Bread of Life offers food to those in need

| 11 Apr 2012 | 02:17

    NEWTON — It was cold, it was rainy, but people still needed to eat. Twelve combined youth from the First United Methodist Church of Newton and the Sparta United Methodist Church showed up at Memory Park in Newton on Saturday morning to assist volunteers from the Newton Presbyterian Church in serving food as part of the Bread of Life Ministry. The middle-schoolers were put to work setting up tents to offer some reprieve against the wet weather, laying out the dishes and platters of food, serving diners and then cleaning up. When not serving or otherwise working behind the tables, many members of the junior high youth groups could be found chatting with those who came out for a meal. It was a chance for these students to give back to their community and to gain a little perspective. The Bread of Life Ministry was started seven years ago by Sussex County resident Bruce Piper after he was asked by a friend to ride to Newark to serve food and distribute clothing. After spending a day helping those in need, he left a changed man. “The experience for me was profound,” Piper said. “I saw almost every walk-of-life come to us that day. Many suffering from addiction, prostitution, homeless, elderly, young children, gang members and all had one thing in common. They needed something we could give or share.” Returning to Sussex County, Piper felt called to begin a similar ministry. “Trust me, this was not something I really wanted to do, or had the first idea of how to start,” Piper said. “I mentioned the idea in church and asked anyone interested to see me. I was surprised to find eight to 10 people who wanted to help me move this forward.” Now the Bread of Life Ministry operates every Saturday morning from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Memory Park and is manned by volunteers from area churches all year long, moving inside the Newton Presbyterian Church during the coldest winter months. Matthew Querns, the Youth Director for both the First United Methodist Church of Newton and Sparta United Methodist Church, combines the youth groups for their monthly service projects, and the Bread of Life Ministry is one that is regularly put on the calendar for both the middle school students and the high schoolers. “One reason that the Bread of Life experience is so powerful for our teens is that they are able to minister in service and in fellowship,” Querns said. ““I chose this ministry in the beginning because the teens get to both serve the people a warm meal and visit with them — service and fellowship.” In that one-hour time frame, members of the junior high youth groups helped disadvantaged people make plates of hotdogs and macaroni salad followed by coffee and dessert. They also filled takeout boxes with food for people to bring to their families, giving them the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. “While the teens are great with the service aspect, they are sometimes timid when it comes to socializing with their guests,” Querns explained. “This project works to bring them out of their comfort zone.” People in need of a hot meal know that they can receive one every Saturday morning in Newton as they gather together in the park, and the Bread of Life Ministry serves not only them, but those who do the serving as well. “Through the fellowship aspect of this project, the teens learn that homeless or disadvantaged people are not always the stereotype. Usually, they are just like you and me,” said Querns.