St. Matthew’s Alliance Team: Omaha Mission Trip
On April 30, 2015, eight people left for Omaha. Seven of us from St. Matthew’s: Bill Cody, Linda Huckfeldt, Charles Plantz, John and Anne Adam, Todd and Cheryl Harris and Gina Briggs from the Alliance Berean Church. We took helping hands, willing hearts, donation checks and the items that had been collected for the Hope Totes, to the Open Door Mission and to Table Grace Café. The group stayed at All Saints Retreat House. What a blessing that was to us. A beautiful room with a fully equipped kitchen upstairs and downstairs there were bedrooms and bathrooms with showers to take care of our needs.
The Open Door Mission, the first place we worked, offers hope and help to homeless men, women and children. Hope that can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Our work there involved anything from making 1,320 sandwiches for their street mission to food prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner, bagging hundreds of cookies, chips, treats, to sorting clothing and handing out boxes of food in their Timberlake Outreach building (similar to our Mission Store but 4 times larger). We learned that the average age of the homeless is 9 years old! We learned of the counseling program that each person who enters the program is required to participate in along with the rules they agree to follow. Each person is assigned a caseworker. The program offers counseling and teaches money management, job skills and life skills as well as parenting for those with children.
The Table Grace Café is located in a tiny building in downtown Omaha and serves organic, gourmet pizzas, soups and salads made from scratch. They are one of fewer than 40 pay-what-you-can restaurants in the U.S. There are people from all walks of life that come together to enjoy good food. If you can’t pay with money, the owners ask for an hour of time. All are treated with dignity. Bill, Linda and Gina ground wheat berries for pizza flour, made homemade croutons and grated ginger and other things to season the food.
Each night after working and eating supper, we went back to the retreat center and talked about our day. Some of the things that were mentioned were the enormity of the Open Door facilities, the volume of people fed (500 each day – 3,500 a week), the tons of food donated, the never ending food prep, the amount of people who volunteer (40 + per day) and the cleanliness of everything with so many people coming and going. One of most touching things was the “overflow room” – a room with wall to wall blankets and sleeping bags. At the head of each “bed” was a tote with all the person’s belongings. There were about 100 sleeping on the floor, waiting for a space to be available to them in the program.
At Table Grace we were blessed to see their ministry at work. We saw people coming in and doing anything from sweeping the floor or painting murals, to playing the bongos or guitar and singing. They have regular days for Bible Study, days where they have ecumenical talks, they go out to families who need help and spread the Gospel wherever they go.
After talking about our day, we played a game called 5 Crowns. It’s a fun game and led to lots of laughter. Before retiring for the evening, we had a beautiful evening meditation that Charles put together for us from the New Zealand Prayer Book.
I could go on and on about what we saw and did but this gives you a brief overview. All of us felt it was a wonderful few days and everyone wants to go back. We feel we came home with much more than we left there.
Without the support of our congregations, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did. With our fundraising, we were able to give each place a check for $1,000 and we took six large boxes of items for the Hope Totes to the Open Door Mission.
Deacon Cheryl Harris