Cooking a meal can be difficult for families under stress, however, a Sydney church is changing that by providing meals for the vulnerable within its church and the wider community.
Last year, when many found it difficult to go out, buy groceries and cook meals, Church by the Bridge in Kirribilli started up a ministry to help those who were struggling.
Naomi Deck, director of Mercy Ministries, saw a need that wasn’t being met.
“I enjoy cooking and it just seemed like ‘why wouldn’t you do that?’ – I just didn’t understand why you wouldn’t do it,” she told Hope 103.2.
Homemade with love meals for the community
It began as a ministry to help those who were stuck at home. Now, a year later, the meals are there if something happens to a church or community member.
They may have been hospitalised, or the person who normally provides meals in that family has been hospitalised.
”It seemed like the most boring meal but she loved it… I guess if it’s made with love it changes (the taste).” – Naomi Deck, director of Mercy Ministries
Last year, Ms Deck came across a lady who had been discharged from hospital and put on an elimination diet.
“I made contact with her dietician at the hospital and spoke to them about what her requirements were so I could make a specific set of meals for her that were safe and met her clinical needs,” she said.
”It seemed like the most boring meal but she loved it. She wasn’t allowed to have oil, salt, pepper, garlic, she couldn’t have any flavourings, but I guess if it’s made with love it changes.”
All meals prepared by the church are frozen and put into disposable containers.
“Each container has a label on it with our logo and it says what the meal is, who it was made by, and the date it was made and all the ingredients in there,” Ms Deck said.
The thought behind preparing and cooking
Each church member helping out has a different process for choosing meals to cook.
Bek Pang, a business analyst, makes several classic dishes such as spaghetti bolognese and lasagne.
“I try and do things that I know how to make well and have made before a number of times and I have all the equipment to make them,” she told Hope 103.2.
Ms Deck likes to prepare two sets of meals, including one that addresses dietary requirements.
“My process is thinking I want to be making foods that are general hits with people that are really uncomplicated,” she said.
“It’s watching an hour of TV. In that period of time, you can provide meals for somebody for a week.” – Nigel Blunden, church member
However, Nigel Blunden, who works for HammondCare, prepares one meal in bulk.
“I cook my special lamb pasta bake. I found it was something that was readily easy to prepare but also quite simple to package in small foil containers, freeze and then provide to people,’ he told Hope 103.2.
Ms Pang will usually designate a day or two to prepare the meals, including shopping for ingredients.
However, Mr Blunden, said it doesn’t need to be a big commitment.
“I could prepare 10 containers of lamb pasta bake in an hour on a Tuesday night. You’re not over the stove all weekend,” he said.
“It’s watching an hour of TV. In that period of time, you can provide meals for somebody for a week.”
Each year, Church by the Bridge focuses on a theme to challenge its church members. This year is the “Year of Loving Your Neighbour”.
For Mr Blunden, loving your neighbour is about being kind to others and treating them the way he treats himself.
When the church asked for people to cook meals, he was “thrilled” to put his hand up to help.
“It’s really encouraging and heart-warming to be able to help people… and to see the smile on their face when something as simple as a small foil container of food arrives on their doorstep,” he said.
“It’s really encouraging and heart-warming to be able to help people… and to see the smile on their face when something as simple as a small foil container of food arrives on their doorstep,” – – Nigel Blunden, church member
Bek Pang believes loving your neighbour is about showing compassion and kindness to anyone who comes across her path.
She volunteered to help cook meals because she knew it was something she could do.
“I’ve got a job and kids and I don’t always have reliable time to do ministries that take up a designated time, but this is something I can do at home that suits me and there’s a real demand for it,” she said.
As a result of Church by the Bridge’s focus, meal-kit company HelloFresh reached out to them and offered up their boxes of cancelled orders.
We would love to hear of the ways you’re serving in the communities you are part of, or let us know if Church by the Bridge’s “Year of Loving Your Neighbour” has inspired you to start your own neighbourly-love initiative.