How do you get total strangers to open their door to you, progress from a quizzical look to a genuine smile and even say ‘Thank you’, all in a few short minutes?
Easy! Load your arms with a couple loaves of bread, knock on the door and smile saying, ‘Hi, I’m Steve (though you might want to use your own name, not mine). I live across the road and my church picks up, packs and delivers bread to people so that it doesn’t go to waste. Would you like some?’
A team of us from Rockingham–Mandurah Lutheran Church in Perth’s southern suburbs has been doing just that for more than three years. Between our two worship sites, we have just more than 100 people, with an average weekly attendance of between 25 and 45 at each site.
It all started back in April 2016 when a young mum with a partner and two young daughters, who attended our Little Guppies playgroup, asked if we were connecting with the community through the school campus of Living Waters Lutheran College. I realised that we weren’t really reaching out at all, so I invited her to explore what she had in mind.
She reported back that a local Bakers Delight would allow us to pick up unsold bread one night a week. We are now delivering bread to a local women’s shelter/hostel, to single-parent families, to our neighbours, and to anyone we hear about who could do with a little help with the basics of life. A local op shop takes as much bread as we can supply. This is especially helpful over the Christmas holidays when our school is closed and some of our regular distributors are away.
I use my bread deliveries to maintain contact with our immediate neighbours. One of them has even asked for stale bread so he can make fishing burley from it.
A number of Little Guppies mums have realised that the bread ministry is an easy way to build good relationships with their neighbours, especially with the elderly or those in difficult life circumstances. In our community there is a mum whose husband took his own life, leaving her widowed with seven children. One of our members has maintained weekly contact with her, purely through the delivery of bread.
A while ago a school teacher at the college bought some Vegemite and peanut butter, and our daughter would take a couple of loaves to school so that, one day a week, some students who weren’t eating breakfast would at least have something with which to start their day well. Another lady works as a receptionist at a medical centre and knows firsthand who is in need of some extra support. She regularly drops by my office on Friday mornings to pick up a half-dozen loaves for her regulars.
Many people doing it tough often skimp on fresh produce. We have signed an agreement with a local Woolies, which gives us imperfect fruit and vegetables. As a result, a second pickup and delivery person is now a regular team member.
Every Thursday our house becomes the central packaging and pickup venue, with a regular team of four to eight people. We distribute between 80 and 140 items of bread, including rolls and breadsticks. Thanks to Woolies, we also can have up to three crates of produce to share along with the bread.
It’s not yet the ‘five loaves and two fish for thousands’ story, but who knows what God will provide through this ministry?
One of the practical blessings of our bread ministry is the regular contact we have with both helpers and recipients. The weekly conversations during packing or delivering ensure that people are not forgotten, and we can journey with them as they ‘do life’. Importantly, the role model of service is obvious to all, both inside and beyond our church community, as ‘love is coming to life’.
Of all the things our church offers to its members and contacts, our bread ministry is the last thing I would want to give up. It has opened up doors, started many conversations, and allowed people to make a difference in the lives of others – all in the name of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Why not start something like this in your own town or suburb? Who knows, God might use it to connect people to his church. Now, that’s food for thought.
Steve Liersch is the pastor of the Rockingham–Mandurah congregation in Western Australia.