Storehouse Lunch Club

Written by Elizabeth Porter

Just before last Christmas I was ill in bed and listening to a service from St Martin’s in the Field on Radio 4. The speaker, a Bishop I think, was talking about his area – the London Borough of Newham. He said the average salary was £80,000, because Canary Wharf is part of it, but there were a huge number of people living in poverty.

The Bible reading was Isaiah 58:10-12 (NKJV)

“If you extend your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul then your light shall dawn in the darkness; and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters do not fail.”

This seemed to strike me to the heart and then the Bishop went on to say: “Our calling is to overthrow structures that imprison people. To be the good news! We need to show the love of Jesus in the religious, social and political life of our country!”

Somehow from that morning God gave me His vision of a café with flowers on the tables and good meals being served. It was later confirmed in so many ways, including seeing items others shared on Facebook about cafes that were feeding homeless and poor people. I felt a great peace about it and a quiet confidence that God would bring it about. I talked to Philip who runs the Happy Coffee Bean Café in King Street in Bangor that we had been going into. At that stage I didn’t even know if he went to church but I thought he was a Christian from the way he spoke to people and felt I could talk to him about it. He listened and said:  “Well you can use here one Sunday a month!” I was amazed at how God was working!

From that, at the January meeting of our women’s group (Connect) Melanie was talking about the mission trip to Haiti but I asked everyone for their email address and a few days later emailed them explaining how God had been leading me. The response amazed me! Hazel replied immediately saying:” I’m just watching a programme about something like that, count me in!” Others replied saying: This is just the sort of thing I have been wanting to get involved in!

Rev Fiona McCrea then told me about Norma Gillen in Queen’s Parade Methodist who had had a similar idea. We starting working together. This then gave us the Fountain Café on Bangor seafront to work from too. We always felt it would be easier for people in need to walk into a café for a meal than walk into a church hall. Also I always felt God was saying, sometimes through others like Philip, that this had to be a good meal in nice surroundings and not appear to be ‘charity’ or a soup kitchen.

I’m still amazed and so thankful at the commitment to this project of so many who have lots of other commitments too. Everyone gave up a Saturday to do a Food Hygiene course and is prepared to give up a Saturday or Sunday every month to help with the meals. My café team met on Wednesday night to talk about our next meal on 1st November and the final of the GBBO was on TV!

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So we now have 4 teams with about 6 people in each– 1 operating from the King Street Café and 3 from the Fountain Café at Queens Parade. There are people involved from 4 Methodist churches in Bangor. We started on 6th September and a team is serving a meal alternate weeks until Christmas.

All of us feared that 40 or 50 people would turn up and we wouldn’t be able to cope but God is good and we have had around 16-17 people each time – perfect for both cafes. There are a good number from the Simon Community and others referred by Christians Against Poverty (CAP). Everyone seems to love doing it and be looking forward to their next turn. It’s great to be able to show the love of God to people in need and make them feel special.

“We love because He first loved us”! 1 John 4:19

Very importantly we have had the money for the food thanks to 2 generous people in Carnalea Methodist. David Burns butchers gave us the pork fillets for the first meal free and have promised future support. One of the regulars in Philip’s café gave us a £20 donation the morning we did the meal there, which we have used to buy soup bowls.

After Christmas we hope to go to doing meals every week so we’d be grateful for more donations. We have our own little fund, which Dennis Mercer, CMC Treasurer, administers for us and we don’t ask Storehouse for any of their funds. ‘My team’ are organizing a fund-raiser on 5th December – a ‘Wacky Jumper Night’!

The whole experience has increased our faith – that when God gives you a job to do He also provides all you need!

We are very grateful too to Melanie, our Lay Pastor, the Thursday prayer group and all who have covered us in prayer. So important! We had a ‘sending out’ service at the end of August in the Fountain Café. Ken McCrea and Jonah helped us with music for the praise. Helen Sloan from Storehouse came and spoke about how pleased they are with what we are doing and Rev Alan Craig offered anointing with oil, which everyone availed of. It made it very obvious we don’t do this in our own strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be the Glory!!