2013 - The Year of the Foodbank
Very often you read of a Home Mission story that speaks of how a church has enabled God to work through them in an inspiring way. The Revd Mike Lowe of Home Mission supported Boulton Lane in Derby will now share a story explaining how your support has enabled God to work far and wide.
2013 has been the year of the food bank for Boulton Lane. It has been a huge blessing for those we are called to serve, for our congregation, local churches, friends, family and neighbours. During 2012 it was clear our Churches Together group was at a crossroads. It would have been easy to close the grouping as energy and enthusiasm was at a low point. We decided that we needed a project that reached out and after a period of discernment we settled on a food bank. The problem we faced is that we didn’t have the finance, people or storage to run a Trussel Trust style bank. The way I approached this problem was to share it. A pack was put together for each church to follow. There was a list of food and toiletry items to collect. These items were to be collected by individuals from the church along with their friends, family and neighbours. It was ‘sponsor an item’, so each week each person would bring their chosen item in. Then the church would bag up the items using provided bags and tags. It worked brilliantly well and a great witness but didn’t solve the problem of how we were going to get these bags to those in need and not simply give them as hand-outs but hand-ups.
For a while now I have been on the lookout for where God is at work in our neighbourhood away from ‘his people’. There is much Biblical precedent where God was at work in people who were neither Jew nor Christian and had neither a community nor scripture to draw upon. I quickly settled on our local Surestart and had the warmest of receptions. It was clear we could partner together and make the food bank happen. They were working with the most vulnerable families in the area and were already aware of the need for a food bank. They could provide the people who needed help as part of an overall circle of support and provide a place where we could operate the bank.
At the end of January we began a four week pilot where each Thursday afternoon church representatives would arrive with their food parcels at a local Surestart centre. Family support workers had already identified those in need and would either collect bags on their behalf or tell the families to come and receive their bags direct from us. Those Thursday afternoons quickly turned into a place where difficulties, pain and concern was shared as we gave the food bags out. Since then the bank has grown steadily and at a manageable rate, never exceeding our ability to cope. Much of that is down to the fact it is community driven, I have steered the ship but have not carried the weight. Each week so many people from all walks provide individual items that each church puts together and then bring to Surestart to give out. It’s a wonderful example of a God – breathed community where there is no need for detailed structure and hierarchy. Within the next few weeks we will have given out our first 1000 food parcels and that shows how well the project is working. I provide a bi-monthly newsletter to let people know the latest feedback and to encourage their on-going participation and generosity. It has also led to a new Boulton Lane ‘satellite’ knitting club which operates from Surestart at the same time as the food bank. We are also providing 25 well-being packs for a pioneering programme for teenage girls suffering domestic and boyfriend abuse. We are also working with the local community support worker, providing packs for the people she is working with. We of course wish that God’s Kingdom was closer and there wasn’t a need for us to be doing this. What I hope all those taking part realise (including Home Mission supporters who enable my ministry) is that making the Kingdom closer is precisely what we are now working with God to achieve.
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