Oasis closes doors, but new soup kitchen in the works

Prineville Nazarene Church hopes to open a new facility as part of their Redemption House Ministries program


by: BILL MINTIENS - Matt Huff, pastor of Prineville Nazarene Church.

Since 2007, one Calvary Chapel of Crook County's ministries has been feeding the community's hungry and poor at The Oasis soup kitchen.

However, on Nov. 15, the kitchen served its last meal, closing the doors at its local Deer Street location.

Six days a week, the Oasis had been serving lunch to between 50 and 80 people. In 2007 alone, the soup kitchen served more than 14,000 meals to hungry people.

In a recent letter to supporters, Calvary Chapel’s Pastor Rory Rodgers wrote, “Through much prayer, fasting, and discussion, we have sensed the Lord leading our fellowship in another direction of ministering the gospel.”

Rodgers added, “We want to concentrate on making more disciples, reaching out to the youth in our community, the foster care system, and other areas in which we feel we are being led.”

Calvary’s board felt that they weren’t in a position to give the Oasis the attention it deserves. “One of the reasons that we’re releasing it is that our board felt they couldn’t give it proper attention to make it what it could and should be,” said Rodgers.

“We also felt that providing a break in preparing and serving meals might be a good thing. Over the years, we’ve noticed fewer starving people (coming to Oasis) and more people who are actually capable of preparing their own meals, but who just enjoyed being there and hanging out.”

The break that Rodgers refers to is the time between the Nov. 15 closure and the planned opening of a new soup kitchen under the leadership and direction of the Prineville Nazarene Church.

Earlier this year, the Nazarene Church planted a separate non-profit ministry, called Redemption House Ministries, in Prineville. Born from what the church perceived as an ongoing need in Prineville for shelter and food, Redemption House began offering shelter to women and children in January.

Pastor Matt Huff has felt the community need since arriving in Prineville about six years ago.

“When we first got here, there was a need for ministry to broken and addicted people. We volunteered at The Oasis and realized there was also need for a safe place for people to stay. This is why we opened Redemption House in January (2013.) It has six beds and we are pretty much always full.”

Huff realized the need for shelter and food was much greater than what a six-bed facility with kitchen amenities could provide.

“We could probably fill a 15-20 bed facility every night because there aren’t women’s shelters in the area. The ladies that stay at Redemption House prepare their own food. And that’s not even addressing the need for a men’s shelter.”

Calvary Chapel’s need to move in a new direction, ministry-wise, coincided nicely with the Nazarene Church’s desire to offer both shelter and food to the needy within Crook County.

“I talked with Rory (Rodgers) and we both thought that Redemption House Ministries might be the logical organization to take it over because we were thinking about a combination shelter and soup kitchen anyway,” said Huff.

Both pastors had hoped that a smooth ownership transition could take place while The Oasis was still open — but it didn’t turn out that way. The lease on the building expired this month, and the building had to be vacated before the Nazarene Church could put their plans into motion.

Because the Nazarene’s vision for providing shelter and meals through Redemption House Ministries is challenging and expansive, it hinges on the arrival of a new executive director.

Greg Sanders, currently living in Arizona, has been hired to plan and lead the expansion of the Redemption House Ministries’ vision. Having previously served as Lead Chaplain with the Kansas City Rescue Mission, Greg is well-suited to the challenge. He begins his new position Dec. 1.

“I worked with Greg in the past and he’s the right guy to take Redemption House to the next level,” said Huff.

Part of the challenge is to find a facility in Prineville large enough to house and feed a larger number of people on a daily basis. The present Redemption House building is too small for any type of expansion.

“Our present building is maybe 500 square feet. We need to find a building with enough space to house at least 40 people — and have space for a soup kitchen — and maybe most importantly, a space that we can afford,” said Huff.

The church’s board is trying to find a suitable short-term fix until a longer-term solution can be found.

“The church board has agreed to let us use the church gym temporarily as a soup kitchen if we need to do that. But we want to wait until Greg arrives before we decide to launch anything,” added Huff.

The Nazarene Church’s vision for the new facility is all about helping people during a difficult time in their lives.

“We don’t just want to feed and shelter people. We want to help people get to a point where they don’t need a soup kitchen or a shelter. We don’t want to enable people to stay in the situation they’re in. We want this to be a steppingstone to get them where they need to be,” explained Huff.

“It’s not just a handout — but a hand-up. The meal is the touch point. Now, what can we do to help people become more self-sufficient?”

The church’s vision and dreams are tempered by the realities of funding.

“We’re toying with the idea of creating a café-type setting, open to everyone in town (not just people in need) in order to meet the soup kitchen need, but also as a fundraiser for Redemption House,” said Huff.

“People would pay as much as they can afford for a meal — or more if they are able, or volunteer in the kitchen. Perhaps a job training program can be part of this café setting as well.”

The Nazarene Church specifically set Redemption House Ministries up as a non-profit organization in order to garner community involvement and support. The goal is to enlist the help and support of all area churches, civic organizations, and residents.

“We’re encouraging other churches and organizations to help support and finance this effort,” Huff said. “We want this to be a community effort.”




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