NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Worldwide, 870 million people don’t have enough to eat — and the vast majority of them have no idea how much God loves them. A new initiative involving the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund (WHF) aims to tackle both those problems.
The new initiative, Global Hunger Relief, seeks to take the WHF’s unique “dollar in, dollar out” message to new and wider audiences — and to challenge a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus’ love to starving souls, in both word and deed.
“No one is for world hunger. We all think it’s a terrible thing and we wish it would go away,” said Russell Moore, newly elected president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which is charged by Southern Baptists with raising awareness about the hunger issue.
“Having the right feelings about hunger, though, isn’t enough. That’s the equivalent of the apostle John’s warning against saying ‘Be warmed and filled’ to those in need,” Moore added. “The World Hunger Fund — and the new Global Hunger Relief initiative — is a tangible way for Baptist Christians to feed hungry people in Jesus’ name. The Bible tells us we’ll be asked at the Judgment Seat about our response to the hungry. The least we can do is give, to offer a meal and the Gospel of life to those who are starving.”
A booth in the exhibit hall during the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Houston will introduce Global Hunger Relief to the Southern Baptist family. The booth presence will be sponsored by the seven partners that collaborate in promoting World Hunger Sunday each year.
While Southern Baptist donations to the hunger cause have tailed off over the past decade — from $6.3 million in 2000 to $4.6 million in 2011 — the strategic value of those funds has increased dramatically, both in North America and overseas.
Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, sees hunger funds playing a crucial role in taking the good news of God’s love to people who otherwise are unlikely to hear.
“Right now across the world there are more than 3,000 unengaged unreached people groups,” Elliff said. “That means they have not had the privilege of hearing the Gospel.”
When IMB uses Southern Baptist hunger funds among the unreached, however, “every project is tied to a long-term strategy, not only for evangelism and discipleship, but for planting reproducing churches,” Elliff said. “There can be no better investment of your resources and your life than through projects like that, which will bear fruit unto life eternal.”
‘Doesn’t return void’
Hunger funds play a crucial role in Southern Baptist humanitarian efforts, as well, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of the Baptist Global Response international relief organization.
“Hunger strategies are one of the most effective tools we have in reaching people in need both physically and spiritually,” Palmer said. “The simple act of helping people with their basic hunger need has shown over and over to be an effective compassion strategy that also gets us into heart conversations with people who do not know God’s love.
“I have seen countless people touched by the kindness of having their basic needs met,” Palmer added. “In many cases, they are surprised and sometimes astonished … as we give a piece of bread, a cup of cold water or a way for them to earn more money so their family can have a healthier, fuller life. I have seen that the Word of God never returns void. I also have seen that the compassion of Christ, meeting needs like hunger, doesn’t return void either.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said NAMB’s close work with Southern Baptist state partners “has given us many opportunities to be sure underserved communities in North America are receiving food for the hungry and a chance to experience the hope found in Christ. We look forward to this continued partnership and to expanding these opportunities.”
Healthy churches that want God to use them in transforming lives and communities will touch needy people with the love of Jesus, added Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Healthy churches reach out to people in crisis,” Rainer said. “Feeding hungry people is one of the best ways to help them experience God’s transforming love. LifeWay Christian Resources is pleased to support hunger ministries across America and around the world, and encourages churches and their members to participate in the Global Hunger Response initiative.”
Wanda S. Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union, agreed, saying that followers of Christ must help when it comes to hunger issues.
“After hearing Jesus’ teaching on the parable of the talents, the people asked him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you a drink?’ And He answered, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:37,40 KJV), Lee said. “Jesus modeled for His followers how to reach into the heart of those who were lost and hurting by feeding them physically and spiritually.
“For many years, the World Hunger Fund has made it possible for many of our missionaries serving in places where hunger is a real and daily challenge to minister to the people they serve,” Lee added. “Our gifts through the World Hunger Fund are enhanced by the support of the Cooperative Program to cover administrative costs, enabling 100 percent to be used for feeding hungry people. By following the example of Jesus, we become more like Him as we share His love with a hurting world.”
100% meets need
Global Hunger Relief follows the unique “dollar in, dollar out” path blazed by World Hunger Fund. While many hunger relief organizations keep as much as 70 percent of donations for administrative overhead, the Southern Baptist channel sends 100 percent of every gift to meet hunger needs in North America and around the world.
Southern Baptist gifts through the Cooperative Program will dramatically enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of Global Hunger Relief projects, said Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
“Because of the faithful gifts of our churches through the Cooperative Program, every penny of every dollar of personal gifts to Global Hunger Relief goes directly to feeding the hungry here in the United States and around the world,” Page said. “Southern Baptists have been passionate about meeting hunger needs for many years. The new artwork for this historic fund will help connect a younger generation to the urgency of this need.”
That new GHR logo will be a key element of a strategy to help a new and wider audience appreciate the effectiveness of combating hunger through a channel that dedicates their entire donation to Gospel-centered projects that share God’s love.
That strategy will continue to support promotion of World Hunger Sunday, which Southern Baptists observe the second Sunday of October each year, but hopes to leverage a fresh look and new media to raise awareness with a wider audience about Southern Baptists’ unique approach to hunger relief.
Currently, the clearinghouse for information about Southern Baptist hunger relief is on the Internet at worldhungerfund.com.
Resources also 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).