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FIRST PERSON: A child shall lead them

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In my seven years of promoting the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, it has been my privilege to see God at work in many nations, churches and individual lives. One of the most stirring has been the miraculous way God moved a church, and hundreds of other people, through the brokenness and innocent prayer of a 4-year-old girl in a small church in Alexandria, Tenn.

It is not unusual for children to come forward to pray at the altar in the West Main Baptist Church. So when 4-year old Brooke Martin joined the throng of children on their knees during the invitation, few people thought anything about it. That was in the spring of 2001. In the intervening two years, much has happened.

No doubt, most adults assumed she was following her older sister and her friends. They could not have been more wrong. After several weeks of the repeated occurrence, the church was told why the little girl was coming to the front. As it turned out, Brooke’s heart was broken for hungry children whom she had seen in an ad on television. In a call to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, her pastor, Phillip Lane, explained, “I knew we had to do something. God put a burden on her heart and I believe He meant for us to do something about it.” The next two years have shown that God was and is faithfully answering Brooke’s prayer.

Brooke holds a special place in the hearts of the people at West Main and many others who have heard her story. On the first Sunday in June 2001, the pastor gave out little banks to the children asking them to fill them up and turn in their money on the first Sunday of each month. During that month, the church voted to match what the children gave. The first Sunday, about 25 children made their way to the front with the change they had gathered, including a 2-year old carrying a quarter in each hand. To the church’s surprise, the children had raised $340.

Each month, the amount grew. After one year, the adults and children together had given more than $12,000 to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, enough to provide 80,000 meals to homeless children in Uganda plus 7,272 meals in the United States. By the end of the second year, the church had given more than $20,000. That was only the beginning for a church that had little previous involvement with the World Hunger Fund.

Articles about the church’s new commitment to hunger ministry sparked interest from children’s groups in other parts of the country. Video clips chronicling the story were shown on Nashville-area television stations resulting in one family sending in a $5,000 contribution. Most recently, a businessman from another Tennessee town, who has faithfully supported the World Hunger Fund since hearing the story of the fund and Brooke’s faith, sensed that God wanted him to donate a large portion of the proceeds from the sale of his business to the World Hunger Fund. So far, he has given more than $60,000. Clearly God has answered Brooke’s prayer in mighty ways.

According to her pastor, giving to all other ministries of the church has increased since Brooke began praying. Both general budget and mission offerings have seen substantial increases. God’s people are responding as they obediently embrace ministry to “the least of these.” Several members have received disaster relief training, the pastor has gone on his first mission trip, and greater outreach is taking place in the community. The church has experienced firsthand the truth of Proverbs 14:21: “… he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”

The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is the only hunger ministry known to use 100 percent of all donations for hunger ministry with nothing taken out for administration or promotion. In 2002, hunger monies helped fund over 220 projects in 62 different countries and provided 3.5 million meals in the United States. Within just the U.S. alone, more than 17,500 professions of faith were recorded directly related to these efforts.

Now 6 years old and still praying, what evidence of God’s power will we see next through the faith of this tiny giant in the Lord and her team of small prayer warriors? If every Southern Baptist gave just $1 per month, hunger gifts would multiply 24-fold.

For the last three years, overall hunger gifts have declined, even as needs have increased, due to events far beyond Brooke’s church: the sagging economy, wars and famine in Third World countries.

As we pray for revival in America, we would do well to remember Proverbs 21:13: “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” World Hunger Sunday is Oct. 12 Contributions can be given through your church designated for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. For more information on how you can help and to learn about resources, visit www.worldhungerfund.com, e-mail [email protected], or call 1-888-375-2461.
Steven S. Nelson is director of hunger concerns at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BROOKE MARTIN.

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  • Steven S. Nelson