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Lockdown Stories: Contagious Compassion

Catalyst Vineyard Church

Catalyst Vineyard usually does lots of compassion ministry with people on the margins of society. But as a result of the lockdown, they’ve had to suspend all of their face-to-face ministries – from drop-ins, courses, prisons ministry, community chaplaincy and CAP Debt help. Catalyst has had to adapt their foodbank to a delivery model, and have introduced a couple of new services to meet new and emerging needs in their community.

Ross Sutherland shared with us what Catalyst has been getting up to!

  • We’re cooking and delivering cooked meals for individuals and families who can’t afford food or can’t get out to shop and who have no other reliable support. We’re delivering 3 times a week to around 56 households, feeding 90 people.
  • We’ve organised a telephone befriending service for people who are isolated which has seen a team of 20 volunteers spending more than 62 hours on phone with 59 vulnerable or isolated people twice a week since the end of March. We’re hearing some lovely stories of people being prayed for and expressing gratitude for the contact. 
  • We heard, through some of our NHS friends, that the patients being brought into the Covid-19 wards came in unexpectedly and therefore didn’t have essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste or deodorant etc. They are not allowed visitors and so many had no way of obtaining these things. A group of volunteers has started putting together little care & comfort packs and taking them into the COVID-19 wards. 
  • The prison we work with, HMP Grampian, has been unable to hold any religious services, so we’ve been recording services on DVD for them which they are playing into each of the cells via their TV distribution system.

The food bank numbers across all 8 of our sites have grown exponentially since the start of lockdown. Compared with the same seven-week period last year, we’ve provided around 3.5 times more food (5.5 tonnes v 1.5 tonnes) to around 4.5 times as many people (616 v 131). We’ve had SO much help from unexpected places, from Sky engineers who are distributing food from our central site to our satellites to a children’s entertainment company who saw what we were doing on Facebook and started using their characters to rally support and donations! Too many to mention really!

Here are a couple of encouraging stories since lockdown…

We’ve been supporting a couple who started receiving food from our food bank for the past three years after they suffered from poor health. We have seen them most weeks since. They have started collecting food at the end of their driveway for us too so that they can give back. The husband is currently using his van to deliver food for those in need for another company. At the end of a delivery shift, he had food left in his van that would have been thrown away, but he saw one of our vans out and about on its rounds. He jumped out of his work van and flagged our van down to give us all the food. It was taken into the city centre to be used to feed people with hot cooked meals. What an amazing story of being blessed and then being a blessing!

When one of the volunteers noticed that one guy who we’ve supported via the foodbank for several years was turning up for food in shoes with massive holes in them, he brought in a brand new pair that he’d just bought for himself and gave them to him!Our site in the West of Aberdeen was recently moved there from an outlying area of the City. It had established a foodbank, but it was still embryonic before lockdown and was supporting limited numbers. The West site has amazing relationships with the local schools who approached them to help provide food for families of children who would have been eligible for free meals during the lockdown. Since the start of April, they’ve been providing 27 households, serving 112 people (40 adults and 72 children) with weekly food parcels. There was a little concern around whether they would have enough food to mee the need, but each week, they parked their church van up in the community in faith and waited for people to donate, and guess what? They’ve not once been short!

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