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Hope Kitchen transforming lives at Shoalhaven Corps

Hope Kitchen transforming lives at Shoalhaven Corps

Hope Kitchen transforming lives at Shoalhaven Corps

5 December 2018

Captain Matthew Sutcliffe (centre) during Hope Kitchen, run by Shoalhaven Corps each Sunday. 

By Jessica Morris

Shoalhaven Corps is offering the hope of Jesus by doing church differently. Every Sunday the corps hosts Hope Kitchen, providing up to 60 people with a meal and interactive Bible study, and there has been some great results.

“It gives [our corps] opportunity for them to build relationships and share their faith,” says Captain Jodie Sutcliffe, the Shoalhaven Corps Officer along with husband Matthew. “We have seen family members of the group who have never wanted to come to church before start to want to talk more about Jesus.”

Hope Kitchen began in 2017 when Shoalhaven Corps was brainstorming ways to be more missional in their community. Knowing they wanted to reach more families in the region, on the NSW South Coast, they decided to revamp their Sunday night Bible study to include a meal and a short sermon in a family-friendly environment. 

While the corps has linked with the women’s refuge, local agencies and other Salvos programs to spread the word, word of mouth has been the greatest catalyst in bringing people through the doors. Due to this, they have seen people come through programs like Mainly Music, or right off the street, and many want to contribute.

“Some people who attend are quite isolated and say this is like a new family. Others are on a journey of discovering the love of Jesus and we try to show people that love and hope in our actions and stories,” says Captain Sutcliffe. 

“New people who come also love to be involved and often ask to help cook, serve and clean and find real belonging in this.”

A missional initiative like Hope Kitchen is only as successful as the dedication of corps members, and Shoalhaven soldiers and adherents have embraced it with open arms. Using it as an opportunity to share their faith with people they would not normally meet, many Hope Kitchen attendees are part of the wider corps community, and now attend the Sunday morning service, Junior Soldiers, Companion Club, Craft Group, Men’s Breakfast and Ladies Night Out.

So how does Shoalhaven build on their already successful Hope Kitchen? In 2019, they are keen to engage more members of the community by linking it with a Christianity Explained course and a monthly Messy Church. By doing this, they hope to steward the relationships they have already built with locals, and share their message of hope and hospitality even further.

“We are excited for all God is doing and going to do. We believe he wants to work in our community we just need to join him in the journey and be happy to get out of our comfort zones,” says Captain Sutcliffe.

The beauty of Hope Kitchen is that its model could be replicated to suit individual communities across the country. And it doesn’t have to start big –just a simple meal with new friends could be the catalyst for changing lives.

As Captain Sutcliffe says, “Seek God in the groups you already have on how you can be mission; look for the needs in your local area and work as a team.”

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