Five years ago, with the country still banging around the depths of the Great Recession, Prairie Village’s Lutheran Church of the Resurrection decided to try an idea that seemed a little out there at the time.
Pastor Alix Pridgen had been hearing from members of her congregation for years that they wanted to create a community that truly reflected the diversity of the Kansas City area: multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-generational. But bringing people from so many walks of life proved a challenge for a church that sits amid the largely cushy and homogeneous neighborhoods of northeast Johnson County.
“People kept envisioning all this diversity here,” Pridgen recalled. “And we would say, that’s crazy, because when do you ever see much diversity around Prairie Village?”
At the same time, the financial stresses of people throughout Kansas City and Johnson County were growing, and more and more families were experiencing food scarcity. What if, Rev. Pridgen and her lay leaders thought, we opened our doors every Saturday morning for a free breakfast, inviting anyone who would like to attend?
“We had been trying to discern for a few years what we could do to impact the community,” Pridgen said. “We had been doing mission trips, going away. And we said, you know, there’s work to be done right here.”
In March 2011, Lutheran opened its doors for its Saturday’s Miracle breakfast program. And last week, Pridgen and some of the more than 3,200 volunteers who have contributed to the program over its first half decade took time to celebrate their success and reflect on just how great an impact they have had.
Over more than 260 Saturdays, the group has dished out 15,151 plates of food to more than 12,500 attendees, fostering hundreds of friendships that would have been unlikely to flourish otherwise. The breakfasts quickly attracted a wide range of people: families with parents out of work in need of a good meal for their children; seniors who sought out the social interaction each Saturday provides; congregants interested in welcoming them all.
Don Shockey has been bringing his wife to the church nearly every Saturday since the beginning. As the two have aged, his wife has become pickier about food. But she loads up on eggs and biscuits when she sits down for breakfast at Lutheran on Saturdays.
“She won’t eat much at home,” Shockey said. “But she’ll eat a double breakfast here.”
There are also people of all faiths. Steve Koffman, a Jewish man who lives in Overland Park, has been coming for two years, and says Saturday’s miracle provides an important support system for him as he faces cancer.
Here’s a video Pridgen shot of two frequent guests at Saturday’s Miracle over Memorial Day weekend:
Pridgen said that seeing the church’s vision come to life has been inspiring.
“[The diversity] has really happened from day one,” Pridgen said. “We’ve had people from all over the world, and different languages and different backgrounds and economic diversity, it runs the gamut.”
The success of the program wasn’t a sure thing, though. Pridgen notes that the Lutheran congregation is small, and it was a daunting task to ensure they’d be able to offer hot meals — eggs, sausages, hash browns, and the occasional waffle — to anyone who attended. But the idea struck a chord with a number of community partners — the Village Presbyterian Food Pantry, Catholic Charities, the Prairie Village Foundation, among them — who stepped up to provide resources to keep the buffets stocked.
There’s a parallel in scripture, Pridgen points out.
“I was reading that scripture from Luke about the feeding of the 5,000,” she said. “Jesus tells them to feed them. And they say, ‘We can’t. You expect us to buy groceries for all these people?’ And he says, ‘Just give them the five loaves and the two fish.’ And then there were 11 basketsful left over.”