Today the soup crew arrives, arms filled with bags of herbs, cans of broth and beans, and bundles of fresh veggies. Two friends will bring soup pots and one a huge cutting board; each brings a favorite chopping knife. I supply the aprons, ranging from a gathered skirt-style in calico print to full-cover types in bold colors.
One depicts a bowl of steaming soup, others a harvest still life and a strawberry field. The aprons are freshly laundered, with a few stains as reminders of previous soup projects.
One apron is always left untouched— a crisp white chef garment, suited to fit any size with thick ties to wrap around the middle. It may intimidate our happy band of everyday soup cooks, but I offer it each time in case……
With aprons tied and hands washed, we get to work:
- opening cans
Before long, the aroma of simmering vegetables and herbs fills the house. We set the timer and sit down with a pot of coffee and a plate of cookies. The conversation is rich: updates on family members, ideas for Valentine’s Day sweets, up-coming youth retreat, and winter sports events.
And then we share stories of our experiences at the shelter in the city, where our soup will warm bellies on a cold night and provide much-needed nourishment. All agree that we are privileged to be a small part of this mission work, where hundreds of homeless people are welcomed each week.
For those who volunteer on site, an amazing model of “radical hospitality” can be observed. Hot meals are served daily, Monday through Friday, in a spacious dining room, a setting that once served as a church sanctuary. Daytime guests receive a plate of tasty food, as well as an invitation to visit the clothes pantry for donated items to help them get by. During blustery winter months, sturdy shoes and warm coats are a priority!
The guests may also stop by the personal care table for a bag of toiletries, i.e. soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a new pair of underwear—things that most people take for granted.
Vibrant worship on Sunday afternoons and mid-week Bible studies offer food and undergirding for the soul.
No one is turned away, each receives the basics he or she needs, and nothing is provided in excess. Guests are served in a respectful manner. Volunteers, who show up an hour early for orientation and job assignment, include groups from small businesses, schools, and churches. An amazing experiment in Christian outreach and love!
As for where our savory soup fits in, the ministry offers a café for those wandering the streets at night.
These folks receive hot coffee and home-made soup, made by small groups like ours, that has been frozen in large sacks for serving throughout the winter. Hungry guests find a seat at the table where a kind person offers a smile and a patient listening ear. The soup provides not only nutrition, but also hope, the possibility of a second chance, and a moment or two of feeling cared for in a warm, safe place.
And so, this is why we gather to make soup. It requires only simple ingredients and a few hours, just a sliver of our abundance and time. We trust God to use this gift in a special way—to lift up those who are having a tough time by warming their bellies and hearts.