A profound question was asked, “If your church was gone, what would the surrounding community miss the most?” This question encouraged us to rethink how our church can best impact our community.
The truth is that the church exists because Jesus exists. We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community. We exist to serve because Jesus came to serve. A church that serves the community is a living and loving church.
One way that the Helena SDA Church is serving is through a plant-based cooking class geared towards engaging community members in learning about healthy eating through education, demonstration, and a free meal. The church recently completed its 4th cooking class. Themes have included Hispanic, Asian, picnic, and breakfast food. The next class is geared towards Thanksgiving food.
A lot of work happens behind the scenes before each class. The cooking class volunteers determine the next theme based on participant feedback forms and then meet to taste-test, critique, and improve the recipes. During each class, the participants receive a binder with the recipes, eat samples of the food, and watch as the volunteers present information on health principles and demonstrate how to make each dish.
Participants have shared that they appreciate the practicality of this ministry and its outreach to the community. Montana generally has a lack of vegetarian, plant-based, or other allergen-free options. The class provides an opportunity for people to experience a healthy variety of foods that they can make for themselves and their families. One participant commented that the food was “delicious” and that “it was nice to get to taste the dishes before trying to cook them.” Some participants mentioned that it was their first time trying tofu. Other participants were excited to share the recipes with family members with food allergies. A couple of days after the last class, one participant emailed us pictures of the recipes she followed and was excited and pleased at how "delicious" it turned out.
Attendance has consistently grown with each class—there are more than 25 regular participants. The most recent we have had is 36 participants. Most of these participants are from the community (31 from the community and five from the church). People learned about the class through flyers at the library and work, invitations from church members, and Facebook ads and events.
It has been a blessing to be able to develop and nurture more relationships within the community. This feeling seems to be mutual, as community members indicated it has been a pleasure to get to know the church members in their neighborhood. Developing connections has also opened the door to sharing other opportunities. Hopefully and prayerfully, we will continue to develop relationships, meet the community's needs, and share God's love in a practical way.