The Matthew Lunch, an initiative that fed, clothed and pampered more than 250 impoverished people in 2013, is back in action this year with the goal of reaching even more homeless and destitute folk in Port Elizabeth.
Last year’s event at Fountain Vineyard Church, where guests were treated to a 3-course lunch coupled with haircuts, showers, beauty treatments and more, was a big step-up from the previous and inaugural Matthew Lunch in 2009 which catered for 56 guests, said the event visionary Graham Ries, who was once homeless himself.
Eleven churches and three Christian ministries worked together to host last year’s event.
“This year the Lord has spoken and He has said that He wants 50 different congregations to work together on the lunch.” Ries said. While 48 congregations and 12 Christian ministries have already signed up to help, they still need many more volunteers for the event on September 20, he said. “We will feed and clothe the destitute and give them hope as they receive their fresh toiletries and gifts. We will provide red carpets for them to walk up, buses to collect them and hot showers, haircuts and manicures.”
Guests will be collected by bus from predetermined locations including Jesus Is Lord Ministries in Kleinskool and brought to the Newton Park Methodist Church in relative luxury, “depending on the type of buses we will be able to hire,” he explained, showing their heart to treat their guests like royalty.
Disembarking from the bus, they will step onto red carpets, be greeted and offered a fresh muffin and a cup of hot tea or coffee. Here they will be given their gift bags which will consist of a towel, a brand new face cloth, toothbrush, tooth paste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, shower gel and a comb or hairbrush. As soon as they are warmed up from the muffin and coffee, they will be given a fresh set of clothing comprising a shirt or blouse, trousers, shorts or a skirt, shoes, socks and something warm. They will also be offered the opportunity to have a hot shower and a haircut. Ladies will be able to have their hair and make-up done.
Testimonies and group chats form part of the day’s varied programme of entertainment and inspiration. There will also be practical assistance for guests who have lost their Identity Books or birth certificates. “This year we have had some advice and some input from Mark Mullan of NPMC, and we will be doing what they did last year and that is getting the Dept. of Home Affairs to come to the church so that we can organise birth certificates and I.D. books for the delegates.” Ries explained.
The evening will end off with “rip-roaring praise and worship”, in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa, with Ricky Venter of the Fountain Vineyard Church. The team, set on making sure that their guests leave fuller and more complete than when they arrived, will also provide their guests with a meal for the next day — a box of non-perishable food and a matching scarf and beanie set, arranged by Claire Phelps of St. Saviours Anglican Church in Walmer. “They are knitted by the older members of various congregations around the city who are too old or frail to get involved with the cooking or serving,” Ries explained, adding that guests will also have an opportunity to give their lives to the Lord during an altar call. “Each one of these beloved are given a brand new Bible and there is a huge spiritual dynamic that comes into play here.” This year, guests will be followed up through Hannes and Esther van Rooyen of Jesus Is Lord Ministries in Kleinskool. Training will also be offered and the team will assist with arranging employment, where possible.
“It has come to our attention that there are still a few groups of people who met at last years’ Matthew Lunch who gather for a regular Bible study of their own. One man was so grateful for the way we treated his wife, who said that she‘d felt as though she was in heaven, that he built a sand sculpture on the beach of the Fountain Vineyard Church, where the Matthew Lunch had been held last year.”
Ries explained that the event organisers still need a lot more financial contributions and urged people to get involved in any way that they are able to. “The Matthew Lunch is an avenue for everyone to get involved in Gods’ Family.”