Staff and volunteers of Potter’s Hands Ministries continue to serve Red Deer through both a church and a downtown ministry that is nearing the 20-year mark of extending a helping hand via the downtown kitchen.
The ministry essentially has two parts – a church which is located at 5202 – 53rd Ave. and a soup kitchen located in the heart of downtown Red Deer at 4935 – 51st St. Aside from these two main components, there are a number of other means of outreach to the community.
“The ministry itself has been going on for close to 20 years now,” explained Alvin Rainville, an associate pastor at the Potter’s Hands Church.
“I came onboard here – I’ve been associate pastor here for five years now – and previous to that I had been attending here for two years.”
Rainville had also been involved with a ministry called The River through the Potter’s Hands Soup Kitchen downtown for 12 years.
“Every Friday night we would do a mini-service type thing, inviting the street people along. We’ve ministered to a lot of people over the years,” he said. At the time, he was attending a different church in the City, and later decided the time was right to make the move to Potter’s Hands Ministries Church as well.
“I came over here and got involved with things more closely,” he said, reflecting.
These days, Rainville said the goal is to further connect Potter’s Hands to Red Deer and Central Alberta; to bolster awareness about how the church and the downtown ministry impact the community at large. And with the growing needs across Red Deer comes a growing need for support as well, he added.
“We’ve been providing 800 to 850 meals a week at the Potter’s Hands Kitchen,” he said, adding that equates to about 750,000 meals since the operation was launched some 19 years ago. “We do six breakfasts each week, a lunch on Monday and a supper on Tuesday,” he said.
Another program – Art From the Streets – runs Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays out of the kitchen as well, form 1 to 4 p.m. on those days. It’s also held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rainville added that Bible studies are held through the week, plus a movie is screened at the kitchen on Thursday mornings as well.
Potter’s Hands Ministries also runs Lazarus House as well, which was started about eight years ago.
“Basically, we take people off the streets, we invite them in,” he said of the ministry, which is based in an apartment located downtown and houses up to five at a time.
The home serves as a place for folks to transition, and serves as a discipleship program in the Christian faith as well.
“If the guys want to stay for a year or two years, we have no problem with that,” he explained. “Whatever works for them.”
For house leader Raymond Paquette, it’s a role that brings a continual sense of joy.
For one thing, living in the community helps him stay accountable and on the right track in his own life, he said.
“With Potter’s Hands Ministries, it’s just mind-blowing how God worked it out,” he added of his work with the organization. “I couldn’t have planned it better myself, no matter how I would have tried. It worked out fine because I trusted in Him.”
Meanwhile, Rainville truly enjoys spending time at the downtown kitchen as well, where he has been able to make many connections over the years and where much of what makes up Potter’s Hands Ministries takes place as well.
“We get to know the clientele, and we just love on them and pray for them, too. It’s heart-wrenching when you hear some of the stories that they’ve gone through, and they are still walking. We are trying to make a difference down here.
“God brings people from all walks of life. He brings us together as a community – it’s awesome being a part of what God wants to do in Red Deer through Potter’s Hands.”
Over the years, his passion for those on the streets in particular has continued to grow as well.
“You get to know these guys, and my gosh, they have gone through stuff that is mind-boggling,” he said, pointing out that there have been cases of severe abuse and trauma. “Those are the brothers and sisters that I’m ministering to.”
Prior to getting involved in street ministry and evangelism, Rainville recalls feeling a bit of emptiness in his day-to-day life and spiritual experience. “I felt a discontentment. Then a hunger started to grow in me, and I said, there has got to be more,” he explained. ”I started to pursue God more, and He was very patient with me and brought me into a new depth and a new experience with Him.”
New opportunities ultimately surfaced and he couldn’t be happier – or more fulfilled – with where he is today.
“So we’ve impacted some people, and we’d like to impact a lot more.”
There are lots of volunteer opportunities available with Potter’s Hands Ministries. For more information on how to help support them, or about serving in some way, check out www.pottershandsministries.org.