The Mantu is the name of a small but busy restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, owned and operated by Chef Hamid Noori. The restaurant is more than a wonderful place to eat authentic Afghan cuisine – it’s a place of hope and new beginnings for Afghans coming to the United States.
Noori fled Afghanistan with his family in 2015, resettling in the United States through a Special Immigrant Visa for Afghans who supported U.S. troops or programs. Trained as a chef, he quickly found work in a kitchen. He opened the Mantu two years ago.
The rise of Taliban rule in Afghanistan has forced thousands of Afghans to flee the country. Many Afghan refugees who come to the Richmond area have their first meal at the Mantu where they are greeted warmly by Chef Noori. Noori also prepares meals and delivers them to refugees.
“I really feel proud when I serve people, especially refugees,” Chef Noori says. Noori sees his work not so much as a business but as a “public service”: “There’s a special connection between cooking food and serving people.”
The very name of Noori’s restaurant says it all: In the Dari language of the Afghans, Mantu means “me and you.”
What we see in the story of Chef Noori is an example of the mirror of the love that God has for us.
As we hear the stories of the plight of the refugees from Afghanistan, we wonder if there is any light at the end of the tunnel for them. The Chef Noori’s of life remind us that we can help to make that light possible.
Places like Chef Noori’s reflect the light of hope for refugees trapped in what seems to be endless darkness.
Every good thing that we do for another, no matter how small, how simple, how ordinary, has the possibility of being that mirror of God’s love. The Compassion we offer, the forgiveness we share, are all examples of Gods kingdom.
Every one of us is of great value to God. May we always remember that God walks with us even in the most difficult of experiences, even when the crosses we carry seem overwhelming.
As our God walks with us may we find within ourselves the generosity to walk with others, especially those most in need.
As the name of Chef Noori’s restaurant says it so well, “Me and You,” we are all on this journey of life together.