The aroma of stir-fry and sizzling pot stickers permeates the air. Tables loaded with food, drink, clothing and toiletries abound. The sounds of the ‘60s blare through loudspeakers. Hordes of people waiting in line smile with anticipation, or sing and sway to the music. Workers are ready and waiting to serve.
This is not a festival or farmers market. It is the Tacoma Street Ministry, also known as the Friday Night Feed. Located in downtown Tacoma under the I-705 overpass, it serves some 150 to 300 people every Friday night, mostly consisting of homeless and low-income people. The spirit of the crowd is one of camaraderie and joy. Clearly, they are anticipating a good meal and food to carry for the next few days. There is an attitude of thanksgiving.
Key Peninsula resident Linda Brewer has been involved with the Tacoma Street Ministry for many years. She states that churches from all over Tacoma, Gig Harbor and even the Peninsula, as well as individuals, are involved in providing for the people in difficult financial circumstances.
There will always be the criticism of the needy in other countries vs. the needy in America. Brewer addresses that concern by saying, “Poverty hurts, hunger hurts, homelessness hurts, no matter where you are.”
That is the feeling of those who volunteer their time every Friday night. “Our names and the names of our churches are not important”, one volunteer says. “What matters are the needs of the people and meeting those needs.”
Pastor Ed Wren from Christian Bikers Tabernacle heads up this ministry. It was started some 20 years ago in another location in Tacoma but has moved around. He came along when it was waning and losing volunteers. His compassion for the down and out led him to get involved and reorganize a number of years ago. He bases this ministry on the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:35-36 in the Bible,
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came and visited me.” Pastor Ed’s congregation of bikers provides security, although there rarely are problems. They spend most of their time talking to the people and helping the volunteers.
Brewer, from Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, hands out blankets, sleeping bags, tells people about Jesus, and offers encouragement and her assistance wherever it is needed. Her passion for this ministry shows in her as an individual, and it shows in her church family. Brewer attends Chapel Hill in Gig Harbor and a large group regularly supports this ministry through giving of their time, talents and treasure.
Brewer and some of the volunteers remember when the Tacoma City Council wanted to shut the ministry down because councilmen felt it reflected poorly of their city. They were also unduly concerned about
crime. The volunteers wouldn’t hear of it. They set to praying and calling the media, who turned out in mass. It is interesting to note that the city council made an immediate about face and renewed the permit needed to continue the ministry.
One volunteer, who did not want to give his name, stated he comes to this ministry every Friday because he loves to help people in need. “But more so,” he says, “it gets my mind off me and all my petty problems. Being with these people puts life into the proper perspective.”