Below is a short article I wrote in the Connection Newsletter (August, 2013) that offers a look behind the curtain of Pay It Forward Cafe. The Connection Newsletter is distributed monthly to Parma area pastors and church leaders.
Each Saturday, 60-70 patrons grace the door of Pay It Forward Cafe at Parmatown Mall. Whether it’s for the food, the fellowship, or simply the inviting atmosphere of love and hope, people young and old have found the Cafe to be an oasis, where their faith is built, both in humanity and in a God who can touch their every need. Time and time again, our coordinators and volunteers have witnessed the Lord’s magnificent hand bring comfort and healing to many hungry bellies and thirsty souls.
So is Pay It Forward Cafe a Soup Kitchen?
We do not treat our weekly opportunity as a run-of-the-mill “soup kitchen.” As easy as it would be to simply feed people, we intentionally choose to go further with our patrons. We believe that the Lord did not call us to be Ambassadors in our community to merely serve at an arm’s length away. Rather, we are called to engage with others in a more personal way.
One way we “engage” is by sitting with our patrons and having the meal with them. I like to call this our chance to have a “learning conversation,” in which the person or people you sit with can learn about you and you can learn about them. And if that is all that is accomplished in those few moments, that is okay. Nothing radically profound has to take place for God to do the miraculous. In fact, so often, it is simple, human interaction that gives people such a sense of self-worth and comfort that it can unlock doors that lead to healing and transformation.
The Ultimate Motive
The fact is, Jesus was a profound conversationalist…. yet, I’m not really sure it was because he was so witty or eloquent of speech that he never had any tough conversations. On the contrary, I believe that he just understood the power of truly engaging others. He was never afraid or reluctant to fully collide with people. He did not avoid the uncomfortable or awkward. He simply interacted with others with an intentional heart. Each Saturday, at Pay It Forward Cafe, this is our sole aim. To be the hands, feet, and mouthpiece of Christ – not with ulterior motive, but with an ultimate motive to love others as Christ loves us.
If you would like to know more about Pay It Forward Cafe, I invite you to come and visit with us one weekend. The Cafe operates every Saturday from 12 – 2pm next to the Payless Shoes store. Come, eat, and observe. We would love to have you!
Article Source: http://comamb.org/connection/August/article-1.html