Norwich Christian food ministry changes hands
On Monday May 13 following five years of dedicated service, Pearl Bayliss handed over the keys and the leadership of the Norwich based Christian food ministry, God’s Provisions, to Carrie Sant of City Saints in Action.
Over the past five years under the prayerful leadership of Pearl Bayliss, God’s Provisions has grown from a prophesy to a vital ministry distributing free food to thousands of needy people across Norfolk.
As Pearl steps down, City Saints in Action, an informal group of Christians from across churches in Norwich, who already run a multifaceted service including a furniture and household goods project and social activities, will take ownership of the ministry and the well-stocked storage unit.
God’s Provisions provides food to people in crisis, many of whom do not fall within the guidelines for provision by Foodbank. These may be people who have extended waits for benefits, those who cannot physically collect food parcels and organisations such as hostels which have run out of food. Food comes from stock that is discarded due to best before dates by supermarkets and other distribution agencies.
The original prophesy and vision for the project was based on the word Malachi 3v10 where God says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Pearl reflects: “God literally did that. We grew from two little boxes of food, to two pallets to four pallets to outgrowing our storage unit and having to find somewhere else to go. And then we had 12 tonnes of food delivered. It’s just got bigger and bigger. The more we give out the more God replaces.”
Along with the growth of the project Pearl has also seen a real increase in need. She said: “It is frightening. People come to us who just haven’t got any money at all. Even with Foodbank, there are still a lot of people who fall through the net and these are the people who now we really cater for.
“They can have as much food as they want. We have never turned anyone away. I can say that in the last six months there is double the quantity of food that has gone out. And that is with Foodbank running as well.”
Prayer has been a huge part of Pearl’s leadership and she can testify to many times where God has answered her prayers and directed her actions. She has never advertised the service but people in need find her. She has acquired the use of a professional, double storage unit for a fraction of the advertised price and a benefactor to sponsor the project just when it was needed.
And now that Pearl feels that she has come to the end of a season with God’s Provisions, she has found someone in Carrie Sant and City Saints in Action ideally placed to hand the ministry over to.
City Saints in Action exists to serve people who are socially excluded. This exclusion ranges from extreme social isolation such as being housed in property with no furniture, fixtures, carpets and white goods to social marginalization, failing to recover from long-term mental and physical illness, having low self-esteem or displacement because of isolation and loneliness.
Asked about her plans for the project, Carrie said: “Pearl’s heart and mine are very much the same in this. Each day is a new adventure as we wait to see how God will lead and what He will do next. His provision and timing is constantly amazing.”
The food will now be distributed by the City Saints in Action’s Blessing Van, which is used to collect and give out household goods to, among others, refugees, people transitioning from hostels into accommodation after a phase of homelessness, or those being re-housed after fleeing domestic violence. The team has worked with over 20 different agencies and distributed £27,000 worth of household goods between April 2011 and April 2012.
Another aspect of the project’s service is the Monday Club which takes place at St Augustine's Church Hall on Mondays, 10am - 12noon. City Saints host a class for asylum seekers and refugees to learn English, run by English + under the leadership of Rosie Sexton. At 1pm there is a free open table lunch, open to anyone, which is an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to meet together, develop friendships and meet people who can offer opportunities to do voluntary work or advice and encouragement. City Saints invite people they meet on the van or who are referred from elsewhere to both these events
On Saturday evenings once a fortnight at St Augustine's Church Hall, City Saints in Action host a social night called ‘Stranding Together’, where they play games, plan outings, have soup and hot drinks and generally have fun together.
As Pearl delights in the transition of God’s Provisions into safe hands, she reflects on her time leading the work: “I just thank God for allowing me to be His servant really in doing this. I’ve grown in my Christian walk as well, knowing that I have to trust in God 100%, because without God I couldn’t have done this at all.”
Photo: Pearl Bayliss (second from right) hands over keys to Carrie Sant, watched by God's Provision supporter Mrs Betty Rathbone (right) and City Saints in Action's Sophie (left).
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