Many people feed the hungry, but not many invite them into their home. That is exactly what Ross and Sandy Cooper do.
For nearly two years, the Coopers, members of The River Christian Reformed Church in Redlands, Calif., have hosted a lunch gathering every Sunday.
“The Cooper home is a place of authentic Christian hospitality. They try to respond to the many needs that are presented to them,” said Rev. Will Verhoef, pastor of family life for The River CRC.
“Those who come include members of the congregation. Many are [homeless] or barely off the street,” said Verhoef. The informally named “Lunch Bunch” began with just a few people, but has grown to more than 50 each week. Invitation is mostly by word of mouth, and no RSVP is required.
“We provide a home atmosphere, where people can visit, eat, hang out, have Bible study, go to church, shower, and do their laundry. It has been called a ‘homeless vacation,’” said Sandy Cooper.
“Food just sort of shows up each week, sometimes as gifts from people or leftovers from other ministries, including food distribution ministries,” said Verhoef.
After lunch, about a dozen new Christians or seekers participate in an inductive Bible study. The group has studied Mark and Romans and is currently studying Matthew. Through this ministry, a number of people have become members of The River.
“We have seen the Lord provide for daily needs, including housing, jobs, and a sense of community,” said Sandy. “We also have been able to bring raw needs and tough circumstances to the Lord in prayer. We have seen people eagerly study the Bible and even tearfully share what they have learned.”
“Although some people come just for the food and some come just for the Bible study, most of us come for the community that has developed; we are a family who shares with each other,” said Ross Cooper.