Homelessness, financial, relationship and emotional stress are issues faced by many in our communities today. Northside Baptist Church in Crows Nest, Sydney, became aware of significant social issues in their community following research by the community centre next door to the church.
Their findings revealed social isolation for older people, a significant numbers of migrants, increasing numbers of 0-4 year olds, emerging homelessness, and the limited support services for those affected by a temporary disability.
Confronted with these issues, and with a vision to reach people in the local area, the Manna Café was born. Developed from a successful model in London providing meals for the homeless and vulnerable, the café provides a healthy breakfast and companionship once a month for anyone who visits: A meal for the community, created by the community.
The café team recruited a short order teaching chef and volunteers from the congregation who were given roles including hosting guests, provision of transport, childminding activities, community relationship building, and a prayer team. The passion for ministry was ignited as the church family embraced their roles of support and care.
To commence the ministry, the church successfully applied for a BCS Connect Grant in 2011. The Connect Grant program provides seeding grants for local church ministries reaching out to their communities. With roots in the local church, being the presence of Jesus in the community, and having a prayer team to undergird all the activities, the panel had no hesitation in issuing the Grant. Since the first breakfast in February, the café has served between 40 and 90 breakfasts each day. Many guests are coming each month and new guests are joining as word spreads about the care and love being expressed by the team. Hope and dignity are being restored in people’s lives as a result.
One elderly Greek lady, Maria, living alone and having no contact with her children, became distressed at her situation and felt convicted to leave her house and go for a walk. Her journey led to the Manna Café and she was overwhelmed with the care shown by the volunteers. Maria didn’t stay for breakfast that day, but the following month she returned. Maria’s joyful response to the care was, ’I have been looked after like a queen’.
Another regular guest composed a song to express his thanks.Eggs and Sausages, Bacon and Toast Pancakes and Mushrooms… We all come together and share I can’t believe how much you care I believe in one another To come together as one.
Through the Manna Café, Northside Baptist Church continues to provide a ministry of transformation through their connection with the community.