There’s no better place to build relationships and community than over food. So we have relaunched our evening drop-in – with guests, staff and volunteers serving and sharing together.
Tables are set, the music is on and the cottage pie has just come out of the oven. Men and women file in to be greeted by name and sit down with friends. Staff and volunteers, with the help of some guests, serve people at their tables before sitting down to chat. It feels like a cross between a restaurant and going round to a friend’s house.
Bryan is one of the men in this evening. He explains that he came for a while last year and then his life got better and he was focussed on his family and working in a call centre. He says, “things went wrong again so this was the first place I came because they’d helped me before.
“I gambled and I lost the house. My relationship broke down. I ended up in the night shelter for a few nights. I woke up there one morning and was looking around and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.' I thought about all I had done and all I had lost. I gave up.” That is when he came back to the Drop-in.
He says, “The support you get here is unbelievable. If not for these guys…” His voice trails off. “I was feeling suicidal. Talking with people here though, they made it clear I could do something about it. In here you meet people who have been through bad things and you see how they are doing now – it opens your mind to what can happen.”
He is enjoying the new look drop-in. He says, “It’s nice to get a hot meal. Coming here gives me time to be myself and I can relax. It deters me from gambling.”
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to recruit Charlie into the new role of mission cook. This is allowing us to serve healthy, delicious meals to up to 130 men and women each evening who are affected by homelessness and poverty.
Charlie explains, “We will be built up by eating together round the table and it will become a place of community and belonging, of telling stories, and of laughter and counselling. It’s not just about food, it’s about ministering to the brokenness of the spirit and soul. We are serving people made in the image of God.”
The new format is designed to be more inclusive, with guests, staff and volunteers eating and serving together. We hope this will lead to deeper relationships and an atmosphere where we, as Charlie says, minister to one another in our brokenness.
We have introduced an interactive slot where together we look at a passage in the Bible and reflect and discuss it round the tables. Images projected onto the wall help provoke discussion. Previously, this section of the evening would have focussed around a staff member or volunteer talking from the front. Tonight’s passage is on the last supper, and animated discussions last for half an hour.
Since this story was written, we have helped Bryan find and move into new accommodation, which he is feeling settled in. He is working full time during the day but still comes to the Drop-in to help in the kitchen and with serving the food.
Without our teams of committed volunteers, or our supporters who pray and give financially, our evening Drop-in and other services would stop functioning. We are always looking for people to join with us who are good listeners and have a heart to share Jesus’ love for those in need. Find out more about volunteering on our website.
Follow Charlie’s adventures in food on Instagram: mission_cook
This article first appeared in our Connect magazine. Read the magazine here (pdf).