It is surely important for churches of God to show a full testimony to New Testament expectations. This includes instructions from Paul to Titus (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:1,8) about good works, which must be in evidence alongside essential aspects of worship, witness and edification. So the church here in the little town of Mount Forest, Ontario has set itself to meet the standard of being ‘a model of good works’. This has meant fixing plumbing and electrical problems, stacking logs for wood-stoves for winter heating, doing gardening, clearing snow from driveways, and meeting transportation needs, among many others. We must ensure the needs of the household of the faith (Gal. 6:9-10) are not neglected. But there are other big needs in the wider community.
The population of the town is about 4,500 and includes many elderly ones, those living in poverty and those afflicted with the effects of drug abuse. For many of these especially, a hot meal in warm, inviting surroundings is a rare treat in the colder months. So in 2013 the church here, like many others no doubt, determined to do what it could to meet those needs. Here is how we go about it. We rent a community room in the library on the Main Street. Locals know it well, have no worries about going there and in fact some from our target groups often use the Library itself to keep warm and entertained. It is wheelchair accessible and provides ideal, convenient accommodation. As Dr March’s hymn wisely says about gospel work, ‘Place the food within their reach’ (1). The small kitchen has no stove. That apparent lack is not a big problem; we bring hot food in portable ‘crock pots’. So we usually provide a choice of soups, or chili, bagels (with cream cheese), rolls and then muffins or cookies to follow, with tea, coffee or water to drink. Everything is normally home-prepared by the women in the church. Three of them take on this responsibility. We get nothing but praise for the high quality of the meals.
The room is turned from an empty space to an inviting place to eat by some of our young people. They arrive early, set up the tables and chairs, put on colourful table cloths, cutlery, etc. and prepare the serving tables. Then they take a break; afterwards they do the clean up and put everything away. We put on Christian background music (from a CD recorded by the church of God in Littleton) and display our website (MountForestChurch.ca) on the built-in big-screen TV. We also display a good selection of attractive Hayes Press literature, including gospel leaflets alongside several titles from the Search for Truth series, for people to browse and take away (which they do!). Because the meal is mainly self-serve, we can all usually sit down among the visitors and chat with them while they eat, if they wish.
How do they know when to come? We post on ‘free advertising’ notice boards in stores and in the Library, and we mention it on our website. On the day, we place a sandwich board outside, giving the details of the free lunch. In pun we could say many come by word of mouth!
Some, having attended themselves, then take the advertising leaflets we produce and share them, including with friends at other churches they go to. The ministers of those churches have now started similar programs, but also happily note on their church calendars this service that we provide. That way, people in real need of a meal know where they can go on a particular day to get one, and overlapping of such arrangements is avoided. As every seat was occupied at this week’s Food and Friendship, the advertising clearly works!
This good work binds together everyone in the assembly. Those who work pay for it. Those at home do the catering. Home-schooled teens take time off to do set up and clean-up, and we all mix and mingle with attendees. The whole church prays for the Lord to bless, and then for named individuals we contact as a result. When we talk to people in the town, and those employed in the social services, they know we are engaged in this work and they have nothing but praise (1 Pet. 2:14-15). Even so, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mat. 5:16)
References: (1) D. March, PHSS 364