Mennonite Central Committee B.C.’s offices and thrift shop may be closed on Sunday, but two Sunday afternoons a month there is plenty of activity in the back parking lot of the MCC Centre. Here homeless and low-income people meet with volunteers for a hot meal, friendship, and free clothing and groceries.
Lifeline Outreach Ministries of Aldergrove, a registered non-profit organization, has ministered to homeless people in the Fraser Valley since 1988. One of their ministries has been serving Sunday night suppers alternately in Aldergrove and Abbotsford. This past May the Abbotsford location has moved to the back of the MCC Centre, which opened for business last fall in the east part of downtown Abbotsford.
According to Lifeline founder David Poulette, up to 200 people come to the Sunday night suppers. Hot meals are prepared at the Lifeline warehouse in Aldergrove, then are transported by Lifeline’s signature “Blue Bus” to the MCC Centre location. Guests also receive a bag of groceries and are able to “shop” for free clothing donated by MCC.
With the new MCC building situated right across the street from the Abbotsford’s homeless camp, the location is ideal for establishing a caring presence among the city’s disenfranchised. Jane Ngoju, MCC B.C.’s homelessness prevention and outreach program coordinator, has been involved in the Sunday suppers and has been actively seeking volunteers to help with preparation, serving and cleanup. The ministry relies totally on donations.
Volunteers from MCC or from local churches sit down to eat with the guests, lending a listening ear or support as needed. Longtime MCC volunteers Bill and Diana Ferguson have been reaching out to homeless people for years and have a relationship of trust with many. The Fergusons come to the Sunday night fellowship dinners because they feel called to minister to hurting people. “We believe what the Bible says; God said we are to give to the needy,” explained Bill Ferguson.
Diana Ferguson says that she hopes those in need have their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs met. A prayer table is provided at the meal. “We really want to give opportunity to pray for [the homeless guests],” she says. “We ask if we can pray for them and we’ve never had anybody say no.”