CEFC – Blessed to be a blessing

Imagine opening the door of a Relief Centre and asking strangers for help. It would be very confronting.

I keep this scenario in the forefront of my mind all the time when working in Horsham’s Christian Emergency Food Centre (CEFC). Life often seems to happen on a tightrope, just a little over-balancing one way or the other and we can fall in a heap. Often the fall is not too far and just a hand up can get us back on our feet, and other times the recovery process can take a while longer. There are so many reasons why that tightrope can wobble, and I’ve certainly seen a lot of them in the past 11 years working at the Centre.

The front of our premises

The CEFC is truly an amazing God-inspired place to work. It began originally 21 years ago, thanks to the local clergy chatting at their regular Christian Ministers’ Fraternal meetings about getting visits from locals struggling to feed their families and turning up at the various church offices or pastors’ residences looking for help. At that time, I was working in our local Lutheran church office, so I remember handing out a frozen casserole and bread, provided by our members and kept in a freezer on the premises, expressly for this purpose. While I’m sure it was appreciated, it wasn’t going to keep that family from going hungry for very long. Many would find themselves going from church to church in order to get enough help to make a difference. Hence the chat among the local clergy. From that point, a committee was formed with a member from each church to investigate just how we could do God’s bidding to look after the poor and needy, in a better, more effective way.

About a year later, and after much prayer and deliberation, the CEFC began its important work. Now, 21 years later, we are not only feeding locals but sending food out all over the Wimmera and southern Mallee, and it continues to be an inter-denominational workplace. Who’d have thought that members from 10 different Christian churches could work effectively and harmoniously together? Through working at the centre, I have had the opportunity to forge wonderful friendships with so many Christians from different denominations, as we work and pray together, with the single purpose of bringing Christ’s light into the darkness of people’s lives (and maybe stabilising that wobbling tightrope a little).

Around 65 volunteers help at the CEFC, in total, and around a dozen of them have been working at the Centre for the entire 21 years. Each day there are about 10 volunteers rostered on as either a receptionist, an interviewer, a food room worker or in stores/purchasing. My role, as the only paid worker, is to support those volunteers and be a resource for them, in particular for the interviewers who are dealing with the clients and their needs face-to-face. We have become an important part of the emergency relief network in our region and regularly have requests from other welfare agencies when their clients need help accessing food. In response to our client’s needs, we also refer them to those other agencies if things like housing or professional counselling are required.

Stores Purchasing Workers

Each Christmas, for the past 21 years, we have run our Christmas Hamper program where we are able to hand out around 450-500 Christmas hampers. Even for people without a Christian faith, Christmas has become a special time to connect families and communities. By supplying the ingredients for Christmas lunch, we pray we are enabling those family and community connections and showing people they are cared for by God and by us. All our food hampers right throughout the year have a Christian tract or text card included. Many times, we have had clients tell us just how encouraging those little tracts or cards have been to them as they’ve unpacked their food parcels.

It is truly amazing watching God at work through the CEFC. He provides so many resources to care for those who are struggling. Being inter-denominational has enabled many in the community to be generous and use their blessings to be a blessing to others. Local businesses and service clubs support us with donations and food or toiletry drives. Local schools teach their students about caring for others by collecting food for us or sending their students to work with us or having our speakers talk in their classrooms. Churches, of every denomination, right throughout the region support our work with donations, especially around Harvest Thanksgiving. We have local knitters supplying beanies, scarves and blankets in the colder months. Some local men, who love to do woodwork, regularly come in with wooden toys to hand out. Those who love to bake, drop in biscuits, and those who love to garden drop in their excess vegies, fruit or eggs. Using all these blessings, and more, God works through us to minister to his people, especially those wobbling on the tightrope of life, and isn’t that all of us at some time or another? Truly incredible and such a blessing to be a part of!

About the Author

Bev Miatke

Bev Miatke is the Client Assessment Manager at Horsham CEFC.

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