The Refuge Ministry, Calvary Chapel, is an outreach program that has been ministering to the homeless in Broward County since 2006. The program was started by Jym Kaye, then pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, about eight years ago. Dirk Ruyf took up the challenge to oversee the program about a year now since Pastor Jym left to overseer the satellite churches.
Lifenet4Families provides meals at its facility located at 1 NW 33rd Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, from Monday to Saturday. This leaves Dirk and his very able volunteer staff to fill in the gap on Sundays. It is heartwarming to see how these volunteers lovingly and selflessly feed these men and women not only physically but also spiritually.
Physical and spiritual food
Calvary Chapel provides the resources for the feeding program assisted by the World of Hope, a non-profit organization under the sponsorship of Leo Dodier. Leo is also a member of Calvary Chapel and has been a volunteer for seven years. He helps supervise the program. On major holidays, extra effort is made to feed the homeless with a big, warm, healthy meal. On Easter Sunday, for example, Calvary Chapel provided and served an Easter brunch. Last Thanksgiving WOH funded and coordinated with Boston market to provide Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who came to the facility. World of Hope not only assists with the feeding program. It is an organization which buys and sells new and used furniture, and uses the funds to provide furniture to those in need.
During a recent visit to the facility, I was impressed by the high level of organization, and the selflessness and love given by every single volunteer. There are about 30 to 40 volunteers rotating on a regular basis but some volunteers, Jen, for example, has been with the program for 7 years. Volunteers from the Patmos Reality Discipleship School, a missionary training program of Calvary Chapel, also lent a hand. It was their last Sunday volunteering as a group as they were getting ready to graduate.
A family affair
The staff assembled at 8:45. Dirk welcomed everyone and especially recognized the first-time volunteers. He explained the morning’s procedure and ensured that each station was adequately equipped with supplies and manpower. He then prayed, committing the staff and the day’s proceedings to the Holy Spirit before dispatching them to their various locations. At 9 o’clock coffee, doughnuts and bagels were served to the orderly lineup of men and a few woman. Each person also received his or her ticket for lunch at the same time. While waiting, some of the volunteers intermingled with those who came to find out if anyone had any special need for prayer or just to see how they were doing. With smiles and expressions of thanks, many were eager to talk and share.
While this was going on, another team was setting up the tent and music equipment in the parking lot for service. At about 10 o’clock, everyone was seated for praise and worship and the sharing of the Word. There was a robust participation among clients and volunteers alike in praise and worship. Colton, one of the Patmos volunteers, shared his testimony on “Living out Your Faith through the Power of the Holy Spirit.”
At the end of the service over 100 people were served a balanced lunch, sometime the number grows to about 150. Everyone patiently waited their turn until everyone was fed. Following lunch, the invitation was given for Bible study to whomever so desired. Keppes, a volunteer, correlated the study “Abraham a Man of Faith” with that of Colton’s.
More than food
This weekly program is not only about feeding the homeless. It’s about each man caring for his brother. As the name indicates, it’s providing a place of refuge to give hope to the hopeless. It’s providing a place where the unchurched can be reached and receive the love of God. It’s training leaders and equipping them for service in the harvest field. It’s providing an avenue to give back and to build relationships. Luana, one of the long-time volunteers, introduced me to Clifford who saw the need to give back by sweeping the grounds of the facility. It’s empowering a community to walk as Jesus walked.
Viola Smith is a freelance writer involved in children’s ministry at her church. You can reach Viola at firstname.lastname@example.org.