By God’s grace we’ve begun operating a small bakery in our mountain refugee community in recent months. We are slowly increasing our daily bread capacity, but so far have been able to make over 1,100 loaves of Arab bread a week to give to some of the 750 refugees and local poor people on our aid list. For some families, this is quite literally their “daily bread” and they’ll walk over a mile to reach us just to bring hot, fresh (and free) bread home.
The primary purpose for the Daily Bread Bakery (yes, that’s what we’re naming it!) right now is as a free source of fresh made bread for refugee and local families we are helping through this economically difficult time. Hyper-inflation continues to grip the region along with a dramatic collapse of the economy, leaving more than half the population of our host country under the poverty line. Arab bread is a staple in the diet here, and sometimes is THE main dish for their meager meals. By providing these families with bread, we are helping to stave off hunger while also sharing the compassion of Christ. Everyone who receives this bread knows it is being baked by local Christians serving their community.
We began working on opening a bakery earlier this year. It’s been a long process finding a suitable (and reasonably affordable) shop space to rent that is still close enough to our community. We also spent months finding working bakery equipment such as the main oven, the kneader, the flattener and then crafting specially made bread cooling shelves. Then we also had to train our workers on making consistently edible bread, although thankfully two of them used to work at bakeries in the past and brought a lot of helpful knowledge to the shop!
The bakery also has a strategic long-term purpose as well. There is currently an impending global wheat and flour shortage that is shrinking supply and driving up bread prices, particularly so in our region where they abandoned most domestic wheat production a generation ago. This is bad news for the poor who rely on affordable bread to live, and there are already sporadic lines at bakeries and protests over prices. It will only get worse. By operating a functional bakery, we are able to secure flour on our own terms and not be subject to bread rationing or higher prices imposed on the community by other bakeries. This should enable us to provide bread free of charge to those most in need and help them weather the current bread crisis.
At this point, we have been at full operation for several months. I am happy to report that the quality of bread has gotten to the point that many in the community who taste it are asking where they can buy it. Apparently the baking team succeeded in making it especially soft and flavorful, served warm from the oven and very filling. I am not an Arab bread connoisseur so I take their word on it, but I agree the bread tastes great! Hand baked bread in a stone oven is definitely better than the more mass produced factory-packaged bakery bread sold locally.
Please pray for this endeavor as we seek to increase our daily production of bread and expand distribution with delivery by motorbike to families we help that are beyond reasonable walking distance from the bakery. Pray for the witness of the workers to those in need that they are serving in the community, as all the workers are local Christians. During this current crisis we fully intend to continue indefinitely with free daily distribution of bread to those in need, as long as the Lord continues to provide the funds needed to sustain this. The long-term intention, once the economy hopefully stabilizes, is to fully transfer the bakery to trusted local ownership, begin selling bread directly, and use that to cover future operating costs while still also providing free bread to those remaining needy families.