Shalom Ministries' meals are doing 'God's holy work'
Barbara Caviezel, a retired United Methodist pastor, sees Christ alive in the eyes of hungry people coming to Shalom Ministries' Dining with Dignity meals.
With COVID-19, sit-down meals served on plates at tables in a warm basement social hall became grab-and-go meals served on paper plates to be eaten outside to comply with Spokane Regional Health District guidelines.
With cold weather, guests enter New Community Church at 518 W. Third Ave. through a corner door on Howard St., pick up a meal in the narthex and go out a door on Third Ave.
Guests, cooks, servers and greeters all wear masks and use hand sanitizer. She said some, who can't go inside to use the restrooms and wash, use hand sanitizer on their faces and hair, too.
"More and more hungry people are coming as the pandemic lingers," said Barbara.
In September, they served 5,796 meals, the most ever, and in October, 5,376. They previously served an average of 4,000 to 4,800—fewer in the summer.
Many diners are regulars. Some have been homeless for years. Many are women. Some bring their children. About 10 percent are in their 70s and 80s.
"This is God's holy work, feeding homeless, marginalized people," Barbara said. "While many are homeless and have no jobs, some are new. Some have low-paying jobs, but struggle to feed themselves and their families. They come dressed to go to work. Many tell their stories as they go through the line. They tell us when they find housing, start school or find a job, so we can celebrate with them.
Now diners sit on the sidewalk, huddling under their blankets, coming even in the frigid cold, rain or snow. Other meal programs have shut down, so they are hungry and grateful, she said. "Some voluntarily help clean up the sidewalks in appreciation for their only meal of the day. Many express fears we will be forced to shut down during this pandemic."
A businessman walking by to work recently made note of how well kept the streets were and thanked Shalom Ministries for what they do.
"We provide a safe, loving place for healing, renewal and belonging," said Barbara. "This is God's holy work providing food and letting homeless, marginalized, low-income people feel welcome."
A young mother with a baby thanked Barbara for the ministry that helped her through six years on the street doing drugs. Now she is off drugs.
"I see Christ alive in their tenacity and struggles every day, just to get up and come. One man came several days wearing no shoes. We found shoes that fit," she said.
Shalom Ministries' meals are served with no judgment.
"They are all children of God," said Barbara, who empathizes with their struggles because she grew up in a family that struggled with domestic violence, alcoholism, hunger and poverty.
Barbara volunteered with Shalom Ministries when it started in 1994 at the former Central United Methodist Church (UMC), as part of a nationwide urban ministry of the UMC. Former pastor Rich Lang introduced the ministry and formed a nonprofit bringing together religious, business, political and social service communities in Spokane to address poverty and homelessness by building relationships.
Barbara was pastor at Rocklyn Zion UMC for 10 years, including five years simultaneous with serving Harrington UMC. She served as associate at Mead UMC for two years, and then pastor at Moran UMC for 15 years.
Shalom Ministries was one of the outreach programs of Moran UMC, which built a gym—offering free use to the community—and started a preschool to serve families in the growing Moran Prairie community. Youth visited nearby nursing homes and grew gardens to give away their harvest. The church supported CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and other community programs. It has also been active with global ministries.
"We served broken families, helping children realize God's purpose for them," she said. "God inspires and empowers, filling the broken pieces in families' lives."
The Moran UMC grew from about 25 at worship when she first came to a thriving church with about 150 attending Sundays. The church continued to grow because members were engaged in the community and world.
Barbara said she ignored her call to ministry for 13 years.
The oldest of seven siblings, growing up in a Port Orchard family that experienced hunger and a lack of warm clothing and shoes, she accepted her mother's reassurance that God loved them and things would work out.
"I never felt sorry for myself. I always felt God's presence," said Barbara, who sometimes walked to a nearby United Methodist Church as a child. "Often our Christmas meals were from the generosity of the community. My involvement with Shalom is one small way to pay that back."
With a scholarship in 1969, she studied two years at Western Washington University, where she met the love of her life. They lived in Kirkland before moving to Spokane. Still wanting to be a teacher or social worker, she earned two associate degrees, one in social work, in 1989 at Spokane Falls Community College.
When she finally responded to her call to ministry, she worked part time with the school district while earning a bachelor's degree in general studies and psychology at Gonzaga University. In 1994, she began studies at Claremont School of Theology through its correspondence and summer program, graduating in 2000. She was then ordained as an associate member and deacon.
Accepting her call to ministry has been "an empowering, life-changing, humbling journey, helping people with life struggles find hope despite their losses, fears, hopelessness, anger or grief," she said.
Barbara became re-engaged with Shalom Ministries seven years ago. As vice president and operations director, she works with five core team members—two cooks, a dishwasher, a cleanup coordinator and a donations manager. Tim Swartout, director, and Deidre Jacobson, board president and Pathways coordinator, help people find housing, jobs, resources and medical/dental care improve their lives.
"They are witnesses of who Christ is," she said.
Shalom Ministries, which rents space at New Community Church, serves breakfast from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m., Mondays to Thursdays, and dinner from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays. Since COVID-19, they no longer serve sack lunches or evening meals on Thursdays.
Shalom Ministries needs $2,000 a month for paper plates and cups with lids, and $4,000 a month for food, along with donations of coffee and oatmeal, jello or fruit cups, cookies, crackers, snacks, bread, peanut butter, cheese and bologna. Second Harvest supplies much of the food.
Faith partners donating food and funds for basic operations are Audubon Park, Covenant, Manito, and Moran United Methodist churches in Spokane; UMCs in Davenport-Edwall, Colfax, Greenbluff, Moscow and Pullman; the Inland District UMC; and the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, Hamblen Park Presbyterian, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox, New Community, St. Mark's Lutheran, Shalom United Church of Christ, Spokane Baptist, Three Angels Seventh-day Adventist churches in Spokane, and the Sisters of Providence.
Other supporters include Innovia Foundation, Kalispel Tribe, Rockwood Retirement Communities, Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, Thrivent Financial Service, Viren and Associates, Inc., CHAS and Craven's Coffee.
"By the grace of God, donors still choose to make a difference for Spokane's marginalized by giving to keep Shalom Ministries' doors open," said Barbara. "Jesus fed the multitude outside. Thousands shared a meal together. We are dining with dignity in a different way."
Many diners express thanks for the food, offering a thumbs up or rubbing their stomachs in appreciation.
One said he chooses to eat at Shalom over a restaurant because "the food is so good."
For information, call 954-9292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2020