NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Giving to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund finished last year on an upswing, reported Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Receipts for hunger and relief in 1999 increased 2.8 percent over the previous year, Nelson said. “God is working in marvelous ways to prompt Southern Baptists to give selflessly for the Southern Baptist-directed hunger and relief ministries,” he said.
Hunger fund receipts for 1999 were the second highest in SBC history; at $10,732,302, receipts were 60 percent above the giving three years earlier. Nelson said the goal for 2000 is $12.2 million dollars.
“Hunger ministry opens countless doors for sharing the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ with those in need physically and spiritually,” Nelson said. “The increased giving reveals that more and more Southern Baptists are gaining a passion for compassion regarding those who are less fortunate and hurting.”
Gifts to the SBC’s World Hunger Fund are used exclusively for ministry within North America and around the world, Nelson explained, noting that nothing is taken from the fund’s proceeds for promotion or administration. Missionaries and churches already in the field utilize the funds. He noted that when giving drops, hunger and relief resources are not available and the opportunity to reach persons in need can be lost.
With help from the World Hunger Fund last year, more than 10,000 professions of faith in the United States alone were recorded that could be tied directly to hunger ministries.
“It is vital that more people adopt the spiritual discipline of gleaning, that is, small gifts given on a regular basis rather than just one time per year,” Nelson said. “This practice will raise Christians’ sensitivity to the needs of those around us while also making us more sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
“God makes clear in his Word that when we fail to care for the destitute, our prayers lack power,” Nelson continued, quoting from Proverbs 21:13. “Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor shall also cry himself but shall not be heard.”
While Nelson was grateful for the increase in hunger fund receipts, he expressed his concern that the continued increase in the number of natural disasters around the world coupled with the full implementation of welfare reform in the United States may prompt needs to increase at a faster pace than the gifts.
Nelson said the “BEAT Hunger” youth retreat kit, dime-a-day cards for children, along with the placement of a hunger canister at the checkout area of every LifeWay Christian Store in the nation all have aided in promoting Southern Baptists awareness of the hunger fund. Regular giving to the hunger fund also can be arranged using a direct draft process that debits the donor’s bank account each month at a specified time, he said.
Added information about the World Hunger Fund and related products can be obtained by phoning the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at 1-800-475-9127.
Mickey Caison, director of disaster relief ministries for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, declared it “a joy” to see “Southern Baptists respond to the needs around the world through gifts to the World Hunger Fund.”
“We are seeing lives touched and changed as we share bread and the ‘Bread Of Life’ or water and the ‘Living Water,'” Caison continued, citing the concept of gleaning as a prime contributor to the fund’s 1999 increase.
Jim Brown, human needs consultant for the SBC’s International Mission Board, said increased giving to the World Hunger Fund in 1999 allowed the IMB to minister more effectively to the hunger needs experienced in places such as Kosovo, Taiwan, Turkey, India and east-central Mexico after crises in those areas.
“These same hunger funds also enabled Southern Baptist missionaries to develop and implement over 100 agricultural, water well, educational, nutritional and community development type of projects, all of which help in breaking the cycle of malnutrition,” Brown continued.
While such projects provide platforms from which missionaries share the gospel and plant churches, they also intentionally involve and encourage the area’s churches in their own discipleship as they participate in the ministries, Brown said.
Brown noted that SBC hunger ministries reflect Christ’s command to his followers, outlined in Matthew 22:37-40, both to “love God” and to “love our neighbor.”
Donoso Escobar, of the North American Mission Board’s church and community ministries unit, said giving to hunger and relief ministries is a real-life way of obeying scriptural admonitions to “love our neighbor.”
“The poor remain with us even with welfare reform,” Escobar said. “While millions of Americans make their way from welfare to work, we cannot simply abandon them at this critical time.
“Many of these individuals are working for minimum wage, thus creating a growing multitude of working poor who are still unable to provide life’s basic needs,” he continued. “This provides Southern Baptists with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ as we seek to tell others of his saving power while caring for their family.”
Bruce Munns, director of store operations for LifeWay Christian Stores, said, “We’re excited about promoting the SBC World Hunger Fund through our LifeWay Christian Stores nationwide. Our customers and employees have been most gracious putting coins, dollars and checks in the collection canisters at the front of our stores. Where else can you give to such great need and know 100 percent of your gift goes to help those who are hurting?”