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Faith by Food Truck

Will Matthews never expected to go to Kent State University.

It was a thousand miles away from his family, church, and friends. And it felt like a million miles away from one of the things he loved most in his home city of New Orleans—the food.

Since regular trips south weren’t possible, Will did what any motivated young man might: he called his parents, got some recipes, and took to the kitchen. But he didn’t stop there. Like his parents, Will is a committed follower of Jesus, and as he prayed to the One who fed hungry crowds, he asked, “How can my cooking be a blessing to other people?”

So Will cooked for his roommates. His classmates. And then, his teammates.

A football player and a student leader of Kent’s athlete Christian fellowship, Will began hosting a weekly dinner at his apartment for all the running backs and linemen on the team. CCO staff member Kyle Schumacher marveled at this faithful ministry: “Talk about hospitality—those guys can eat!”

But the story doesn't end there, and the next chapter stretched—and grew—Will’s faith, bringing him to a new understanding of the Lord’s providence. Looking back, he says, “There is just no way that any of this could have come together without God.”

As his culinary reputation grew on campus, Will was learning about entrepreneurship in his business classes. He and a partner started catering, creating pop-up food gatherings and planning for another expansion of their business—a food truck.

A food truck would allow for more sustainable income and greater opportunities for outreach, but everything was really expensive. Will and his business partner found a truck, but it needed work. They invested all their savings, but each piece of commercial kitchen equipment stretched their tight budget. Even when the business school announced a competition that would award prize money, there wasn’t enough time to put together the application.

And then Will tore his meniscus, a devastating and potentially career-ending injury for a student athlete. Everything that had been coming together seemed to be falling apart.

“Now I had practice, rehab for my injury, and all my classes,” Will remembers. “It was a lot.”

But then one day, his football coach did something unusual—he told Will to take a break, let his knee heal, and invest some time in the competition.

“It’s hard for anyone who’s not a Division I athlete to understand how shocking this is,” Kyle says. “Coaches don’t say ‘Go work on that other thing.’ The sport is always primary.”

But God was on the move, and so Will got to work. His application qualified, and he and his partner were chosen as semi-finalists. “At this point, I was the only athlete in the competition,” he says, “and we took second place!”

In the fall of 2019, they were ready to go. Southern Comfort Kitchen started showing up all over campus, the service window framing Will’s wide smile.

“I believe God sent me to Kent State for a specific reason,” Will says. “He blessed me with the opportunity to start my own business before graduation and stretched my faith in the process. The food truck allows me to be a blessing to others, not only through providing a service, but in having fellowship with my customers. I pray that that each encounter they have with me changes something about their day.”

Kyle thinks it does. He sees Will’s hospitality as a visible sign of the life of Christ in him.

“What better way to build relationships than over food?” Kyle asks. “Will is using the gifts the Lord has given him. He’s developing them in a steady and faithful way. And he’s sharing them with others.”

When Southern Comfort Kitchen pulls up, God is glorified.