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Christ Kitchen mixes Bible study with work experience

Over 10 years, Christ Kitchen has used packaging dried food and catering meals to provide work and job training for women isolated and marginalized by poverty, abuse, health or other circumstances.

Growing from operating one day a week with two women in the fellowship hall of Westminster Presbyterian, Christ Kitchen now employs 35 women on Thursdays, and a varying number from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays and 10 a.m. to  4 p.m. Saturdays, packaging 25 gourmet mixes.

christ kitchen
Elena Johnston, production manager, and part-time employee Diana Tindal fill bags with a mix.

Together, Christ Clinic and Christ Kitchen purchased its present 2,700-square-foot building at 2410 N. Monroe and a house next door.  Christ Kitchen moved into that building two years ago. 

There, in a former taco fast-food restaurant, they have a commercial kitchen, which allows them to make box lunches and cater.  It also has space so groups of 10 or more can come for meetings.

Jan Martinez, a therapist who volunteered at Christ Clinic—which began in 1991 at Westminster Presbyterian to provide health care for uninsured people—realized women coming to the clinic needed community to help them make healthy choices. 

Finding that women would not come to the Bible studies or therapy she offered, she believed they would come to gain something they all needed:  money.

Given her own love of cooking, Jan invited a few women to bag pinto beans, corn bread and tortilla mixes in a development micro-enterprise model. 

Christ Kitchen now helps women in poverty by providing work, job training, group fellowship and personal support as they produce and sell gift baskets with dried food products such as bean soups, cocoa, teas, popcorn, corn bread, cookie and brownie mixes, and other food products.

Women pour mixes into bags, cut ties, tie the packages and prepare the labels.  The women work three to six hours at minimum wage and are paid in cash at the end of the day.

The ministry helps women learn work skills so they can eventually support themselves and their families without reliance on government programs or destructive relationships.

It also offers support, community, love and healing, said Jan, who has served on short-term medical missions with her family in Kenya, Nepal and Vietnam.

Women begin each work day with an informal Bible study and time to tell their stories, share their hurts and confess their sins to each other.  At noon meals, each is asked how others can pray for them—drawing out concerns they face.

Jan, who is director of the program, has seen over the years that God matches needs and skills, so women become healthy, accountable support persons, walking side-by-side with each other.

“I pray Christ Kitchen will continue to grow so it is self sufficient, supported by sales,” she said.

Construction is underway beside Christ Kitchen to build a 4,800-square-foot building to house the health care clinic.  The nonprofit has raised two-thirds of the $3 million needed to complete the project debt-free.

Christ Clinic, which does 3,000 patient visits a year, turns away 20 patients a day.  The new building will allow the clinic to serve four times as many patients.

“There are about 47,000 people uninsured in Spokane,” Jan said, describing the need.

Through years of ups and downs, Jan has relied on prayer as she has seen women go from addiction to running their own businesses.

“It feeds me when I see what God is doing in the lives of people here,” she said.

In a 2002 Fig Tree article, Jan described Christ’s Kitchen as “being Christ’s hands and feet in a hurting world.”

To celebrate Christ Kitchen’s 10th anniversary and to raise funds for its capital, the organization is planning a luncheon at 11:45 a.m. and a dinner at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 27, at Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln.

Responding to the theme, “Celebrating Our God Who Makes Small Things Grow,” women in the program will describe the ministry’s history and how it has improved their lives.  Christ Kitchen seeks table hosts who will invite seven friends and colleagues to introduce this ministry to them.

For information, call 325-4343 or email