A Dr. Don and Donna Hubele Kind of Thanksgiving

Story from the Clarion Ledger

Belhaven professor, wife offer seat at the table

Belhaven University student Kerry Jones had his Thanksgiving all planned out.

The freshman from Texas saw himself stuck in Jackson eating a cheeseburger and drinking a Frosty at Wendy’s, longing for a home-cooked meal.

That all changed when he walked into his English class this week and his professor, Don Hubele, offered students a meal at his home.

The home of Hubele and his wife, Donna, has become a home away from home for Belhaven students over the years. Students and professors mingle at Halloween parties, enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner or drop by for a sandwich on a Tuesday afternoon.

“Someone is always over here every couple of days, it seems like for one reason or another,” Donna Hubele said as she finished whipping mashed potatoes for a crowd of 22 people in her Belhaven home blocks from the university, where her husband is the English Department chairman.

The Hubeles have hosted students and faculty at Thanksgiving for four years. The annual event began after a few students let Don Hubele know they had nowhere to go for a Thanksgiving meal.

Seventeen people — mostly dance students — attended that first meal in 2010. The afternoon ended with somewhat of an impromptu performance.

“We put on a performance of ‘Nutcracker’ while we were clearing the table,” Don Hubele said with a smile. “They were all doing ballet while they’re washing dishes.”

A few faculty families joined the second year, including music professor Christopher Shelt, who led a band of troubadours with a Scottish drum, guitar, fiddle and accordion in a front-yard performance.

“We had people do-si-doing in the driveway,” Donna Hubele said.

This year’s feast was complete with a spread including a 22-pound turkey, ham and a litany of side dishes. There was even a gluten-free cake to help feed the guests who hailed from as far away as California, Colorado, Malaysia and Japan.

Don Hubele, an ordained minister, began the afternoon by reciting a Psalm and offering words of encouragement.

Belhaven University’s faith-based curriculum was a unifying draw for many of the out-of-state students.

Katie Allen, a junior from Woodland Park, Colo. said the fact Belhaven is one of the few Christian universities in the country to offer a creative writing degree was a driving force behind her ending up in Mississippi. She also was intrigued by the opportunity to integrate herself into a close-knit community of teachers and students.

“It never feels forced or formal (at the Hubele home),” Allen said. “It always feels like you are welcome.”

Mercy Lay and Patience Lay of Malaysia were among the first to arrive for the Thanksgiving meal. As the twins helped the Hubeles get dishes ready, they got a crash-course in the uniquely American holiday.

The Lay sisters, 27, will graduate in the spring with degrees in dance.

Patience said they tried for six years to find a Christian university that offered a dance degree. They said their only hope was to leave their country.

“It was amazing how God made us know about Belhaven,” Patience Lay said.

The Lays’ parents attended a wedding in Kuala Lumpur and were seated next to a stranger who had a daughter pursuing a dance degree at Belhaven.

After receiving information from the man would become a family friend, the man placed a late-night call to her daughters.

“My mom knew instantly that this is something we would love,” Mercy Lay said. “She asked us not to sleep until they come back. When we put down the phone (Patience and I) had this heart-pounding moment: ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ And, true enough, it was like a dream come true.”

The Hubeles expressed sadness it would be the last Thanksgiving spent with the Lay twins.

“We are blessed to able to know people and build relationships from around the world,” Donna Hubele said. “This is our extended family.”

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