On the weekend of November 10-11, we were privileged to have the Rev Bill Crews of the Exodus Foundation visit Gloucester. About 60 people came to hear him speak at a dinner on Saturday at the Uniting Church hall. The dinner was catered for by the Blueprint Training Kitchen.
Rev Crews founded the Exodus Foundation in 1986, to assist homeless and abandoned youth and other people in need. He told how he and a small group of elderly women decided to do help vulnerable people in the area around Ashfield Uniting Church, by giving them a place to sleep and meals. Today, 800 free meals are served daily at the Loaves and Fishes Restaurant next to the church.
The foundation runs literacy and education programs for youth at risk, provides free dental care, gives counselling and financial support to those in need. It also distributes up to three tonnes of tinned and packet food each week in food parcels.
Every Christmas 3000 people, who would otherwise spend Christmas Day on their own, are able to enjoy meals, gifts and companionship. All this is done without government funding, depending on community and corporate support in the form of donations, volunteering and strategic partnerships.
Rev Crews emphasised the need for self-awareness, building self-esteem and self-acceptance at the dinner. This helps to transform our personality and bring about an empathy and compassion for others. He stressed we should never give up and says he has learnt great life lessons after the age of 70.
He lives an extraordinarily busy life and supports many humanitarian programs. He was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the disadvantaged. He travels widely, and regularly meets with people such as the Dalai Lama, but still manages to keep up his caring ministry.
The audience was kept captivated as he told stories of his personal relationship with many marginalised people and of times these friends cared for him when he needed support. It was a very interesting, entertaining and informative evening.
The next morning Rev Crews shared in the Uniting Church Worship service. He declared he has a soft spot for Gloucester and would love to be invited back some time.