Monday, March 28, 2011

The Soup Kitchen

In 1985, the first year that my hubby and I were married, we started up a soup kitchen ministry in our home church, in Moncton. We both had regular Monday to Friday jobs and there was a soup kitchen already being run out of one of the large Catholic churches during the week. But we felt the need to have a weekend ministry. So every Friday night of our honeymoon year we would go to the church and peel vegetables and cut up meat and make our soups. Then every Saturday and Sunday, after morning church, we would serve soup, crackers and bread rolls to whoever needed a hot meal.

We loved the soup kitchen ministry and it taught us a lot but mostly it taught us that God always provides, especially if you are doing a work for Him. We had no budget, at all, so everything had to be donated.  During the week, when I was not at my job, I would be on the phone calling warehouses and local businesses asking for donations. We had one family-run bakery that would give us all of their one and two day old bread if I would provide my own garbage bags, which I gladly did. Every Friday night we would go to collect the bread and always had several garbage bags full.

The chaplain from the penitentiary was a friend of ours and he arranged to have the extra produce, which the inmates grew in the prison garden, given to us so we were never without vegetables. A local meat shop donated all the meat we needed. We would spend Saturday afternoons picking up donations of styrofoam bowls and cups and anything else that came our way. One time I called a warehouse and asked for a donation of crackers. So they told me to come the next day to pick up the donation. I arrived in our little sports car and the man at the warehouse laughed and told me to come back with the church bus. He donated a bus full of cases of crackers. We had the cases stacked floor to ceiling in every Sunday school classroom and every hallway of the church. God abundantly supplied our every need.

At one point we were getting low on potatoes and that weekend we had a driver of an 18 wheeler come to the soup kitchen and ask us if we could take a 'few' 50 lb bags of potatoes off his hands. Apparently he had a few bags that had torn open and would be counted as a loss so he wanted to donate them to us. We went to get the 'few' bags and had a half ton truck full. So every person who came to the soup kitchen that next day didn't only get a hot meal but a box of crackers and a grocery store bag of potatoes to take home with them.

We were able to share the love of Christ with people in a tangible way and it was a good way to start a marriage by working in ministry together. We met many wonderful people through the soup ministry, most of them just needing a hand up, but one man will always stand out in my mind. I won't use his full name but we will call him John. John came in to the soup kitchen one Saturday when we were first getting started. He was a very tall, slim man with long black hair and jeans that were too short for his tall frame. It looked like he hadn't had a good meal in a very long time.

Brad sat and talked with him each week that he came in. He gave him a pocket sized Gospel of John and shared the Good News with him. And then he disappeared. We missed John and watched for him each week but he never came. Then one day, about a year later, we were walking down Main Street in Moncton and a well dressed man in a suit, carrying a brief case, called out to us by name. We stopped and he asked us if we knew him. It took several minutes to realize that the person standing in front of us was John. Over the next half an hour he told us how he was serving the Lord now and attending a church regularily. He had a good job and his life was looking good. He thanked us for the soup kitchen and for the Gospel of John and how both had changed his life.

We didn't get to know the end of each person's story that we ministered to, like John, but we did get to see a few and I thank the Lord for that. We had one couple come on a Saturday in January. It was snowing a blizzard that day and while the girl had a warm winter jacket, the man was carrying his in his arms. He carefully laid his bundle on a table and opened it to reveal a baby wearing nothing but a diaper. When we gasped the young mother had tears of embarassment in her eyes. We quickly composed ourselves and got steaming bowls of soup out for the two of them. We had nothing to give the baby, so Brad went to the grocery store next door and got pablum for the little one. My mother ran a clothing ministry, from the church, so we called her to bring the key to open the door of the room and we were able to not only clothe all three but sent them all on their way with a tote bag full of more baby clothes.

I don't know what ever happened to that little family or any of the other people we ministered to but I know that God is watching over them because we prayed that He would. I loved the time we were involved in the soup kitchen ministry. We were newlyweds and got to spend a lot of time together ministering for the Lord. I learned from those experiences and it served as a good foundation for a strong marriage which has always been centered around ministry. I have been blessed to have served.

"Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward." Mark 9:40

 ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

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