For half a year now, the world has been facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting fallout. For many, this gives rise to fear and anxiety for ourselves and those nearest to us. After weeks of calm, COVID-19 infections have begun to rise in some Australian states. In Victoria, restrictions on leaving homes as well as bans on social gatherings have returned. Many venues are again closed; including restaurants, cinemas, pubs, and churches. There are restrictions on commerce and shopping. The entire state of Victoria has been placed in isolation from the rest of Australia.
Although we’ve had some time to acclimate to this state of affairs, the population of Australia and the world remains in shock and fear, accompanied by pain and future uncertainty.
A few weeks ago in the Dandenong Polish Seventh-day Adventist church, a group of “open-hearted enthusiasts”—Joseph and Tom Kasprzak, Wojtek Klauza, and Associate Pastor Josh Stadnik— initiated a beautiful program to help the poorest among us.
Opening the church doors for community members to join a socially-distanced line in the church hall, three groups from the church were formed to host those poorest and most exposed to the virus on one evening each week. These multi-generational groups are rotated on a weekly basis, though the eagerness of many in the church cannot be contained! Each week, members call in to see if there is any way they can lend a helping hand.
This includes serving people who are alone, homeless, alcoholic, and drug addicts—these are our neighbors that Jesus spoke about! These are people who need our help, especially at this time. These are people without a roof over their heads, who were often simply unlucky in life. Most of them have lost their homes, their families—they have lost themselves through the multiple whirlwinds coalescing in their lives.
Every Monday between 6-8 pm, about 40 people arrive from the surrounding area and are given a warm meal. The church hall was previously open for 20 people to dine-in, though visitors now receive their food in a takeaway box. On the way out, everyone can take a bag filled with breakfast products and fruit. In the car park, operating from his ‘mobile café’, Damian Klauza serves hot tea, coffee, and other drinks together with sweet buns.
A different group from the church’s older generation collects food products that are delivered to addresses designated by the Dandenong City Council. These are often single mothers and unmarried families with many children.
Whilst continuing to abide by frequently changing restrictions, the ADRA kitchen has continued to be a way to serve the community in difficult times. Let us keep our eyes and hearts open to our neighbors. May God help us in this.