It’s 10am, we’ve unpacked all the fruit, veg and bakery items onto the tables, put our masks on and sanitised our hands; we open the door to a queue of 14 people waiting in the frosty cold. The sun shines over the wooded valley in the distance. ‘Morning!’ I call, ‘We’ve got loads today! Come and see!’
This has been our Friday mornings since August 2020. We piloted a Community Pantry idea for 4 weeks, 60 local residents attended and all wanted it to continue. Our village in the Cynon Valley is a 20-minute walk to the nearest supermarket and many people were struggling with lack of online shopping deliveries and a reduced bus service.
We didn’t want to brand it a Foodbank as no one would have come. People are too proud and too visible in a small village, so the community pantry is an Eco-project; we reduce food waste together as a community. Anyone can come, everyone is equally welcome and if it helps stretch a household budget, all the better!
Who are we?
The community pantry is one arm of Little Lounge which is a small charity run by Lounge Missional Communities; a local church with a passion for equipping every disciple to live life on mission for Jesus.
We have 16 volunteers on the pantry rota. We all live within walking distance of the community centre where we are based. Eight of us are long standing members of our church; two ladies have recently come to faith during lockdown and are exploring what it is to follow Jesus with us. Three more are part of our wider church community, not yet believers, but they readily ask for prayer and come along to meals and special events. Three have nothing to do with our church at all!
It’s the grey areas of mission that fuel my prayer life! Wondering what the Spirit might be stirring in someone’s heart as they walk alongside us as believers. When we watch how Jesus lived alongside his disciples there were lots of grey areas! He never asked them to ‘pray the prayer’. They ate and talked and worked alongside Jesus, watching, following, doubting and believing.
There was a time when I was fearful to have non-believers on our team. We were setting up a ‘Play Café’ in 2017 and a friend from the school run loved the idea, so she asked to be involved. I wasn’t sure; would she ‘dull’ our witness? What if someone asked her about the church and she wouldn’t know the answer? I spoke to the team and we prayed together, asking God for wisdom; we decided that it was more a display of the gospel to welcome her in than it would be to exclude her.
Being part of the team, she became privy to our struggles, our worries, our prayers, our breakthroughs. She saw how ‘life on mission’ really is a life of service and sacrifice with lots of laughter, mistakes, grace and grit. She saw that there’s an energy that fuels us when there’s no worldly reward. She didn’t come to faith, despite our prayers, but I believe gospel seeds have been sown for the Spirit to water when he deems fit.
Inviting unbelievers to walk this bumpy journey with us is challenging at times. What if we sin? What if we don’t walk worthy of the calling? The truth is we will fail and that’s ok because we’re pointing to Christ not ourselves. We haven’t come to save our community; we’ve come to demonstrate the good news of the only One who can.