That's the upshot of more than 250 brief interviews conducted at the Global Hunger Relief booth during the SBC annual meeting in Houston.
Global Hunger Relief is a new initiative involving the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund that seeks to take the WHF's unique "dollar in, dollar out" message to new and wider audiences -- and challenge a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus' love to starving souls, in both word and deed.
Visitors to the booth responded to two questions: "Why is fighting hunger important?" and "How is your church helping today?"
Several of the visitors shared inspiring stories about their own involvement. Julie Wilder of Frost (Texas) Baptist Church explained how her 10-year-old son Jacob has collected aluminum cans from church members for three years and donated the proceeds to the World Hunger Fund -- a total of about $70 a year. George Kelly of Fort Hood, Texas, said he picks up coins he finds during his twice-daily walks and gives the money to the WHF. "One year I gave over $600!" Kelly recounted.
Other visitors talked about their churches' participation in local food banks, soup kitchens, homeless ministries and halfway houses. Some talked about helping seasonal workers, single mothers and schoolchildren who don't get enough to eat at home. Dan Harrison of Rowland, Ohio, said his local association of churches sponsors a 5K race each year, with proceeds going to hunger relief.
Visitors also said they send volunteers to participate in hunger relief efforts overseas, mentioning Guatemala, Honduras, Bulgaria, Uganda, India, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Haiti and Dominican Republic. Others recognized that their support of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, through the Cooperative Program and special offerings, helps combat hunger as those missionaries engage in Gospel-centered hunger projects.
Church missions education groups were mentioned several times as well. Dennis Crowder of First Baptist Church in Waynesville, Mo., said the Woman's Missionary Union there raises at least $1,000 a year on World Hunger Sunday, the second Sunday of October, with a soup and rice fundraising dinner for church members. Karen Spangler of First Baptist Church in Smithville, Texas, said the congregation's Royal Ambassador and Girls in Action groups made clay offering bowls in which church members could collect gifts for global hunger.
Booth visitors also offered thoughtful and heartfelt responses to the question about why fighting hunger is important:
-- "Hunger is a problem that should not exist! God has provided on this earth plenty of food and water for every living individual ... it's a distribution issue! We need to be better as the church at finding creative and practical ways to distribute what God has provided." (Autumn Wall, Living Faith Church, Indianapolis)
-- "I could think of no greater way to tangibly express the love of Christ than to help feed those in need. If the Gospel is to be preached to a hungry man effectively, the sermon must be wrapped in a sandwich. Meeting needs is what Christ does. To meet hunger needs is right, it is good and it is godly." (Jeremy Pruitt, First Baptist Church, Garrison, Texas)
-- "The Bible says if you wish someone well but do not take care of his physical needs, what good is that? The Bible is full of admonition for the children of God to look out for the less fortunate. … The love of God should be shared both with words and with a tangible meeting of needs." (Kristen Trawick, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas).
-- "It is important to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people because they are intricately related." (Noah Adams, Calvary Baptist Church, Elgin, Ill.)
-- "Fighting hunger is a way to be Christ's hands to those who are starving. We must rise up and share because we share Christ as well, where other humanitarians only help them physically but leave them starving spiritually." (Leslie Diebold, First Baptist Church, Cameron, Mo.)
-- "Meeting people in need with basic life supply brings open doors to healing, faith and salvation." (Ric Worshill, Crossroads Community Church, Port Barrington, Ill.)
-- "Because thousands of children dying of hunger die without Christ." (Ed Tablazon, Triad Journey Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.)
-- "One of man's greatest physical needs is to eat. I have met many people who live to eat, but the reality is that there are many people who are eating to live. As I pastor in a run down and neglected neighborhood, I have seen the effects of hunger on children. As a former school teacher, I knew that the kids were eating during the school year, but in the summertime they were not being fed. It was a problem that we could not ignore." (Bob Richardson, Calvary Baptist Church, Waycross, Ga.)
Resources for fighting global hunger are available through the websites of the national WHF/GHR partners: Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (www.erlc.com), North American Mission Board (www.namb.net), International Mission Board (www.imb.org), Baptist Global Response (www.gobgr.org), Woman's Missionary Union (www.wmu.com), LifeWay Christian Resources (www.lifeway.com) and the SBC Executive Committee (www.sbc.net).
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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