When I shut the back door of the van, my hand always gets a little grimy. Not the best feeling in the world, I’ll admit, but it’s a sign that its a well-used vehicle. I’m glad, because I do pray for God’s will to be done, and this van is doing it. The people who drive, pack up, and distribute the vast quantities of food to those who really need it, those are the people who are the hands of God in the world.
That slightly musty smell of the produce section of the grocery store wafts through the van as I climb in the passenger side door (the opposite side of the car to what it is in the States, which I’m still not used to), and on the chilly morning watch the city go by as we head toward the market or food bank location for the day, or to one of the many older more established food banks that are kind enough to let us have their overflow.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to “sit in” as it were with the members of the MICAH food bank. Well, there actually was very little sitting involved, more carrying of food boxes and bags around. Before I shadowed the team, I had been curious as to what the work on the ground looked like. I knew about the food banks that have had a great impact in alleviating hunger in this city, but was curious to find out what actually has to be done to make that happen.
In theory, the process is simple- fill a van of donated food, put the food in bags, and distribute at an advertised location. But in reality, it’s anything but. Once food is donated, it makes its way to the store room located on the Cathedral Close. Once sorted, food is selected for the food banks and community markets, set out, and then taken to the right location on the right day.
The food banks occur at two local churches, both close by to the Cathedral. There’s a wonderful team of volunteers who set up, staff, and break down the Food Bank, who take names and fill out information cards (as required by law), bag the food, distribute the food, and help guide new arrivals through the process. It’s quite a system, and I’m honored to be a part of it. When I last went, I helped with the intake process for new arrivals. By law, we have to record information from the asylum papers or residentiary card for each guest, who are allowed four visits to the food bank one per week.
In addition to the food banks, which are the most well known, MICAH also supplies food to two community markets. Folks who come purchase food at low prices, often at 20 or 50 pence an item. This allows folks to give back to their community what they can, which is really important. Often people in need are looked on as a liability. But all of us, no matter the size of our wallets, have something to offer and something to give.
If you’ve read my fellow Tsedaqah Community Member Jenn’s blog, you will see a new project that is currently in the works: trying to connect with those in neighboring dioceses who work with victims of human trafficking. Jen provided in her blog post a picture of a local ministry run by one of our new friends the Diocese of Manchester, who provides art and language classes among other things to those who have escaped the traffickers (https://jenwilliams.home.blog/2019/11/12/tsedaqah-chapter-2/). We hope to be able to bring many clients of this ministry for a visit to the Cathedral in Liverpool, as well as host the art exhibition created by the clients themselves.
Another dream we have is to create an alliance of northwestern Anglicans in mission with victims of human trafficking. This work is integral to the Triangle of Hope Ministry, which works to acknowledge and heal past divisions by slavery and combat it in its current form of human trafficking. We hope that such a Church alliance will help clients in claiming asylum or refugee status. Our friends in Manchester diocese are adamant about involving clients and survivors in our work, which is crucial. We feed the hungry and free the enslaved at Christ’s command because we acknowledge that we are all part of the human family, each with different gifts but with the same dignity that demands respect. We are called to raise each other up in love, and that love we share with one another helps bring God’s Kingdom a little closer to fruition on earth as it is in heaven.
Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!
Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.