Cooking Up Compassion

Spokane's impoverished women find hope and a paycheck in Christ Kitchen

Jan martinez was only 26 when a stranger broke into her home, put a knife to her throat, and raped her. Suddenly her safe little world changed forever. "After that night, I was terrified to answer the phone or get out of the shower. Nothing took away my consuming emotional pain," Jan says two-and-a-half decades after her encounter with the never-caught man who brutalized her.

So Jan did something she never would have done before the rape: She turned to God. "I'd been hostile to Christianity in the past, so it was nothing short of desperation for me to consider finding help in a church," explains Jan. "What I found after questioning who God was and studying the Bible was a merciful Father who wept over sin and death, but who allowed life's consequences to draw people to him. I found my Savior."

Fast forward 25 years from that fateful night to a recent Thursday morning at Westminster Presbyterian Church, located in one of Spokane, Washington's poorest neighborhoods—an area residents refer to as "Felony Flats" for its high crime rate and low income level.

"The reason I relate to these women is because the trauma I experienced is similar to their own."

Many of the 40 or so homeless women who enter Christ Kitchen (CK), the church's unpretentious dining room, know little about Jan, its energetic 50-year-old director, except one thing—Jan loves Jesus. And that love is at the heart of Jan's unconventional method of providing what many impoverished women need most—a way to make a little extra money and gain emotional and spiritual healing.

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