If you haven't popped down to Te Ao Ngakau on a Tuesday lunchtime yet, I would highly recommend you do. There is an amazing thing unfolding in our little community centre. Remember in our study of the book of Luke last year how often people ate together? And how Jesus kept reminding his followers not to exclude anyone from the dinner table but to make everyone welcome? Well, that's exactly what's happening here... anyone from the community is welcome to gather together for a free lunch.
The food on offer is healthy, colourful and delicious. Here's a sample of some of the dishes we've served: roast pumpkin and chickpeas with chipotle sauce; caramelised red onions; roasted kumara; honey-glazed baby carrots; baked Brussel sprouts; red cabbage, corn and capsicum salad; butternut chips; home-made tomato sauce; coleslaw; roasted mushrooms; buttered cabbage; bean salad with corn and orange; guacamole; garlic bread; egg and salad rolls; tuna mayo on ciabatta; fresh fruit salad. There's tea and coffee and a selection of sweet treats to finish.
The majority of the ingredients we use come from Countdown across the road. At the start of the morning Jane and I head in to the store. Sunil, the bakery manager, has set aside for us a trolley or two stacked with bakery items that didn't sell by their best-before date. Robert, the produce manager, takes our empty trolley and reappears with it now containing four big boxes of over-ripe or imperfect fruit and veges. We pile up our boots and drive to Te Ao Ngakau where Tania, Rita and two other op-shop volunteers are waiting to help us unload this bounty.
Before we start diving into the boxes and discussing recipes, we take a moment to thank God for his incredible provision of food and to ask his blessing on our day. It's so much fun opening our mystery boxes of produce. We can't plan our menus in advance because we never know what the boxes will contain. We simply work with what we get. The team of volunteers is incredible - creative, hard-working and excited about producing good food. Any leftover bread, buns, fruit and vegetables are placed on a large table for our guests to take home. Any leftovers from the leftovers are taken to the community cupboard beside Sylvia Park School so nothing goes to waste.
Even before 12 o'clock rolls around, people are gathering in Te Ao Ngakau. Many of our guests have a connection with Tania, which is why they come. She is such a people magnet! Word is starting to spread about the lunch - one couple saw a notice at the Warehouse; other guests have been invited by MWCC people. We get around 20 guests each week. It's great having MWCC people come to eat and talk with the visitors.
I love so many aspects of the community lunch. I love that people are eating together. I love that everyone is welcome. I love that people are eating vegetables and talking about vegetables as they eat. I love that the food we're using to feed people would otherwise have been thrown out. And I love that I get to be part of this amazing ministry. Remember, everyone is welcome so if you're free at 12pm any Tuesday (except school holidays), come along and eat with us. We'd love to have you.