a diverse group of churches in Port Perry, Ont., have teamed up with adults with special needs to provide a free weekly community lunch held at a local downtown church. Special needs adults learn hospitality and food preparation skills while
they prepare and serve lunch to attendees, and customers and
hosts alike make and strengthen connections in their community.
For six months a year, churches involved have a chance to interact
with each other and neighbours.
It was the non-church-based parent support group that first
started the idea for a collaborative community lunch. The group
wanted their adult children to be more involved in their community.
“The coming together, it was like heaven. The timing was amazing. Churches want to be out in the community,” says Sue Bradley,
spokesperson for the parent support group. Modelled on a project
in a nearby town, Soups on Us is not a soup kitchen. The lunch is a
drop-in, open for t wo hours one day a week, and is offered free of
charge. Church volunteers work one-on-one with the special needs
adults who prepare 50 quarts of soup, and now desserts too.
It’s a considerable amount of work, but worth it all, say organ-
izers. “The soup has to be made and then cooled down in an ice
bath, according to Ministry of Health regulations,” notes volunteer
John Gibson from New Song Church, one of the participating con-
gregations. “A qualified person who has taken the food prepara-
tion course has to be in the kitchen at all times.”
The program is funded by the six churches involved, who pro-
vide their own supplies for the soup, desserts and other sundries.
“Soups on Us provides lunch and a meeting place for the com-
munity, all the way from children to lonely seniors, widows and
widowers, high school students, business people and politicians.
Everyone comes away from it with a real good feeling,” says Gibson.
Both Gibson and Cheryl Dejong of the Hope Reformed Chris-
tian Church in Port Perry see the Soups on Us lunch as a chance
to share the love of Christ with others. “It’s a chance to be our
brother’s keeper, to serve others to raise them up,” says Dejong.
She says the opportunity to be part of helping special needs
adults integrate into society in a natural way appeals to her and
her team. “It’s wonderful to work with other churches. We should
be working together for the common good....” says Dejong.
Parents of the special needs adults involved have watched
participants greet and befriend their children in the community.
“It means so much to them to do something worthwhile,” says
Gibson. One of the special needs adults summed up her feelings
about the program this way: “I waited all summer for this.” FT
Church-run Soup Lunch brings a Town Together
Missionary Moves from Mango Trees to Tim Horton’s
The Apple Blossom Trailer Park in Fredericton is a long way from Benin, West Africa. But when a
32-year-old missionary returned to this New
Brunswick city from Benin, he applied
what he learned as a missionary abroad
to this park of approximately 150 people.
“My background is missions. I come in
and try to look at the community with as
unbiased a view as possible, like I would
if I came into an African village. I try and
study the culture – because it is a culture,”
explains Don Longworth.
He works with SIM Canada, an evan-
gelical organization whose mission is “to
glorify God by planting, strengthening,
and partnering with churches around
the world” ( www.sim.ca). Long-
worth is with SIM’s Culture Con-
neXions program, designed spe-
cifically for the setting in which
Longworth finds himself – Can-
adian, urban, and on the radar of
local churches wanting to innov-
ate programs to share God’s love
with their neighbours.
“I partner with churches to
reach their marginalized communities more effectively,” he
says. “It could be lower-income
Canadians, homeless people,
youth cultures like skaters, punk,
At Apple Blossom it all began with a
friendship. Longworth, who partners with
two local Baptist congregations (Kingsley
Baptist and Lincoln Baptist), befriended
a young man who lived in the park and
showed up at church one day.
“It was the building of a friendship,” he
says, one that led to a Bible study and then
the Apple Blossom Café, a drop-in coffee
house run from a vacant trailer. “It was
an awesome way to connect with people.
Many folks there now look at me as their
And Apple Blossom is a community like
Don Longworth at he apple blossom Trailer Park.
any other that can sometimes use a chaplain. “I am dealing with a lot of addictions,
a lot of dysfunctional family situations, and
problems with knowing how to relate to and
deal with things like conflict resolution,” explains Longworth. “It’s been a spiritual exercise of listening to God and seeing what
doors are open and where I could help.”
He recently walked through another
open door and into a senior-run soup lunch
hosted by Lincoln Baptist Church. He has
a ministry there of visiting and listening.
Through all the ministry outreach in
which Longworth works, whether in a
trailer park or a seniors’ soup lunch, there is
one quintessentially Canadian constant –
Tim Horton’s. “In Africa, when I was learn-
ing a tribal language, I had to be around
people. I went to the mango trees. They
are great big shady trees, and all the guys
would gather and play cards in the heat of
the day. It was where people hung out.”
Tim Horton’s, he says, is the Canadian
“There is no substitute for Tim Horton’s. When you invite someone to Tim’s,
there is something disarming about it, at
least here in the East. They know you are
going to talk life, about things that matter more than the weather. That’s what I
started doing,” says Longworth. “I learned
when I was in Benin, in order to reach
people, you have to be where they are.” FT