On a November morning this fall, 23 people gathered in the kitchen of East Hills Moravian Church to cook together. Four hours later, 500 meals filled the church’s large freezer, all to be donated to anyone who needed a meal. This group was composed of members of four Moravian churches and Holy Infancy Catholic Church—five times as many churches as before!
A few people at East Hills had been “cooking for the freezer ministry” for about six years, sharing the fruits of their labor with anyone who would be helped by a warm, nourishing meal. Those helped included folks recently hospitalized, those who suffered the loss of a loved one, new parents or those who resided in nearby low-income housing or even under a bridge in a makeshift shelter.
Three times a year, cooking days kept the church freezer filled with soups and other comfort foods, including many portions of chicken, ham, pork and sausage, easy to reheat and enjoy. Some of the “cooks” who participated were not Moravians, and perhaps not Christians; they had been recipients of food from the Freezer Ministry during the past year when they fell on difficult times.
Expanding a Ministry
The idea of expanding this ministry was the brain-child of Frank Shipman, Moravian Seminary student serving as student pastor at the time. Frank had the vision of spreading this ministry through all Bethlehem Area Moravian (BAM) churches and feeding more and more people. So, he invited all the BAM churches to our cooking day to watch, ask questions and participate.
Distributing the food would be the easy part. All a church needed was a freezer, a few folks to help on the cooking days at East Hills and hungry residents in their churches or communities. Four pastors were present, some to observe but most to participate, boning chickens, cleaning vegetables and filling quart containers. Others, members of local Moravian congregations, jumped right in to help. One member of Edgeboro said, “I came to see what this ministry was all about. Before I knew it, my coat was hung up, my hands were washed, I had put on an apron and was browning 20 pounds of hamburger in three huge frying pans! We had a great time!”
East Hills funded its Freezer Ministry by hosting a Harvest Dinner each year and accepting random contributions of cash and food. Bob Wingrove oversees the freezer ministry cooking and says he has never had a problem getting church members and friends to help prep and cook the food or distribute it. He looks forward to having regular participants for the BAM churches and plans on quarterly cooking days for the Freezer Ministry.
“That should allow the Bethlehem churches to provide about 1500 quarts or 3,000 servings each year,” says Bob. “We hope to expand this ministry through other churches who are not part of BAM. For it is not just about providing food, but meeting others, touching their lives and letting them touch our lives.”
East Hills provided all the ingredients for the first cooking day in November. Going forward, BAM churches will provide some of the ingredients and share the cost of the food.
Helping the Freezer Ministry
How can you help fund the Freezer Ministry? Pastor Derek French suggests that you become part of the distribution network. The faster it is distributed, the more people we serve and the sooner we will schedule another cooking day. “ This is the area of the ministry that we hope to grow the fastest!” said Pastor French.
There are no special cooking skills necessary to participate in the prep or cook day so tell your pastor you would like to participate. All are welcome to prep and cook the ingredients that will nourish bodies and souls and continue East Hills’ mission “to know Christ and make Him known.” The fellowship of serving alongside fellow Christians and Moravians is a priceless additional benefit. For information about the next cooking day in February, or to pick up food for distribution, contact Bob Wingrove or Jan Schanck at East Hills church or any BAM pastor.
Jan Schanck is a member of East Hills Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. www.easthillsmc.org