Page 16 - Presbyterian Connection
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Blessed to be a Blessing
    By the Rev. Germaine M. Lovelace and the St. Mark’s Helpers at St. Mark’s (Malton) Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont.
As we answer the call to follow Je- sus, we are in a great way giving ourselves for service and making ourselves available to be used by God in places of need around us. We remember the beginning of Jesus’ well-known discussion with his dis- ciples in Matthew 25:35–40: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me some- thing to drink...”
The past two years have been rough for people across the world. Many have seen their lives changed in significant ways, and many have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks in Mississauga, Ont., have been stretched to their limits and have had to call on businesses and the gov-
ernment for help, as more and more people are finding it hard to get by.
It was out of this awareness of the increasing needs around us that our congregation started to reach out to members of our community who required financial help. Some folks called or came to the church look- ing for assistance, while others were referred to us by members of our own church family. Through the kind- ness of our congregation, we have been providing food items to several families, as well as gift cards, so that people can manage a little easier dur- ing tough times.
For the past two years, we’ve been blessed by the generosity of Burn- brae Farms as they gifted our church with 1,500 pounds of non-perishable food items.
As church families and faith com- munities rise to the occasions of need in their areas, they are challenged by this conversation in Matthew’s gos- pel. This was our challenge over a year ago when we started to feed the hungry and reach out to those in need through our ministry, which later became the St. Mark’s Helpers. The St. Mark’s Helpers grew out of a need to assist our fellow commu- nity members who are struggling with income or housing insecurity. The Helpers became a new ministry of the family of St. Mark’s in early
2020. Their early outreach activi- ties included sorting, packaging and delivering food donations to a small number of individuals and families in our community.
At the end of last year, we distrib- uted Christmas hampers to some families in Malton. The hampers in- cluded non-perishable food items, gift cards, items of clothing, toilet- ries, hygiene supplies and toys for families who have children. These families were able to spend Christ- mas without worrying where their meals would come from. They also experienced what Jesus describes in Matthew 25 and their hope for the future will be rekindled.
We continue to help a large num- ber of the families we had helped last year on a monthly basis, as the reports have shown that more and more people are turning to food banks for assistance. With the price of food and other grocery items sky- rocketing, many families have had to depend on the generosity of food banks and aid agencies in order to survive on a monthly basis.
The St. Mark’s church family hears Matthew 25:35–40 clearly and also have heard Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received so freely give.” Our entire church family has heard these calls of the gospel, as each month different individuals rise to the occasion and donate items of food, clothes or gift cards to help other families who are struggling.
The Helpers have assisted several people who struggle to get out to the food bank for a variety of reasons. A few of the friends they’ve assisted include: a woman who has been battling cancer and lives alone with no other family residing in Canada; people who have been evicted; a grandmother who became responsi- ble for the care of her daughter’s four children after her daughter and her husband died in 2020; a senior liv- ing alone, who struggles with several health problems.
There are numerous others.
The kindness and love of the St. Mark’s church family, who continue to respond to the call of Jesus to be his hands and feet in the world, is part of what makes our commu- nity special. From the numerous gift cards collected since July 2020 (now totalling over $1,000) to the numer- ous drop-offs of groceries, toiletries and clothing, they have been a tre- mendous blessing.
Tara’s reflection on
being a Helper
I was born in this beautifully unique and diverse community and have lived here for over 50 years. Howev- er, the lack of affordable housing, and the few, if any, raises to minimum wage or social assistance rates, not to mention the repeated cuts to bene- fits have left many people barely able to put food on the table.
Within the last 10–15 years, the community of Malton has witnessed more and more of its citizens strug- gling. There are families and young people whose present living situa- tion involves needing to “couch surf” from month to month. Malton has also seen more tent cities pop up in the forested areas of public green spaces.
On top of this, the effects of a hor- rendous pandemic have only added more challenges to the mix of fami- lies and individuals on the edge of survival. This is also a struggle expe- rienced by several families who were comfortably getting by, and even thriving, until suddenly their worlds had been turned upside down by the pandemic.
The Helpers Ministry actually be- gan, in conversation, in August 2019. By the grace of God, it has contin- ued to grow. As someone who has been so blessed to be part of it, I re- ally have seen the hope and love of my church’s family come together to provide for others in such a plethora of ways.
Our Christmas Hamper project, I believe, is a great example. A Christ-
mas Hamper is a special gift from the entire family of St. Mark’s because, as we help provide for others, it is our attempt to mimic the ultimate gift we all were provided with when Our Al- mighty Father of Love and Grace sent His Son the Christ Child, Jesus.
In our second year, our church family doubled the number of ham- pers and increased the number of gifts provided from within, further growing our goal to make them feel special. Through donations, we were able to provide each client with brand-new winter accessories, a special Christmas gift, goodies and gift cards for a local grocery store to purchase fresh food to go with their non-perishable food items. Our local Community Centre donated a turkey for each hamper, and gift bags of items were sent from our MPP and City Councillor.
What makes this such an incred- ible Holy Spirit-led endeavour to me is that the Helpers received all of the items needed (plus some surprises!) through the generous donations of the St. Mark’s Church family.
And how did the Helpers get their name?
The Rev. Germaine made an an- nouncement toward the end of an online service that this ministry was looking for a name. Right before the feed cut out, I saw his young son, Secoya, rush up to the pulpit and say, “Dad! What about St. Mark’s Helpers?”
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fa- tling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

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