Imagine someone opening the door of their home to your knock. The scent of homemade bread greets and envelops you as you walk through the doorway. If David Letterman had a list of the top ten most pleasant smells in the world, surely homemade bread would be at the top of the list.
Granted, it’s a wonderful smell in and of itself. Who doesn’t like it? But maybe there’s a lot more to it than just that enticing smell that makes your mouth water and causes you to want to breathe deep. Bread is a fundamental part of the eating habits of most cultures. Its leavening has worked itself through the dough of family life for generations.
Even though most of us buy bread at the store, the smell of bread hasn’t lost its magic, for it says someone did something special for the people they love. Someone took the time to show they care.
I still make homemade bread. With a twinkle in my eye, I tell my family and friends that making homemade bread is cheaper than counseling. They tease right back: Whose face are you punching now, Karen, they ask. I’m quick on the draw. I’m not taking my violent fantasies out on this lump of dough, I tell my unconvinced family. I’d rather pray than punch. Regardless of my possible motives they don’t complain about enjoying the results.
All joking aside. One wonderful friend remembers that I told a bread baking class she attended to spend time praying as they knead their dough. To this day, Kathy messages me at Christmas each year to tell me that she is making her yearly rolls and “I prayed for you.” That means more than I can ever begin to express.
Twenty some years ago, my home congregation decided to reverse positions of homemade bread. Instead of people walking into the smell of that fresh bread, through the Love Loaf ministry, they brought the bread to homes of first time visitors.
Here’s how the ministry worked. Church staff actively, assertively acquired the addresses of any first time visitor on Sunday. Within three or four days, the visitor would receive a loaf of homemade bread. It wasn’t delivered by the preacher either, for the purpose was to get ordinary people involved in a simple, user-friendly outreach. The ministry was divided up into a team of bakers and a second team of delivery people. They attached a welcome note to the bag of bread, rang the doorbell, told the person they had a gift from the church for them, and walked away.
That was it.
If the person wasn’t home, they left the still warm bread on their doorstep. Deliveries were often made late afternoon so people who were at work would be home soon to retrieve the gift. The next week, the family received a welcome letter. If they came back a second or third time, then the preacher or elders paid a call, asking them if they had questions about the congregation.
I don’t think it was coincidence that Pantano’s growth exploded exponentially over the next five years. I do know many people said they came back because the church had brought the scent of welcome to their doorstep. One lady told how she had experienced a rough day at work. Then she came home to that still warm loaf of bread and her day suddenly turned around.
As time went on, some people got the bright idea to make the bread ahead of time and put it in the church freezer. Others made nut loaves. But it wasn’t quite the same as that fresh out-of-the- oven yeast bread.
I’ve heard of other congregations making cookies for visiting children. I and others look for opportunities to share bread with bereaved people, folks just released from the hospital, new neighbors, or people who I know who are just having a bad week. I love witnessing how the smile on their face and the deep breath they take as they inhale the scent of bread miraculously relaxes their entire body before my eyes.
- What variation of the love loaf ministry does your church use to reach out to new families?
- Baking bread is the gift God has given me. What gift has God given you that you can use to say “Welcome” and “I care.”
Here is my favorite recipe to use when I want to give a love loaf.
Country Crust Bread
2 packages yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup oil
6 to 6-1/2 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water (105-115 degrees). Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, oil, and half of the flour. Beat till smooth. Mix in enough flour to make dough easy to handle. Knead, let rise in covered bowl, away from drafts, for 1 hour till doubled in bulk. Shape into two large or 4 small loaves; place in greased pans. Let rise. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
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