First Christian Church in St. Joseph has been partnering with the Open Door Food Kitchen since its founders asked themselves, "Who will feed the hungry?" Open Door, only a few blocks from the church, has been serving hot lunches to those in need in downtown St. Joseph for over 30 years. The organization was started in 1984 by faith-based groups the city and is supported solely by private donations and the work of volunteers. Many church groups serve at the kitchen and First Christian is responsible for the first Tuesday of every month. On those days, a group of four to five FCC volunteers arrives at Open Door at 9:30 in the morning to begin cooking for an anticipated crowd of 150-200 guests. If our day to serve happens to fall on a school holiday, often youth of the church will show up to lend and hand. The standard meal on Tuesdays is usually ham and beans or chili and corn bread. In addition to those who cook the meal, other FCC volunteers bring baked goods or drop by with donations of fresh fruit and milk. Some of the food for the lunch is donated by the local Second Harvest Community Food Bank.
When it is time to serve at 11:00, four or five more FCC volunteers arrive, don their hair nets and aprons, a prayer is offered, and guests are invited to come through the line and get their lunch. If there is a lull in work, our volunteers often stop to grab a tray and sit and eat with the guests. On a typical day, guests at the Open Door are all ages, including children and the elderly. Some guests are homeless but others are simply struggling financially or are out of work.
In the last two years, we have increased our support of The Open Door by picking up extra dates not covered by other local groups as well as preparing the Sunday sack lunches any time there is a fifth Sunday in a month. On those Sundays, the church often hosts what we call "Worship Without Walls." We meet in the sanctuary for fifteen minutes of traditional worship and then split up into teams to engage in mission projects in the building and in the neighborhood, including preparing the sack lunches for the Open Door. Much of the work of preparing the lunches on a these Sunday is done by our children who set up an assembly line and fill small paper sacks with sandwiches, fruit, water bottles, chips, and a dessert. They then help deliver the sack lunches to the Open Door in time to distribute them to the guests who have arrived for lunch. When this and other mission projects are done, the congregation then regroups in our Fellowship Hall for communion, lunch (the same sack lunch we prepare for the guests at Open Door), and a sharing of our stories from our time serving the community together.
Story and photos courtesy of Brian S. Kirk,
Lead Pastor, FCC St. Joseph