RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Spirals of smoke rise constantly from the crowded slum area nearby, but one morning in early March, the darkness and heaviness of smoke caused Hugh and Kara Larney* to take a second look.
“We saw smoke bigger than normal, and it doubled quickly,” Kara Larney said. “Hugh and I just put on some shoes and ran over. There were so many people coming out. At one point, I was almost smothering. I was pinned against a wall. There were women walking around looking for babies and just crying hysterically.”
Tragedy can strike with shocking speed and destruction in South Asia.
And thanks to the generosity of those who give to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, International Mission Board workers in the Last Frontier like the Larneys are able to respond quickly when such tragedy strikes.
Sunday, Oct. 10, is World Hunger Day, the day Southern Baptists set aside to celebrate what God has given them by giving to those less fortunate through the World Hunger Fund.
— Within the first few days after the slum fire this spring, the Larneys were using World Hunger Funds to feed 2,000 Bangladeshi slum residents a local staple of rice, lentils and spices.
— When a levee broke during the 2003 flood in Bangladesh, entire villages hurriedly relocated to a slim strip of higher ground, and IMB workers Roland and Eva Jines* were in the midst of them distributing food bought with gifts to the World Hunger Fund.
— And as flood waters crested throughout Bangladesh this summer — destroying crops, businesses, transportation routes and the livelihood of millions — IMB workers Jim and Mallory Sims,* Darcy Meachum* and Riley and Gayla Delk* were there feeding the hungry with World Hunger Funds.
“It was amazing to watch how dramatically the waters altered lives. The water and how it affected every aspect of life was all that was discussed,” Meachum said. “It was a revelation to me that His [God’s] love could do the same. That is so exciting!”
In recent months, Last Frontier workers in South Asia have used World Hunger Funds mostly for relief in Bangladesh, but the IMB makes funds available for emergency needs throughout South Asia and worldwide. South Asia, which includes India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan, is home to one sixth of the world’s population.
“The need is so great that it overwhelms our ability, but it is better to ‘light a candle than to curse the darkness,'” Roland Jines said. “We are thankful that many gave to the World Hunger Relief to make this assistance possible.”
One hundred percent of the contributions made to the World Hunger Fund are used in ministry.
Riley Delk said seeing the masses in need after this year’s flood impacted him greatly.
“I know one individual who has experienced a life change spiritually. That is me!” Delk said. “I now realize how blessed my family and I are and how blessed our country is.”
The World Hunger Fund underwrites both developmental and disaster relief projects.
After the Larneys fed 2,000 victims of the slum fire, they also supplied 100 of those families with sheets of tin to replace their roofs.
“They were really thankful as we gave the tin out,” Larney said. “You can look from our veranda and see shining roofs that were once black.”
While hunger and disaster relief funds have helped many South Asians physically, they have provided avenues for IMB workers in the Last Frontier to share spiritually as well.
“Our feeling all along has been that if we feed someone today and they die tomorrow only to face eternal torment, what have we really done for them? We wanted our efforts to have results that were eternally filling and not just temporary,” Jim Sims said. “Local believers were able to take names and addresses of many who came for food distributions, so that we could follow up with the Bread of Life.”
The local believers who helped organize their food distribution previously had little association with one another. But since the urgent needs related to the most recent flood brought them together, they now have formed a vibrant church.
“They are encouraging one another and working together to determine how they can reach their own community for Christ,” Sims said.
As a local Muslim man has assisted Delk in helping flood victims, Delk has shared a witness for Christ before him.
“He has been invaluable in helping me purchase food and in helping me arrange the logistics,” Delk said. “His life has been dramatically impacted, because he sees the love of God in the distribution. My prayer is that he will become a believer, and I believe he is close.”
After the Larneys distributed food and tin, they were able to share the Gospel with many of the fire victims. They also showed 25 of those adults the JESUS film, and eight professed faith in Christ, Larney said.
“While Christ was with us physically, He answered the physical needs of those surrounding Him. Through those miraculous acts of kindness, the Father was glorified,” Sims said. “It is only as the hand of Jesus feeds the hungry that He is glorified. Otherwise, it comes across as the good works of man.
“May Jesus be exalted by your giving to the World Hunger Fund, and may the world know that Jesus Christ wants not only to meet their physical needs but also, and more importantly, their spiritual needs,” he added.
Those who want to contribute to the World Hunger Fund may do so in one of four ways:
— Through a local Southern Baptist church
— Through a Baptist state convention
— Through the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
— Through the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022.
* Names have been changed to protect the security of those interviewed and those with whom they serve and to whom they minister.