Community Relationships that Last

Ever since our family moved back from Allendale two-and-a-half years ago, we have been on the search for a great Chinese food restaurant. It’s not that there aren’t good ones in Greenville, but we have not found any that hold a chopstick to the Chinese restaurant in Allendale, owned by the Chen family.


We grew to know the Chens through their sons, who took part in our camps, robotics team, and chess club. This was the place we spent several days during an ice storm, and the family who hosted us for an authentic Chinese meal. Over the past two years, we are always eager to see them and eat there, especially when we eat not-as-great Chinese food around here.

Seriously, Greenville, step up your game.

I was able to visit Allendale the other week with some others from Grace Church. Just a “quick” day trip (the round trip of 6 hours on the road is longer than the time we spent there), and we didn’t get to eat lunch at the Chens’. We met with some church leaders, and I got to play a bit of a tour guide. And of course, while we were out and about, we ran into several people that I knew. Seeing all of them brought back bittersweet memories:

  • a young man that I knew from the Boys & Girls Club (who, sadly, is not in school and is not working)
  • another young man that I coached in football (who, happily, is working and says he wants to move to Greenville for school and work)
  • a man whose home is next door to the old Boys and Girls Club (We met because we were always kicking balls into his yard, but he didn’t seem to mind.)
  • a parent whose name I forgot, but who smiled and greeted me


At dinner that night, our family spent a good 30 minutes or more sharing memories of all our friends and favorite moments from our season in Allendale. I think about Allendale a lot, I get happy talking with others about it. I love when others visit our old community, even if I do get a bit jealous.

Apparently, my kids feel the same way. When we discussed our goals for 2017, all of them said that they want to go back to Allendale this year. Our middle child is especially excited, as he loved our trip last year over spring break, with two other dads and their sons. I’m excited that the Grace Church CE staff is planning on more trips to Allendale this year — at least two for families, several more for men as a “CE Training Camp,” and others for Decade 20. And I’m excited for my own family as well, since we will go back to Allendale in 2017.

And not JUST for the Chinese food.

The Espinosa family spent several years living and working in Allendale when we initiated our community partnerships with the lower part of the state. You can hear more about their story here

Joey Espinosa

Joey eats oatmeal every day for breakfast. He also wants to warn you that his daughter now is eligible to drive, and it doesn’t help that he was her instructor. Joey attends the Downtown campus.