Scott Street Mennonite Brethren Church has been feeding our church family and wider community each week for many years. But it all came to a halt when the government put all of Ontario in lockdown.
It didn’t take long to find a way to bring hope. It was the same solution Jacob Dyck found nearly 100 years ago on March 16, 1922, when he opened the first Mennonite Central Committee food kitchen in Ukraine. In June of that year, MCC served 25,000 meals a day. It’s difficult to know how many lives were saved from starvation — some put the number around 9,000 — and we can only imagine the tens of thousands of people who found hope through the simple gift of sustenance. It is amazing the impact that bread, given in Jesus’ name, can have.
The Scott Street solution to keeping our family of faith in touch and caring for the world around us was simple: Soup, in God’s name, soup.
But how to make and distribute soup in the midst of a lockdown? First, we got permission from the local ministry of health to be designated an essential service. Our kitchen needed to be certified and approved. We looked for servants willing to produce quality soup.
But how to get soup to those in need, when people are afraid to leave their homes? We brought a healthy meal to them with a delivery service and contactless pickup.
Soup is hope. Soup creates community. Soup, in God’s name, is powerful. We have shared thousands of lunches during COVID and brought hope to thousands more. We call the soup program “Lunch from Scott Street.” But perhaps a better name is “Hope from Scott Street.”
Along the way we have been encouraged. The lunch is free, and with the help of the Spirit of Mennonite Disaster Service Fund, we will continue to share soup, and hope, with no end in sight.
Perhaps The Message version of Matthew 10:42 says it best: “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
A gift I’ve found during the pandemic has been the challenge to do “small things” for Jesus right here, right now.
We are still isolating and longing for a chance to embrace one another, to sing God’s praises together and visit in homes. But we have not lost hope. Worship services are broadcast on TV and the internet. Bible studies and prayer meetings are held on Zoom. Crafts and devotional supplies are dropped off at children’s homes every week. We have been transformed.
We are not worried that people will not come back. They never really left. We know there will be a challenge to negotiate a new normal. But with hope in our hearts, a warm bowl of soup in our stomachs and God on our side, there isn’t much we cannot do.
Robert Patterson is pastor of Scott Street Mennonite Brethren Church in St. Catharines, Ont.