BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Her face was drawn, sallow and dirty. She was standing quietly in a line outside the local mission with her siblings, hoping for a piece of bread, a cup of soup and maybe something to drink.
Beyond the glazed look in her eyes was a body that had ceased to grow and mature properly; a mind that had lost the ability to learn and think clearly. Where will she find hope that one day her life will be better than what she is experiencing today?
This story is repeated around our nation and the world as people face day after day with a lack of the basic necessities of life -- food, clothing and shelter.
While the economic outlook looks discouraging to many of us, it has become a life-and-death issue for others. Human services stretched beyond capacity, continued high unemployment, and rising fuel costs leading to higher food prices are having a significant impact on everyone trying to help those in need.
According to a report from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund:
-- 1 billion people in the world do not have enough to eat.
-- Every day, nearly 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. That is one child every five seconds.
-- In 2008, nearly 3 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday due directly or indirectly to hunger and malnutrition.
-- In the United States, 49 million people struggle with hunger, including 17 million children.
-- An estimated 35 percent of poor families in the United States are forced to choose between buying food and paying their rent or mortgage.
-- In our nation's cities, one in every four people in a soup kitchen line is a child.
What can we do? First, let's educate ourselves about the reality of hunger in our communities and offer to help. Local food banks, church food pantries and Baptist mission centers have the infrastructure and the expertise to address long-term and short-term hunger needs. They often need willing hands to help collect, pack and distribute food boxes.
Second, be a good steward of available resources by sharing with those who have great need. There are many good, local food ministries that need financial help, including the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of all contributions to this fund are designated to feed hungry people; administrative costs are covered from other sources, including Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program.
Matthew 25 reminds us that as followers of Christ we must help when it comes to hunger issues. After hearing His teaching on the parable of the talents, the people asked Jesus, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you a drink?" And He answered by saying, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me," (Matthew 25:37, 40).
During the month of October, churches are being asked to raise awareness of the hunger needs here at home and around the world. Let's be sure we do our part to minister to the "least of these" as we join the fight against hunger.
Wanda S. Lee is executive director-treasurer of national Woman's Missionary Union.
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