For most people, Christmas is a busy time filled with family, friends, presents and lots of food. But for some, the festive season is simply another reminder of their loneliness and discomfort. Reverend Bill Crews knows that reality all too well.
He has been responsible for over three million meals to those in need – and 50 years of Christmas Day lunches, for those needing somewhere to go. Recently, Bill joined Finding Hope and explained the moment he felt God’s call on his life.
“All of a sudden time stood still. It must’ve been a millisecond, but [it] felt like an age,” Bill said.
“There was kind of a voice, but it was a knowing. It said ‘you’ve got to quit your job and concentrate on the poorest of the poor’.
“And I knew it was true.”
That was more than 50 years ago. Bill quit his engineering career, and started working full time at Wayside Chapel, an organisation that supports people experiencing homelessness and isolation in Sydney.
Before long, he moved to Ashfield – a notoriously troubled area – and simply opened up the church doors.
“There was nothing here. Nothing,” Bill said.
“But I just opened the doors, and people started coming in.
“I just opened the doors, and people started coming in,” – Reverend Bill Crews
“We used to open up the doors of the church and sleep all the homeless kids on the pews of the church. And it just took off from there.”
Before long, Bill was running meal programs and housing support out of the church, and officially started the Rev Bill Crews Foundation, formerly known as the Exodus Foundation.
But Bill wanted to go further. He proposed hosting a Christmas Day lunch for those who had nowhere to go on Christmas Day, which was met with much resistance from church members at the time, who claimed that no one would come.
Bill wasn’t deterred.
“You’ve got to do Christmas. Not parade it,” – Reverend Bill Crews
“They gave me a plate of sandwiches for Christmas Day and two people turned up. The next time, 11 people [turned up] and then the next time 400,” Bill said.
This year, Bill is hosting a Christmas Day celebration, for the 50th year in a row, at Loaves and Fishes Restaurant in Ashfield. In that time, many thousands of people have come through the doors, and many lives have been changed as a result. Which, according to Bill, is what Christmas is all about.
“You’ve got to do Christmas. Not parade it,” Bill said.
“New hope comes out of the least expected places. That’s what it’s about.”
“New hope comes out of the least expected places. That’s what it’s about,” – Reverend Bill Crews
Listen to Bill’s full story – plus the 17 other episodes of Season 1 of Finding Hope with Georgia Free on the Hope Media App or wherever you get your podcasts. To learn more about the Rev Bill Crews Foundation, visit their website.
Feature image: billcrews.org