Using banana cake to share Jesus’ love
By Laureen F. Guenther
Jeff and Kourtney Kurylo have experienced God’s radical hope and healing, and they’re intentionally sharing those gifts with others.
Jeff Kurylo started using meth when he was a teenager. He got tangled in criminal activity, lived for a while on the streets and served prison time. But in 2012, God intervened in his life. Jeff’s direction changed, and he started sharing God’s love and hope with others – while still in prison.
In April 2014, after his release, Jeff gave his testimony in church, and a young woman named Kourtney came to meet him afterward. Kourtney, with her young daughter, was ministering to people experiencing homelessness, giving out sandwiches and praying with people.
Jeff and Kourtney began spending time together and ministering together. They were married in 2015 and continued to minister to people in need.
Two years ago, as they prayed for God to show them next ministry steps, Kourtney had a vision in which God said to her, “Banana cake.”
She responded in amazement, “Banana cake?” It seemed ludicrous, but she sensed God telling her He’d use banana cake to eradicate homelessness in Edmonton.
Her homemade banana cake was popular with family members and friends, but she’d never considered it a ministry tool. Yet, if that’s what God said, she and Jeff would do it.
Kourtney was on maternity leave with their new daughter; they’d just moved to Edmonton, and Jeff had just started a new job. They didn’t have much money. But in summer 2017, they rented space in a commercial kitchen, booked tables at a farmers’ market, and began selling Banana Cake By Kourtney.
Their first day at the market, they sold out – 50 banana cakes. It became typical to sell 50-60 cakes every two-day weekend.
Every month or two, Banana Cake By Kourtney uses the collected funds to host a street event for people experiencing homelessness. Partnering with other ministries, they often serve a meal. Sometimes they provide haircuts. Sometimes they give away donated clothes. Twice a year, they hand out donated backpacks and purses, stuffed with items that are essential for street living. And always, they pray with people. As guests line up, waiting for a meal or a haircut or a backpack, Jeff and Kourtney and other volunteers come alongside, listen to their stories and pray with them.
During the summers of 2017 and 2018, many people bought Banana Cake by Kourtney at farmers’ markets. But it took a toll on the Kurylo family’s time and energy. There was also significant financial overhead, and the markets weren’t open most months of the year.
So this year, they began selling Banana Cake By Kourtney only online and by word-of-mouth. They sell fewer cakes but give 100 percent of the price to their ministry. More people are making donations too, so the ministry funds grow more quickly.
Recently, God gave Kourtney a new ministry idea. When sales and donations have raised $5,000, she and Jeff will visit a grocery store in a low-income neighbourhood, pray about which customers to approach and offer to pay those people’s grocery bills.
“Paying for their bills is a way to show God’s love but then it’s a doorway into a further conversation,” Jeff says.
“The food in this life is going to pass away, what Jesus has to offer is for eternity, so that’s the main prize. We may be the only Jesus they’ll ever encounter,” he says. “The joy, the freedom, the peace, it’s available for anyone. We actually get to partner with Jesus in bringing people light and bringing people hope and seeing people set free.”
But why do they do this? Don’t people living in homelessness just need to make better choices?
“Jesus has called us to clothe others,” Jeff says. “To feed others. To be light and love in this world. The people on the streets are such good people. They have the biggest hearts and they’re so kind and they really love people.”
“Who knows how or why they’re there? We’d never want to condemn them or belittle. The point is they’re down-and-out in a bad situation and they just need hope. They just need some light and some love brought into their life. They need love. They need people’s time. The most important thing to them is they’re lonely and they want to be heard. They want somebody to hear their story.”
Jeff describes, with tears in his eyes, how some non-homeless people cross the street when a person experiencing homelessness walks toward them. “It’s just heartbreaking that people would shun them,” he says.
And Jeff has been there. “I thought that there wasn’t a hope,” he says. “I know what they’re going through and how they feel. I know that hopelessness is just a lie. I’m able, through Jesus, to show that to people and to bring hope. I get to see Jesus bring hope into hopeless situations. There’s nothing more thrilling in life than to see someone encounter the love of Christ.”
Jeff and Kourtney invite readers to pray for them, that they’ll keep following the Holy Spirit, never moving ahead of His plans. They ask that God would keep expanding their vision, showing them different ideas and new ministry partners.
To buy Banana Cake By Kourtney, for more information, or to make a donation, go to Banana Cake by Kourtney on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.