My Ministry: More than a mobile soup kitchen

Warwick Seventh-day Adventist Church is a small congregation with big hearts. Find out how they are breaking through Australia's loneliness epidemic and serving their community.

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Church members Marcel and Catherine Cazaly ready to serve.

Are you feeling lonely? You’re not alone.

A 2018 survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University has found that one in four Australian adults are lonely. One in two (50.5%) Australians feel lonely for at least one day in a week, while one in four (27.6%) feel lonely for three or more days. And high levels of loneliness are associated with a number of other alarming symptoms such as higher social anxiety, poorer psychological wellbeing and lower quality of life.

Warwick Seventh-day Adventist Church is a church in rural Queensland. And although they had a small congregation, they had big hearts. They wanted to break through the loneliness and serve their community.

“God really impressed this on my heart,” said church member Catherine Cazaly. “My husband and I have four young kids. We wanted them to grow up in a thriving church. But even if we didn’t see our congregation grow, we still wanted to make sure we were serving our community.”

Catherine attended a board meeting in June 2018 where the members discussed how they could meet the material needs of the surrounding community. Previously they had gathered blankets and toiletries for people in difficulties and given these to another church to distribute. Now they were eager to do something more personal.

“I thought a soup kitchen would be a good idea as we didn’t have anything like that in town,” said Catherine.

The church thought it was a good idea and formed a small committee to figure out how they could make the soup kitchen a reality. They eventually resolved to buy a van, so that the soup kitchen could travel to the people it wanted to serve.

“We needed money to do that. We prayed about it and we thought about fundraising ideas,” said Catherine. “We’re a country town. Not everyone has money to give.”

"We don't want it just to be a soup kitchen on wheels."

But although people didn’t have money to give, they did have a spare pot or pile of clothing they wanted to get rid of. The committee members decided to run a garage sale. Over the next few months they collected more than 15,000 donated items.

“We advertised using Facebook and word-of-mouth and the response was amazing,” Catherine commented. “By the time of the sale, I was spending 6-8 hours each day collecting and sorting items. We called it ‘Warwick’s Biggest Ever Garage Sale’ and made sure people knew we were fundraising for community service projects and specifically our community van.”

The garage sale was held in January 2019 and raised $A9500. Approximately 30 church members helped set up for the sale the evening before. “It was our biggest church social to date!” laughs Catherine.

As they fundraised for the van, Warwick church also began applying for government funding where they could to finance other planned community service projects.

“On December 23 (2018), we held a special Christmas lunch for the farmers,” said Catherine. “We had presents for the kids, take-home hampers donated by ADRA and live music. For many of the farmers, that was their Christmas lunch and they were so appreciative.”

Warwick church again used government funding in January this year to finance “back-to-school” packs, providing 27 students with uniforms, books and shoes.

The van was eventually purchased on May 1, 2019 and Warwick church are eager to have another means of reaching their community.

“We don’t want it just to be a soup kitchen on wheels,” Catherine said. “It will be whatever God wants it to be as long as we’re reflecting God’s love to those we come in contact with.”

Members of Warwick Seventh-day Adventist Church in front of the Warwick community van.