BEAVERTON — Have you ever been hungry — really hungry? Prior to 2005 in Washington County, there was no place for a hungry person to go for a free hot meal. On April 17, 2005, after months of preparation, the people of Faith Café served their first dinner. Now, 15 years and 150,000 meals later, Faith Café will be celebrating a 15th anniversary in April and remembering all the special guests we have been blessed to serve. We have experienced together births and deaths, weddings and break-ups, unemployment and new jobs, homelessness and new apartments. We have learned so much from our guests, especially how supportive they are of each other and how much hope they hold in their hearts in spite of their meager circumstances.

Beside our intended mission of providing a healthy meal, two additional blessings have emanated from this ministry. Faith Café was founded with the five Catholic parishes in the Beaverton Vicariate, but soon became ecumenical with the addition of Beaverton United Methodist Church (our first host site) , St. Matthew Lutheran (the site of our Saturday lunch program), Cedar Hills United Church of Christ and Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ (our current home). In addition came 10 Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints wards. It has been wonderful working with more than 500 compassionate and generous volunteers who selflessly give their time to help a neighbor.

The second unforeseen blessing was that by encouraging our Faith Café volunteers to share a meal and conversation with our guests, those volunteers are exposed to people suffering from hunger. These meetings might never have happened otherwise. When volunteers realize the many causes of hunger and homelessness, it hits close to home. They learn how one major illness in a family or loss of employment can quickly devastate household income. When people put a name and a face to a problem it becomes more real to them. Our Christian faith calls us to take action to alleviate the suffering.

Hunger is still a problem for many people in Washington County, but thankfully now there are more sites that serve free meals. Faith Café has been happy to mentor two other church groups to become hot meal sites. Currently in Washington County free meals are served six days a week to people suffering from food insecurity.

Jesus multiplied bread and fishes to feed the hungry. Luckily, we just have to make a trip to the Oregon Food Bank. The fresh produce and meat that are available from partner agencies are current day miraculous gifts to non-profit organizations helping to serve our hungry neighbors. Faith Café is prepared to serve free meals for another 15 years, because we know the poor will always be with us and it is what we are called to do.

Upson, a member of St. Juan Diego Parish, is a co-founder of Faith Café.