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Feeding 3,000 homeless and hungry every week: The Assembly Soup Kitchen is a testament to God’s love for all amidst Covid-19

Malaysia’s first lockdown in March 2020 severely affected daily wage earners. Selangor’s refugee community was among those impacted.

Seeing this need, a couple in Subang Jaya, Selangor, decided they couldn’t sit by and watch children and families starve. Out of their home kitchen, Soo Mun Keong, 42, and Wong Suet Beng, 40, began cooking and packing hot meals for refugees living nearby.

What started as 30 hot meals a day has since evolved into a full-blown initiative serving 3,000 meals a week, or 12,000 to 15,000 meals a month.

Known as The Assembly Soup Kitchen (TASK), this is a testimony of how God used two willing people in despairing times to create a long-lasting impact for His glory.

The birth of TASK: Soo Mun Keong and Wong Suet Beng refused to sit by and do nothing during COVID-19, and began cooking and packing hot meals out of their own kitchen for refugees.

A God-given dream

“The entire journey is a miracle in itself,” shared Mun Keong. “From the volunteers that availed themselves, to the food and finances that were donated – everything came in a timely manner in order for everything to happen. God really orchestrated the entire process.”

As the work grew and their own kitchen became too small, church members from Community Baptist Church and community volunteers opened their own homes to share the load.

Today, TASK runs out of an industrial space in Shah Alam. The amazing story of God’s provision for the 20,000 square-foot space, which now houses the kitchen for TASK’s operations, began in 2018 when Suet Beng had a dream.

As the managing director of her own engineering company, she had a vivid dream one night of purchasing a one-acre piece of land and that the transaction would be set at RM300 per square foot. The words Jitra, Kedah also appeared in her dream.

A year later, Suet Beng attended an auction for a property in Glenmarie, Shah Alam that was being offered at 30% below market value.

It was the third time the property was going up for auction, and the other interested party had been barred by the court from bidding. It was God’s hand paving the way for Suet Beng’s bid to be successful.

As paperwork began, the existing tenant of the car park asked if he could rent part of the building for the staff he would be transferring over from Jitra, Kedah. And the quote Suet Beng received for renovation was RM300 per square foot.

With one confirmation after the other, the couple knew they were witnessing a divine arrangement. The building was purchased.

The timing of these happenings was perfect as renovations for the property were completed in February 2020 and on 15 March 2020, the tenant signed an agreement for the building’s first floor and car park. Three days later, the nationwide lockdown was announced.

Today, TASK staff and volunteers work out of an industrial kitchen.

Salmon bones to kangkung

“Our building was called The Assembly Ground, a place where we can gather and rally people for a common purpose. A few months later, we officially started the soup kitchen and that’s how our name, The Assembly Soup Kitchen, came about,” Mun Keong said.

TASK works with corporate donors, NGOs, church volunteer groups and individuals, churning out more than 400 hot meals a day.

The organisation also receives extra food from other NGOs such as The Lost Food Project, which is quickly cooked and distributed to communities in need.

All sorts of food are accepted, from fresh produce such as a week’s worth of kangkung (water spinach) to milk powder, biscuits, pasta and even salmon bones and heads.

In October last year, for example, a businessman donated 400kg of chicken to TASK. “We allocated these precious proteins to the children in the communities we serve, hoping to beef them up for stronger and healthier bodies,” said Suet Beng.

TASK’s chefs are also challenged to think outside of the box, and often whip up balanced, hearty meals with whatever is available each week.

From burgers to biryani, zhap fan (rice with a protein and vegetable dish) to curries and vegetable soups, it’s never a boring menu at TASK.

These meals and dry packs are distributed to refugee, orang asli (indigenous) and underprivileged communities around the Klang Valley. TASK also provides meals to children in latchkey after-school programmes and street feeding initiatives in Kuala Lumpur.

TASK’s creative cooks whip up delicious meals — about 3,000 meals a week — with whatever ingredients have been donated or are on hand.

Managing by God’s grace

As an independent, largely volunteer-run organisation (Mun Keong and Suet Beng are volunteers and do not take a salary through TASK), the goal is to feed the hungry.

“Our key verse for TASK is “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” This verse drives much of what we do,” Suet Beng shared.

As parents of three children, Mun Keong and Suet Beng have also decided to live only “one life” – integrating work, family, and ministry.

“In regard to balancing home, work and ministry, by God’s grace we manage! We are very thankful for great staff and amazing volunteers who keep everything running,” Mun Keong said.

It is indeed God’s grace being displayed through their lives. This powerhouse couple with hearts of compassion both hold full-time jobs outside of TASK.

Mun Keong works full-time with their refugee school, The Assembly Learning Centre while Suet Beng is still running her engineering company.

Since they started TASK two years ago, the couple has not experienced compassion fatigue or burnout thanks to the incredible support of a great team.

“There are times when things seem overwhelming, but… the team that you are working with matters, for support and help whenever you need it,” Mun Keong said.

“The other thing is to simply trust God. At the end of the day, we just believe that he will take care of things that are out of our control, so we try not to stress about it too much and go at a pace whereby we can enjoy the journey,” he added.

The couple credits a great team and supportive community, who have come alongside them in this initiative and ensured they do not burn out.

Church support is critical

TASK has grown tremendously in less than two years, and the couple is quick to acknowledge the important role their church, and other churches, have played in this effort.

“The churches’ involvement is absolutely critical. The number of needs in the community are so daunting that no individual can really cope,” Suet Beng said.

“To be involved in serving the community, you really need a group of like-minded people to journey along with. Leadership is critical in order to rally everyone towards the same vision.”

God has not just provided the manpower, but also the finances. The rental of the first floor and car park helped to cover the bank loan, freeing Suet Beng and Mun Keong to start TASK.

Generous donors and corporations have come on board to partner in the work.

More than 200 volunteers come through TASK’s industrial kitchen every week and 50 cook hot meals from their own homes on Saturdays.

How you can help

Asked if TASK had any current needs, Mun Keong stated that practically, monetary donations go a long way in funding utilities, gas, transportation, rental and staff salaries. “Of course, we also welcome any form of dry and wet food,” he said.

As for interested volunteers, TASK has it down to A, B, C and D:

  • Assist in packing care packs and cooked meals at TASK headquarters
  • Bake in your time (and at home) using donated baking ingredients. Baked goods are sent to TASK headquarters to be distributed.
  • Cook up hot meals at home! Interested individuals register on a Wednesday, collect ingredients the following Friday and prepare the food on Saturdays for distribution.
  • Distribute the care packs and cooked meals to communities in need; distribution happens a few days every week
Winner winner chicken dinner: In October 2022, a businessman donated 400kg of chicken to TASK, which the team prepared in various ways for children in the communities they serve.

Making the most of life

Since TASK began, the work hasn’t stopped. What keeps Mun Keong and Suet Beng going?

It seems to be a truth they have discovered about the brevity of life, thus affecting the way they choose to live their lives.

In their management of TASK, family, work and ministry, walking in Jesus simply means making the most of the life He has given to each of us.

“The truth is no one lives forever, so we have to realise what has value to God and what doesn’t so that we can focus on the things that matter and learn to ignore the things that don’t,” Suet Beng said simply.

“I really believe that as we give the blessing does not just go to those that are in need because as we serve, we are aligning our hearts with God’s, and with that, we bring ourselves to a position of gratitude and strength,” Mun Keong said.

If you would like to find out more or partner in the work, check out The Assembly Soup Kitchen’s website, Instagram or Facebook.

This story was first published on Salt&Light. All photos provided by TASK.

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