A Musing on Hunger 6/21/2023
This last week I had the opportunity to help serve in our food ministry. During the school year, of course, I cannot come up for this work and wanted to see this ministry in action. Not only did I get to see, but I got to carry boxes and play with a hand truck and organize food for distribution in our bird box in the Peace Park next to the church.
For those who don't know, we operate a food ministry where items are placed daily in what we call the bird box, but it looks a lot more like a large “little library.” This food can then be picked up by anyone that might be in need without question. For several years all of the purchasing was done by a very faithful member of the congregation who still helps oversee the ministry today. However, COVID changed how we did things, and I began ordering from Walmart via their pickup services. After virtual church, my family and I created baskets for our volunteers, which they then placed in the box daily. This eliminated a lot of going into stores where individuals might be exposed to the coronavirus. This worked well but was not necessarily the most cost-efficient option for the church.
After COVID began to wane, an opportunity arose to receive items from the Chattanooga Food Bank. This occurs through a partnership with a Methodist church that operates a large food pantry out of their facility. Some volunteers pick up an order of food for us, load it in the back of a U-Haul trailer, and bring it to the church, where we unload it, organize it, and prepare it to go in the birdbox. We get a lot more for our money this way and can serve more individuals and families in need.
I had been told what a colossal delivery we received but had never experienced it firsthand. It was a lot of food, and it took some time to unload and organize. I am grateful to the volunteers who do this regularly and only hope I did not get in the way. I'm sure they would be glad for anyone to help if you're available. However, I also know that some of you are unavailable, like me, and it is certainly understood. If that is the case, please continue to pray for those volunteers and know that is your offering to the church in support of this ministry. While I don't have the numbers in front of me, our little church, by the grace of God and faithful stewardship and giving of believers both now and across the generations, provides about $10,000 worth of food to the community just through our little bird box.
Hunger is one of those things that most of us rarely think about. Often the closest I get to it is when I am hangry because dinner isn't ready yet and my stomach is growling. However, starvation and malnutrition are problems both globally and also locally. In fact, my volunteering this week reminded me of a story I once heard that I would like to share with you about a pastor who tried to demonstrate food insecurity’s devastating effects.
This pastor colluded with the church youth, giving them a tambourine to pass around during a church service. Every few seconds, one of the youths struck the tambourine and then passed it to another youth. The adults in the congregation spoke up and demanded to know what the youth were up to. The pastor cautioned patience and assured the congregation that they would receive an explanation.
At the end of the service, one of the youths went to the microphone to explain that each tambourine strike represented a child dying of hunger. We put out of our minds the hunger of the world and the deaths of children, but the tambourine kept them from sliding off the radar screen.
I decided not to make anyone go through a tambourine experience, but I thought I would share a link to a website that keeps a count of the number of people who die from hunger every year.
The World Counts shares this staggering information. “Around 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year. That’s 25,000 human beings every single day. More people than die from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger.”
Yes, you read that correctly; once every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger. This, of course, does not count those who go to bed hungry at night or those who are not getting proper nourishment. Nor those students who cannot concentrate in school because of their stomachs growling.
By the way, if we as a nation decided to feed every child breakfast and lunch for free (as was done during the pandemic), it would cost about $10 billion more in funding than currently provided. Frankly, this number is not that big in a federal budget of $22 trillion. But I digress.
Now I know some folks like to say the church needs to focus on spiritual matters and spiritual hunger. And while I agree that spiritual needs are important to our faith, God always recognized the physical needs of humanity. The Garden of Eden was full of food. The Hebrews were promised a land of abundance (milk and honey.) On the way to that land, they received manna. Jesus fed thousands. Paul talks about the sharing of food and resources as a church.
The church is called to help serve the physical needs of the community. It is partly because it is hard to be very spiritual or worry much about heavenly matters when you are hungry.
Archbishop Desmund Tutu was right when he said the following:
May we continue to share the good news through bread and green beans and cereal and granola bars and grits and SpaghettiOs. May we be faithful with our stewardship of time, talents, and resources.
May we continue to pray for those who are hungry and those who serve them.
And may we do it all so that the good news of God’s love is proclaimed and glimpses of the kingdom of
God are seen on earth even as we long for that promised day in the kingdom to come.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
PS – you are always invited to bring items to church – peanut butter, loaf bread, and canned meats (folks love sardines, it seems) are great choices. Or you can send a check and note that it is for our food ministry.