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Welfare reform results in drain on World Hunger Fund

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While Southern Baptists have faithfully contributed to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund since the 1970s, hunger ministries in the United States have struggled under the strain of increased demand during the past year.

Requests for domestic hunger funds were up 80 percent while Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund receipts actually declined. In spite of the struggle, nearly 3 million lives were touched in the United States and U.S. territories alone last year, resulting in 13,600 professions of faith directly related to domestic hunger ministries funded by Southern Baptists.

“Full implementation of welfare reform resulted in thousands of people entering the workplace earning wages too meager to meet their family’s basic needs,” explained Donoso Escobar, director of hunger ministries with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. “The result has been an unprecedented level of requests for funds. At such times, we have been blessed with an opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love in a very tangible way. Ministry to hurting people opens many doors for sharing Jesus’ love and letting people know they are valued.”

“The net effect has been that many ministries are not receiving as much as they had been to minister to hungry people even though they are in need of more,” he explained. “Sadly, we have only been able to give a limited response on some occasions.”

Antoinne Scruggs, pastor of Promiseland Church in Little Rock, Ark., said his church helps between 15 and 20 “welfare-to-work” families each week and has felt the impact of sagging hunger funds. He noted that the church provides families with much needed help as they make their way towards self-sufficiency.

Although the increased number of requests primarily resulted from “welfare to work,” Escobar cited several emergency situations in which the effect of fewer funds has also been felt.

“Assistance was needed for over 400 families in American Samoa after their employer filed bankruptcy,” Scruggs said. “Baptist ministries in Louisiana needed to assist several hundred sailors who lost their jobs, and a Baptist Church in Garden City, Kansas needed to help employees after a fire destroyed a major beef processing plant.”

“My heart breaks not only for the hungry, but also for Christians who forfeit the joy of such an opportunity,” Scruggs said.

He acknowledged a lack of awareness among Southern Baptists is a major part of the problem.

Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission shares Escobar’s concern. Nelson promotes the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund that provides both the NAMB and the SBC’s International Mission Board with funds for meeting hunger needs. In response to this current shortage, Nelson encourages churches to find ways to make regular support of the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund a priority in their mission efforts.

“We already have the infrastructure in place through nearly 10,000 missionaries and volunteers,” Nelson said. “With such a network, it is tragic when opportunities to show Christ’s love are lost. Those who support the World Hunger Fund can take comfort in the knowledge that 100 percent of their gifts are used for hunger with nothing taken out for administration or promotion.”

He praised the ever-growing interest many Southern Baptists are showing in hunger ministry. At the same time he noted that on average, Southern Baptists give less than one dollar each per year to the World Hunger Fund. He pointed out that if every Southern Baptist gave just one dollar per month, hunger ministries could multiply 18 fold resulting in “saved lives and reached souls.”

While rejoicing in souls that are being saved and lives that are being touched, Nelson fears many Christians are missing out on the blessing of helping others in Jesus’ name. He explained how regular gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund can be made by bank draft, collecting spare change, monthly check, or numerous other ways.

Stating that the size of the gift does not matter, he noted, “Every man, woman, and child in our churches has the power to touch a life if you consider that the average cost of a meal through domestic ministries last year was 49 cents.” He quoted a monthly bank draft donor who said, “God will multiply what we give. But we’ve got to make sure the loaves and fishes are there.”

To help meet the current needs, contributions can be made payable to The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund/domestic and sent to The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce, Suite 550, Nashville, TN 37203 or to the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30202. For more information, email [email protected] or call 1-888-375-2461.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FILLING BOXES.

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