NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–BEAT Hunger — “Believers Everywhere ATtack Hunger” — has moved from the youth ministry to the whole church.
Young people in various churches got involved in the Southern Baptist hunger emphasis when it was launched three years ago — and the rest of the congregation began to experience renewal, growth and a healthy spirit.
From that initial effort, in which youth groups dedicated 24 hours to gaining an awareness of hunger issues and how they can plan to “attack” hunger in their communities and the world, churches are now being encouraged to follow young people’s lead with a BEAT Hunger Weekend, Oct. 11-13.
Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said churches participating in the BEAT Hunger Weekend are being are asked to address hunger needs in their town by hosting a canned food drive and/or serving at a local shelter — and having church members raise money in support of the SBC’s World Hunger Fund.
More than 460 groups have shown a strong interest in participating in the weekend emphasis to benefit their local communities and the World Hunger Fund.
Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations at the SBC’s Executive Committee, noted, “The tremendous needs around the world provide a great opportunity for Christians to be the body of Christ in reality. As we minister to the hungry, and as we bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to them, we are acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Although initiated months ago, the BEAT Hunger Weekend comes at a critical time: Giving to the SBC World Hunger Fund is down dramatically from previous years, Nelson said. Gifts to the fund were down more than 15 percent last year, or a $1.5 million shortfall from 2000 to 2001. So far this year, giving has slipped another 11 percent.
“Few topics receive more attention in Scripture than ministry to the poor,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Yet, too often, this ministry is little more than a footnote in a church’s overall ministry plan.
“BEAT Hunger Weekend provides the opportunity to change this imbalance for every church that implements it,” Land said.
Nelson is confident the BEAT Hunger Weekend campaign is off to a good start. A number of non-Southern Baptist churches have signed up to participate, and the weekend has been publicized at various youth conferences as well as the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis.
“Young people want to make a difference, and with the World Hunger Fund they’re able to see that their contribution can make a life-saving difference,” Nelson said.
Meals for homeless children in Uganda cost 12 cents apiece via the World Hunger Fund, Nelson noted. The average cost of meals served last year in the United States was 43 cents each. More than 3 million meals were served — and directly related to that in the United States were more than 15,500 professions of faith.
“I want to see leaders grasp the reality that this type of ministry is very dear to God’s heart,” Nelson said. “It’s very unlikely we’ll see the revival we’ve been praying for without ministering to people in need. Proverbs 21:13 tells us that whoever stops their ears to the cry of the poor shall cry themselves and not be heard. I see this as one key to an awakening.”
Registration for BEAT Hunger Weekend and resources to aid churches in the emphasis are available at www.beathungerweekend.com. Additional information is available from Nelson via e-mail to [email protected].
Nelson recounted one church that got involved in world hunger with growing excitement. By the end of last year, the small church had raised more than $8,000. Along with that, their missions giving and their budget offerings were up more than 50 percent. It all started because a 4-year-old girl got a burden for hungry people in her church. If God can do that through a 4-year-old girl, think what he can do with thousands of students mobilized to fight hunger, Nelson said.
“As with any service for God, this event blesses in both directions,” Land said. “The hungry will be blessed with food and the ministry of compassion, and the BEAT Hunger Weekend participants will be blessed as God uses them to touch lives for his kingdom.”
The money raised during the BEAT Hunger Weekend will benefit the World Hunger Fund and will be utilized in the United States and around the world.
“I think of several hunger ministries in New York that are really hurting. The First Arabic Baptist Church in Yonkers ministers to hungry people and shares the gospel in a primarily Muslim neighborhood. Think of the impact they could have if that ministry could expand,” Nelson said. “Iglesia Bautista in the Bronx shares Christ and food with many homeless families, but the number of people they can serve is limited by the resources available. Many hundreds of more people could be reached if more food were available.”
Nelson noted that missionary Lottie Moon starved to death on the mission field because she shared her food with people in China who suffered from the severe famine.
“She knew how dear that ministry is to God’s heart. How many more years of service could she have had on the field if she had more food?” he said.
“I encourage Southern Baptists to take this great opportunity seriously, and to rise to the challenge to participate in the BEAT Hunger Weekend, and to adopt a lifestyle that offers a hand to the poor,” Merrell said. “This is a great time to begin to give regularly and generously through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Together, we can make a difference.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: NEEDY GIRL, LENDING A HAND, REACHING MUSLIMS, JOINING FORCES, DISTRIBUTING LUNCHES and ON SITE.