the church has cultivated with a youth group across the river in Oklahoma.

Gary McKenzie and his wife Judy echoed the sentiments of many when describing the two families who put this event together every year.

“They just love to give back to the community,” Gary offered.

When asked about any special memories from the past 30 years, Phil Jones laughed and explained how a group of ladies from the church had dressed up as the Soggy Bottom Boys band one year.

“They were in full costume, beards and all, and we all got a big surprise when they identified themselves,” he recalled. Often the entertainment is provided from within the church.

As everyone settled into a chair for a bowl of stew or chili, or both, Joey and Ashlen Day, Rebecca Jackson and Dwayne Jackson began to fill the barn with the sounds of gospel music.

When departing the event, one passed by boxes of sweet potatoes, courtesy of the Jones Farm. A free box of sweet potatoes was the perfect end to an afternoon of wholesome fellowship, great food and service to one’s neighbors.