I have to say my eyes were opened Wednesday afternoon.
Before Wednesday afternoon, I knew of the Gospel Cafe because it was a restaurant in our restaurant listings within the cafes and diners directory. It's located on the corner of South 10th Street and Cleveland Avenue. It has not been rated or reviewed yet, so I didn't know much more about it.
I figured the name Gospel Cafe was just a name, a positive association for a restaurant.
It turns out, it means what its name states. Like Gospel as in "Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people (Matthew 4:19)."
The Gospel Cafe serves lunch for free from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. Some of my friends were volunteering there on Wednesday and they filled me in, so I kind of knew what to expect when I arrived a little after 1 p.m. I thought I might have a piece of pie and some coffee.
But what I found when I arrived changed my expectations. Instead of diving into a piece of pie, I stood in the long line of people waiting to be seated. That didn't bother me though. It gave me a chance to visit with nice people whom I might not have encountered otherwise.
Whether or not we see it every day, we should realize that a ministry like the one the Gospel Cafe offers is vital to many people's lives in our town.
I spoke with cafe manager John Cowley inside the well-appointed and air-conditioned dining room. He told me the Gospel Cafe is a ministry of CrossTies Ecumenical Church, which has been a part of its neighborhood for more than 20 years. The church meets in the same room where patrons of the Gospel Cafe enjoyed lunch on Wednesday.
CrossTies began the Gospel Cafe and another area ministry, the Talitha Koum Institute, in order to help people in the neighborhood rise up out of poverty conditions. Cowley said the cafe owes its success to volunteers.
"We couldn't do this without volunteers," Cowley said. "We have several churches in town that send us volunteers to help serve meals throughout the year."
Wednesday's volunteers had their hands full as the Gospel Cafe was a popular spot. They estimated they served more than 200 in a two-hour period.
Kitchen manager Sherry Castello echoed Cowley's appreciation of volunteers. However — and this is normally where I would give you contact information if you wanted to volunteer — Castello stressed that it takes working knowledge of the cafe in order to effectively help out. She said anyone is welcome to volunteer, but it generally works better if potential volunteers come by and have a meal at the cafe before volunteering.
Castello said the cafe will be closed for summer break beginning June 25, but will re-open on August. 10.