“Give the helping hand” is the name of a program that started in Samara United Methodist Church three years ago.
«Give the helping hand» is a soup kitchen ministry. The council of leaders organized the ministry responding to several issues. For example, our church is situated in a district with adverse influences, where there are dysfunctional families, disabled and sick people, people with substance dependencies, newly released from prisons, families where children are not cared for.
Another reason is awareness raising: in Samara there is a negative perception of protestant churches combined with mistrust. There are biases and stereotypes, people are incredulous and are very cautious. The third reason – is a unique opportunity to preach the Good News. There are various means serving the aim: films, music, personal talks and counseling. The fourth reason is the chance to help those who needs to go through rehabilitation and join one of the rehabilitation centers.
Thanks to the project “Give the helping hand” many people for the first time got to know a protestant church, they met in person ministers and community members. People experienced our care, compassion, love; they have no prejudices about visiting our church. Some of people are visiting church for special occasions, some have become a part of the community. Some were helped to join a rehabilitation program.
Nowadays the program is a well-functioning ministry, and it is particularly important, that the parish are taking part in it. People cook the food in turns, donate, and serve the others by giving away food and helping the guests. It was learnt that many are in need of clothes, particularly during the winter months. We started to collect clothes and give it away to people.
The ministry gave our community a new purpose and united the people. We spend a lot of time and resources on the ministry, but we also receive much. We feel God's blessings which He gives through the ministry.
Fulfilling Lord's commands one always feels that God's work is done. Once we started the ministry we realized that God is supporting us, He is blessing us in other things too. We discovered new leaders, who began to serve regularly: for instance, Elena Lipatova has started to lead the «Give the helping hand» ministry. She gives a lot of care and energy to the ministry, gives her heart; the ministry, at the same time, brought spiritual growth and changes in her life.
This year we received help from United Methodist Church in Eurasia, now we have a device for air disinfection which we use in the rooms where the ministry takes place. We do not have to worry now about spread of infection among the people who come to eat or those who serve food. We are grateful for those who supported our congregation. God bless.
Photo: Samara UMC, pastor Olga Ganina