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The Open Door



By Kathy de Smidt


The other evening, we attended an open community meeting (advertised on our Church whats’app group) concerning U-turn and their plans for opening a new service centre in the Methodist Church Hall in Church Street, Wynberg. Quite a few of us from St John’s Church attended. This organisation equips people and communities with skills to overcome homelessness, and their service centres are usually the first point of contact.


It was pointed out that many churches and organisations in Wynberg are working together to try and make this happen. It reminded me of another similar initiative started in 1977, called The Open Door, that I had the joy of being part of from its early days.


I was 21, (pictured above with Brian and young Mathew in 1977) had just become a new mother and had stopped working as a social worker at the Cape Town City Mission Homes for Children. While I enjoyed being a mom, I missed the opportunities to connect with people other than babies. We were members of Wynberg Baptist Church at the time and our church’s big hall was the ideal venue to host the Open Door, so I asked my mom if she could look after baby Mathew every Monday for a few hours, while I went to serve meals at the Open Door. (The picture to the right is from a church booklet) I absolutely loved it (and I think granny did too). Tasty meals were prepared on site and the team of volunteers serving that day each brought a dessert to serve with the meal. I was happy to help regularly, until Brian and I move to the Seychelles, thus beginning a life-time of cross-cultural service.


I read about the part St John's parish played in this Open Door initiative in an article by Rose and Ken Clack in the ‘100 years of God’s Grace, the Story of Christ Church, Kenilworth’:


“Although all the Wynberg churches were part of the plan, Christ Church under David Prior was very much involved. Ken Clack became the manager and had a wonderful team of voluntary helpers each day, from different churches, who took it in turn to prepare and serve the lunches. House churches used to take it in turn to make meals.


“It was a popular place to eat as at the time there was no eating place in Wynberg for anyone who was not classified ‘white’. People from all walks of life, cultural and economic backgrounds, sat together to enjoy the tasty and substantial meal.


“At the time of Open door’s first anniversary, it was reported that in the first year, 5997 meals, each at a cost of 35c, had been prepared and served. As the menu for the special celebration was roast beef the price on this day was raised to 50c!


“Counsellors were also available when the need arose and many opportunities presented themselves to share life experiences and talk about Jesus.”


In September/October 1998, Peter Holgate wrote in the Parish Profile, “This community project based at Wynberg Baptist Church has been operating for 21 years. Over the past year 21,990 lunch meals were served to the needy and destitute people, including the many vagrants who live in the area – an average of 96 per day, Mondays to Fridays. Each day an average of 65 meal tickets distributed by local churches are redeemed.


“The Parish plays a significant role in this. There is a need both for funds and for voluntary help to assist in keeping the Open Door “open” and a plea goes out for more volunteer helpers. Ron Douglas from Christ Church continues to assist in the management of the project.


“All praise to God for his generosity shown through his people in keeping this ministry alive and relevant in the heart of Wynberg.”


The Open Door finally stopped functioning in 2005.


It would be wonderful if there were many from St John’s who got behind this initiative by U-Turn in Wynberg. As they say: ‘Be a Hero. Get involved.’ You can read more about this excellent organisation here.

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