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Lidia Silva never imagined she was also “called to serve” at Calvin Theological Seminary when she and her pastor husband, Thiago, left Brazil for his theological studies at the seminary.

Although she is a trained and licensed nurse-midwife in Brazil, Lidia Silva is still improving her language skills and is not yet ready to seek licensure in Michigan.

So she was happy to accept the coordinator position at the Idema Food Pantry, which was established in 1997, while she continues to strengthen her English speaking and comprehension.

Jim Farman, facilities assistant, says he has never seen the Food Pantry neater, cleaner, or more used. 

Too many ripe bananas? Silva gave students a recipe for banana preserves as well as samples to entice them. She introduced them to quail and venison donated by generous hunters and stocked in the freezer.

Silva, who is analytical and friendly, draws from her gifts as both a nurse and a pastor’s wife. The shelves are logically organized, product is neatly arranged, and student preferences are carefully tracked.

She offers suggestions on how to use food that might be unfamiliar to student shoppers. Usage of the pantry has quadrupled because of her service and promotion.

While it may be surprising to think of Calvin Seminary offering a food pantry, students appreciate having access to it. As long as they are below 200 percent of U.S. federal poverty income guidelines, they qualify for free food.

Most students in seminary are sacrificing jobs and incomes in order to complete their studies and follow their ministry callings.

Students also want to stay out of debt as much as possible, so they limit loans and choose to live as simply as they can. At the Idema Food Pantry, Isaiah 55:1 takes on new meaning: “you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”

Every week Silva receives a donation of food from the organization Food Share. She is also able to order specific items from Feeding America West Michigan. The funding needed to secure these food supplies comes from donor gifts—a great way for a donor friend of the seminary to directly benefit students in a very practical way.

Silva explained that fresh fruit and vegetables as well as milk are the most desired at the pantry. 

“When we run low, especially on milk, we pray and God provides.”

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