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Wyndham City Hunger Busters keep wheels turning on food relief


The Hunger Buster team: Tim Kite (second from left), James Te Waa, Adele James, Jan Wood, Judith Sutcliffe, Andrew Freer, Otineru Faatau. Sammy (far left) is a much-loved regular and says the Salvos ‘saved his life’.

 

It’s a bustling Friday night at Melbourne’s Werribee Train Station. Commuters abound, and station calls resound. Suddenly, looming high on the horizon, comes a shiny red bus – a big one adorned with colourful fish – and pulls up at the adjoining bus terminal. Affectionately named ‘Hunger Buster’, the bright attraction forms an integral part of Wyndham City Corps ‘Salvos on the Move’ outreach ministry to the local community – and it’s saving lives. Salvos Online writer LERISSE SMITH went along to discover why.

 

Friday nights are always bustling for the Wyndham City Corps ‘Salvos on the Move’ outreach ministry team, with many locals gathering for essential food relief.

It's a weekly ritual that some people simply could not do without.


With shopping bags under their arms and hearts full of hope, local community members congregate around Werribee’s train station bus terminal late on a Friday afternoon, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the shiny red Hunger Buster bus and its amazing volunteer team.


Its arrival around 5pm is a cause of much relief. As soon as the food bus doors open, the dedicated outreach ministry team, complete with never-ending smiles and a supportive listening ear, immediately set up generous trestle tables of fresh food, barbeques and hot drinks to provide essential support to those in need.

For many, it’s a lifesaver – a chance to quell the hunger pains.


“I simply do not have enough money to buy food,” says one gentleman waiting to be served.


“I have had to steal some food from supermarkets at times, which I don’t like doing and am ashamed to do because it’s not right, so I can eat. Coming here just helps me so much, and that someone asks me how I am doing and is interested in me.”


Another lady holding a much-loved sausage and bread in hand says the hot barbeque provided by the bus outreach ministry is the highlight of her week.


“It’s the only hot food I have during the week,” she said. “I am so very grateful they supply this to the community.”


Personal stories of hardship, loneliness and isolation are often heard on a Friday night – just ask Tim Kite, Ministry Assistant of Outreach at Wyndham City Corps, who has headed up its ‘Salvos on the Move’ outreach bus ministry during the past three years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for essential food relief has skyrocketed from about 50 people to more than 150 people lining up every Friday night. Numbers increased to well over 200 at Christmas.


Tim Kite, Ministry Assistant of Outreach at Wyndham City Corps, heads up the Salvos on the Move outreach ministry.

“I started with about four boxes of food,” Tim said. “Now we have over 40 boxes of food. Every Friday, there’s a big line now. There’s just such a great need that’s out there. We know people are living and camping in their cars and getting a meal at our bus. Some don't even have access to Centrelink payments. We do get people who are homeless, and some in need of just a conversation.”


While the numbers have increased, so has the team's determination to continue pouring hope, friendship and a listening ear into all those they meet and to treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter their circumstances.


And spurring the team on is the rich history of ’Salvos on the Move’ that began more than 18 years ago with a new lease of life injected into the service last year when CDC Victoria donated the new red bus.


The outreach ministry also has key donors – Second Bite and 7-Eleven Australia – which continually provide food from fresh fruit and vegetables to pre-prepared wraps and sandwiches. The produce varies throughout the year depending on stock and the seasons. However, fresh fruit and vegetables and a hot snag are guaranteed year-round.

 

The key focus of the outreach ministry is not only providing essential food relief but also sharing the gospel of Jesus and extending an invitation for people to visit Wyndham City Corps. Free Bibles are also given out, and many people dedicate their lives to Christ.


Last year, Tim’s biggest highlight was seeing more than 10 families from the bus outreach ministry attend the church.


“The actual goal of having the bus out there is that we ultimately want to lead people to Jesus.” – Tim

“We often hear in the past that William Booth talked about the ‘soup, soap and salvation’ mission of The Salvation Army. We envision the bus to be the first point of contact for people, to give them the food parcel, fill their tummy, and to know they are loved and cared for and to follow them through. But we are also seeing lives transformed from the outreach ministry.”


Tim said he always held John 12:32 close to his heart when thinking of reaching the local community: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.


“Feeding people on a Friday draws all people. I’ve seen lives change, communities change. We are not always going to be in darkness – there’s always hope and that the light is always greater than the darkness,” he said.


“By us rocking up with a big red bus, it’s that flame of hope that life will get better. Without hope, people don’t envision change and that better days are ahead. I hope that’s what people see at the bus – a cup of water, a hot meal, a hug.”


Locals regularly thank the outreach ministry team for their outstanding service to the community. A common remark volunteers regularly receive is that without the Salvos, they would not know what to eat that night.


“I vividly remember one lady walking up the ramp one night and thanking us because she had not had anything to eat the whole day,” Tim said. “It was such a thrill when she came to church after that Friday and to be connected into the community.”


The Salvos ministry team offer both physical and spiritual ‘bread of life’ for the community.

Leading the team can be heartbreaking at times, especially when families line up for food relief with little children in tow. Many are from Myanmar (Burma). So, Tim ensures a little box of lollies is handed out to the children.


Assisting the Burmese community greatly is a young girl who helps the team by translating the Burmese language into English.


“You see a smile from a frown, and it’s so worth it,” Tim said. “I am so grateful. There’s nothing more of greater value than a human being, a soul. We are so blessed to be part of their lives and to hear when they are doing well. Without the love of Jesus in my heart, I would give up. It’s what gives me that joy and the passion for what we do.”


Looking to the future, Tim is hopeful the outreach ministry will continue to grow and reach more locations in the community.


“I always say to the team if we touch one life, it’s worth it,” Tim said. “I particularly remember one Friday night last year when it was pouring rain. A person visited the bus who was from overseas. I had the opportunity to pray over him. Afterwards, he came up to me and said he was going back to Jesus. I remember walking back to the bus and tearing up. I said to the Lord: ‘If tonight was just for that one soul, it was so worth it.’”




 

 

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