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Feeding hungry hearts under Vegas’ lights

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oct. 11 is World Hunger Sunday for Southern Baptist churches across North America. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have fought the problem of hunger through their World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund is used to provide food to undernourished people all over the world — 80 percent through the International Mission Board and 20 percent through the North American Mission Board. For more information on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, including resources for promotion of World Hunger Sunday in your church, go to worldhungerfund.com.

LAS VEGAS (BP)–Las Vegas burns and freezes — 110 degrees in the day and on some nights it dips into the teens. The desert city’s homeless and hungry feel every temperature shift — going nights without shelter or sleep, finding food in garbage bins and wincing at the coldness of fellow humans.

“You feel lower than low when you’re homeless,” says Cody Huffman, who was living on the streets and addicted to drugs just a few years ago. “At least people will talk to a dog on the street. If you’re homeless, you can’t get a drink of water or get cool when it’s 115 degrees outside, because they’ll run you out.”

Huffman now volunteers with the hunger ministry at Rushing Wind Church, a biker congregation meeting at Sunrise Baptist Church in Las Vegas. “I want the homeless and destitute to know they are somebody with God,” he says.

Mike and Janice Schwab, members of Rushing Wind Church, have also joined in caring for the homeless men and women in Las Vegas. A year ago, the Schwabs were convicted about the great need in their city when they were downtown with their son and he offered all he had — a pack of crackers — to a man obviously cold and hungry.

The following week, the Schwabs showed up with hotdogs and hamburgers and fed a meager crowd. The next week, more than 20 hungry people showed up. And each Wednesday since, at 6 p.m. in a vacant dirt lot near the city’s Silver Bowl sports complex, the Schwabs have staked their ground with cooking, cleaning and dining equipment. They serve up spaghetti, hot dogs and occasionally a celebratory cake for someone’s sobriety.

Those first few meals turned into a church-wide ministry, which relies on funds from donations and the North American Mission Board’s Domestic Hunger Fund, distributed through the Southern Nevada Baptist Association to feed the homeless.

This work doesn’t come without price and sacrifice for the Schwabs and their small group of volunteers. At the end of a 12 or 14 hour day, the Schwabs come home spent but excited about what God will do each week.

“If people can deal with the heat and cold all the time, then we can do it one night a week for a few hours,” Janice says.

“Being homeless takes away your dignity,” says Huffman, who gives a message each week while their guests eat. “My calling is to build these people back up.”

Because of its transitory nature, the homeless population makes follow-up and discipleship difficult. But in this case, four people have come to Christ, been baptized and are attending Rushing Wind Church.

“Four years ago, I began living in the desert,” Dawn says. “I began waking up every morning looking for a way to feed my habit. I heard there was a place I could get something to eat.”

The church met her physical need and with that offered a cure for deeper cravings she found only fulfilled in Christ. They did the same for Anthony, who started using drugs at 13 and Bob, also a former addict.

“I have been a meth user and alcoholic for 30 years. I found myself homeless for the last five years,” Bob says. “I found myself living in the desert off Russell Road. I was never really into God. I started going to the services because I was hungry.”

Lisa started using crystal meth eight years ago. Thanks to the ministry at Rushing Wind Church, she’s now clean. “I still go to the park,” says Lisa, who has since landed a job and a home. “But I go as a volunteer.

“My life is lived for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Lisa adds. “I am living proof that all you have to do is give everything up to Him and He will change you.”

The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund gives people ears for the Gospel by feeding hungry mouths. In 2008 alone, money given to the Domestic Hunger Fund served more than 5 million meals, resulting in 36,000 professions of faith in Christ. More than 100,000 volunteers served at more than 2,000 hunger ministry sites throughout the U.S. funded by more than $1.26 million distributed by the North American Mission Board to Southern Baptist state partners.

According to Louann Aegerter, a North American missionary and ministry evangelism director for the Southern Nevada Baptist Association, NAMB hunger funds provided more than 92,000 meals through hunger ministries throughout the state.


Feeding the hungry is a ministry everyone can participate in. Why not organize a group from your church to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or with a missionary in your state. If you need help finding a place to serve, go to namb.net/hunger and click on “State contacts” to find your state’s hunger ministry contact person. They will be able to refer you to a ministry in your area.
Adam Miller is associate editor for On Mission magazine (onmission.com).

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  • Adam Miller