It’s Thursday morning, and the students at Miracle Lake are gathering at Farmhouse Restaurant for made-from-scratch country cooking provided for free by owner Diane White. About 20 students—men recovering from addiction—sit around the cozy wooden room under the tin roof. Wooden signs line the walls with messages like “pray,” “love,” and “give thanks.” But these are more than just decorations; they’re something Diane has lived out, providing a free meal each week for that last six years to the students of Miracle Lake. Diane’s restaurant is her ministry, a way to share the love of Jesus.
Recently, Diane has been away after suffering a stroke, but today, the students eating at her restaurant are in for a surprise—she has been released from the hospital, and they’re all thrilled to see her. Everyone stands and claps as she’s wheeled in.
“Hey Diane! Give me a big hug,” one student says. He recently relapsed, and Miracle Lake had welcomed him back for a second stay.
“Coming here is the highlight of my week,” another student tells her, which makes her smile. They’re always so kind and appreciative. Shortly after her stroke, they made her a jewelry box full of notes and prayers from all of them. In addition, they’d prayed with her and sent her cards expressing their gratitude for all she’d done for them.
Today is broccoli casserole day, which is always a big hit with the students who can’t seem to get enough of the delicious dish. She smiles as she watches them eat. Diane has three daughters and she’s always said that God never gave her boys because she has the Miracle Lake boys. She thinks of them as her children.
These weekly meals started because one of Diane’s waitresses was friends with an instructor at Miracle Lake. Eventually, Diane met with Jack Bryan, founder and former head of Miracle Lake.
“Jack,” she said, “I’d love to start feeding y’all.”
“Oh no,” Jack said. “That’s too much.” But Diane insisted.
“That’s how it got started, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Diane tells our writer. “It’s just a blessing.”
Often, students who have graduated Miracle Lake will bring their families to Farmhouse Restaurant to say hi and thank Diane. Others have even taken jobs working for her. Current students will often give back to her by doing favors like cleaning or even hand-building custom signs for the restaurant.
Alex Gambrell, a former student who is now a staff member at Miracle Lake, calls her “an amazing lady,” and he would know—not only is he friends with her through Miracle Lake, but a few years ago, she became family: his step-son is married to her granddaughter. Alex says, “It’s who she is, whether someone comes up and asks her for help, or sometimes, she just provides it. She’s like that at home, she’s like that everywhere… She just does a lot of things behind the scenes that people will never know just how much she really does care about people. She shows the love of Jesus in her life.”
“I’ve been blessed so much,” Diane says to our writer. “I try to give back to the community.”
Recently, at his 90th birthday, Miracle Lake founder Jack Bryan passed the reins of leadership on to Byron Goodman, and naturally, Farmhouse Restaurant was there to cater the event, providing the meal at cost, donating their time and labor. Byron Goodman said, “Diane has an extremely generous heart and loves helping people… The guys always enjoy going and seeing Diane at the Farmhouse when she is there and eating and fellowshipping. It’s always an exciting time.”
When our writer asks her why she’s done all this, Diane starts to answer before becoming overwhelmed with emotions. Her daughter, Lori, has to answer for her: “She’s trying to say that the Lord has blessed her so much, and this is the least she can do, is be a blessing to someone else. We’re going to first and foremost give God all the credit for many years of successful business even through COVID… It was just amazing, the support from the community and how they came right through for us.”
One day, Diane’s daughter, Lori, was shopping at Hobby Lobby when she stumbled across a wood sign that read: “Farmhouse—Faith, Family, and Food.” She had to smile at that. It could easily be the restaurant’s motto.