A soup kitchen for Portimao

Support for people without means in Portugal

André Mendes is one of six pastors of Lagoinha church in Portimao. For years, he, Pastor Antonio Cretano, Pastor Paulo Neved and a team of volunteers have been ensuring that people in need and homeless people on the streets receive a hot meal. They call themselves “Ação Social”, which means social project. But the Bible studies they offer are just as important to them. And many soak up these services because they are hungry – in body and soul. Martha says: “People usually look down on us and say that we stink, but when the team from the church comes, I feel acceptance and love and look forward to a hot meal.” There are many people like Martha in Portimao and the surrounding area. Due to COVID, the poverty rate has climbed to more than 20% in recent years.

From Superbook to Operation Blessing

That’s why André Mendes asked the CBN ministry Operation Blessing for support in the summer of 2022. He has been working for a long time with the animation series Superbook, which delights many children in Lisbon, and he remembered that CBN also has a humanitarian branch – Operation Blessing. The employees saw a great opportunity for people on the street to be healed in body and soul. Pastor Mendes reported that the old soup kitchen was becoming increasingly unsuitable for the growing target group. A more powerful kitchen, at best an industrial kitchen, was needed. But where should it be installed? The previous building was not suitable and they had to find rooms that might even offer the possibility of a café.

A long way

At the same time, Pastor Mendes worked intensively with the Operation Blessing office in Germany to develop a concept that would support success and longevity. How many employees will be needed? How will they be recruited? How will they be trained? What does an industrial kitchen cost and how does it actually work? What are the maintenance costs? How do you pay for them? How can we offer nutritious meals to people in need? These were all questions that needed to be answered. Then the pastors decided that they wanted to use the rooms next to the church to serve these people. A smaller room that offered enough space for the kitchen and a large room that could be converted and designed as a café in the long run. The renovation work began. New and suitable wiring had to be installed and the walls and floors had to be renewed. Many people helped the service in the old soup kitchen continued. At the beginning of December 2023, the time had come: the industrial kitchen was delivered and installed. A trial run took place in the presence of two Operation Blessing representatives from Germany. The new industrial kitchen was now able to serve far more than 300 people instead of the previous 25. Head chef Ana Neved reported enthusiastically:

“In the old kitchen we could only cook on two days, now we can go into mass production on several days and our service to the homeless and drug addicts takes on a whole new dimension.” Tearfully, she adds: “And I will be able to help many more people in the name of Jesus.”

The kitchen opens

Delicious soups were served at the opening ceremony on December 12 and many people from the community came to celebrate this milestone and praise God. Pastor André Mendes summarized: “With the soup kitchen and the café that will soon be part of it here in our church, we were finally able to create a space where people in need can not only pick up food and then have to leave, but can simply be. We want to be there for them, encourage them and see them heal through Jesus’ love.” Stephan, who has been living on the streets for five years, confirms this, visibly moved: ” I’m hungry today and I’m about to get a warm meal to eat. Thank you to the staff. It’s so cool that you can be who you are here.”

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