Church feeds community as cost of living crisis hits

25 August 2022

Communications Officer Rebekah Moffett speaks to Clyde Thomas, leader pastor at Victory Church, Cwmbran, about a new way they’ve started bringing hope to their community.

It’s obvious from Scripture that the Church’s role is to support those in need. Jesus speaks many times about taking care of the widow and the orphan, of feeding the hungry, taking care of the oppressed. God exhorts his people in Isaiah 58:10:

“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”

One church in Cwmbran, Wales, has very much taken this verse to heart, setting up a new grocery store with the aim of helping those struggling to afford food in the current cost of living crisis.

Victory Grocery Store

Victory Grocery Store was established by Victory Church, in partnership with CBN, Operation Blessing, “to help local families who are being hit-hard by the sudden rise in costs. Members can shop twice a week, for as little as £4 and this includes everything you need to put food on the table for your family.”

Anyone can join for annual membership of just £5. Members can then visit the store twice a week for as little as £4 and pick up:

  • 5 fresh fruit and vegetables
  • A loaf of fresh bread
  • 2 diary items (such as milk and eggs)
  • 8 cupboard items
  • 1 frozen item
  • 1 personal care item.

Not only that, but membership also entitles families to access a range of courses and individual support completely for free.

The grocery store also brings the community together by relying on local businesses and individuals to support the venture, who can either partner with the store to buy stock, donate money to fund it, or even host a collection point to gather stock and donate food and excess stock from their own stores.

‘Following in the footsteps of our founder’

Since the scheme started, the church has seen 350 families sign up to become members. Clyde Thomas, lead pastor at Victory Church, says simply they were following a call to be faithful: “Jesus fed 5000 people with a few loaves and fish; we are simply following in the footsteps of our founder, trusting Jesus for the provision to supply all the families that are coming through our doors. Nobody should have to choose between eating and heating.”

I spoke to Clyde about what inspired the project.

Hi Clyde, thanks for speaking to us about this exciting new project, Victory Grocery Store. What was the inspiration behind starting it?

At the early stages of 2020, we began to reimagine food provision and what it could look like within the life of the local church. We passionately believe that the challenges in today’s world are great opportunities for the church, and more importantly, for the gospel of Christ.

Torfaen, like many parts of the UK has a huge number of people using food banks and many in food poverty. People are literally choosing between heating and eating, as the church, we must do something.

We realised that traditional food bank models often leave people where they are, offering little in the way of empowerment out of poverty. They also tend to operate on a hand-out rather than a hand-up model, which tends to not prioritise the dignity of the individual.

Jesus’ most powerful moments on earth were often in the context of restoring dignity and elevating the oppressed; think woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus, or the beggar carried through the roof to meet Jesus! All of these examples, and more, point to a Jesus who restores the image of God in people’s lives.

We believe churches’ food provisions can carry this same message to hurting humanity.

And the result was Victory Grocery Store.

Yes, the result was a store where people choose what they want, from a selection of fresh produce, refrigerated and frozen products as well as fresh bakery, cupboard and personal care items. People pay £5 annual membership and can shop twice a week for £4. They can also buy extras if they want, and the profit goes back into running the shop and supplying the £4 shop.

What successes have you seen with the store so far?

We have already seen people coming to events within the life of the church, we have prayed for people in the shop and had many asking questions and stunned as to why the church is motivated to offer such a provision.

That’s really encouraging. I’m sure it’s not without its challenges, though?

The biggest challenge is trusting God for the provision. We don’t use out of date produce as we want to really value the families within our community. When we do things excellently, it values people well.

We are also trusting God for more business partners to enable us to start shops in other communities around us.

How would you encourage others who are thinking of starting a similar ministry, or wanting to reach out to their community in similar ways?

Go for it! God is seriously faithful to His word. When we look after the poor, we lend to the Lord. Too many people talk about ideas but never do anything, don’t put it off, start today!

Finally – you were one of the church leaders involved with the legal challenge of church lockdown during the Covid pandemic, back in 2020 and 2021. What have you been up to since then? And now that churches are free to open again, how would encourage churches to start reaching their communities again?

We’ve continued to do mission both locally and globally – I’m about to head to Sofia, where we planted a congregation in 2018!

We are housing, feeding, and clothing Ukrainians who have fled their country. Locally, we are housing men and women in our Hope Centres, offering Christian discipleship and rehabilitation from drug and alcohol abuse. We are about to start a new ministry activation year in September, and we are continuing to plant churches locally.

I am ridiculously passionate about the church gathering and I think that many people have valued our high view of the local church and our commitment to mission. This is probably why we have come out of the last season strong.

I would encourage leaders to think creatively, seize the opportunities that this moment offers, don’t panic about how many people are seated with you on a Sunday, but rather, keep focusing on sending people missionally to their world!

What an encouragement! Thank you Clyde. We continue to uphold you, Victory Church and Victory Grocery Store in our prayers.

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