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March 23, 2012 - 

For over a year, members of West Olive (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church have been serving monthly dinners. But unlike church suppers held in churches, the food is delivered to a nearby manufactured home community, West Olive Estates.

Residents of West Olive Estates socialize and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

“We’re happy just to provide something that shows the love of Christ to our neighbors and brings our community closer together,” said Scott DeVries, pastor of the church.

The food is prepared offsite by a handful of members and served buffet-style at West Olive Estate’s clubhouse to 80 to 90 people. Free-will donations generally offset the costs.

DeVries has enjoyed ministering to many people “going through hard times financially, physically, and emotionally,” he said. “A couple of times I’ve even been stopped in the grocery store or at a restaurant because someone recognized me and wanted to share an update. I’ve found there are many people in our communities who do not have a solid relationship to a church and would really appreciate knowing a pastor they can talk to.”

The dinners have also helped foster greater community within the large mobile home park.

The idea came from West Olive CRC member Marge Van Horn, 80, herself a resident of West Olive Estates. A friend who organizes a similar ministry in a nearby city encouraged her to make it happen. “It’s a lot of work,” she said. “I love it. . . . It’s been a good outreach.”

One family that attends the dinners has been sending their girls to the church’s GEMS program and has attended a couple of worship services; however, such a ministry isn’t merely about filling the pews.

“[It] needs to be about serving the needs of others [and] about creating opportunities for the congregation members to do the stuff we’re always talking about: loving our neighbor, reaching out to our community, acting out the love of Jesus, and telling our neighbors what Jesus means to us,” DeVries said. “Each passing month we are better prepared to welcome our neighbors at our doors.”

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