As thousands of families across America gather around their dinner tables tonight, bow their heads, and thank God for the meal they're about to receive, a Mexican family will be sending its children to bed hungry.
No, this family does not live in an impoverished, third-world town south of the border. They live in New Mexico, where 15.87 percent of the population faces food insecurity — they don't know where their next meal will come from.
According to North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary Carl Russell, New Mexico has the highest food insecurity rate in the nation — higher, in fact, than third-world countries in Latin America where the food insecurity rate is 11 percent.
As ministry evangelism coordinator for the Central Baptist Association in Albuquerque, Russell uses money provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to support ministries like the food bank at First Baptist Church, Bernalillo, New Mexico, and Noon Day Ministries — a ministry where Albuquerque's homeless and near-homeless can find a nourishing meal and other basic provisions.
"Our office provides financial support to nine food service ministries in the association," Russell said. "The ministries we assisted last year fed approximately 150,000 people. That may sound like a lot, but it was just a drop in the bucket."
First Baptist-Bernalillo — located about eighteen miles north of Albuquerque — gives away between fifty and seventy bags of food every Tuesday.
"This is a beautiful and wonderful ministry," said Ora Coree, director of the church's Spanish ministry. "We are a small congregation and our church is in need of some repairs, but we prefer to see our money going to feed, to clothe, and to teach those who are in need."
In addition to stocking its own food bank, First Baptist-Bernalillo also provides food to Steamboat Lake Navajo Ministries and Joshua's Vineyard, an organization that feeds the homeless in parks throughout Albuquerque. "We serve the needy and the people who are doing God's work," said Coree.
Noon Day Ministries, started by a Sunday School class at First Baptist-Albuquerque, has now become an independent non-profit organization serving five thousand meals per month. Noon Day director Danny Whatley has seen the number of people his ministry feeds climb, as the economy has declined. Noon Day fed seven hundred more people in June 2009 than in June 2008.
Whatley says one of the hardest things to see is the increased number of families with children. Of the three hundred people who attend meals and services each day, about twenty are kids. Roadrunner, another local food bank, reports that one in four New Mexico children suffer from food insecurity.
"There's often a disconnect when people think of 'world hunger,'" Whatley said. "They think of it as a far-away issue, but there is a great need right here at home. We see it every day — the need is growing. The numbers are going up but the donation dollars are going down."
Southern Baptists have an opportunity to help ministries like Noon Day and First Baptist-Bernalillo ease the pangs of hunger throughout North America by giving to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have given nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to alleviate hunger worldwide.
Last year more than $1.2 million was distributed to 2,200 hunger ministries throughout North America. Five million meals paid for by domestic hunger funds resulted in over 36,000 professions of faith. But some are still going hungry.
Requests for assistance from NAMB's Hunger Relief Ministry increased 25 percent in the last quarter of 2008. "We were forced to turn down $150,000 in requests for assistance last year due to lack of funds," said Sandy Wood, hunger ministry specialist for NAMB in Alpharetta, Georgia.
"We hope our Southern Baptist churches will consider supporting the World Hunger Fund's domestic program. It's been a tough year. The need is greater than it's been in a long time and funds are hard to come by."
Wood said NAMB's Hunger Relief Ministry assists churches, associations, and state conventions so that in the process of distributing food, the Gospel can be shared with people in need.
"Hunger ministry provides churches with a unique opportunity to share the Bread of Life along with bread for living. It is a great place for churches to begin ministering in their communities. Hunger ministry can be as simple as taking up an offering or holding a food drive, or as ambitious as starting a daily soup kitchen," said Wood.
For more information, contact Sandy Wood on NAMB'S Servant and Ministry Evangelism team at 770-410-6360 or e-mail at [email protected].
Bread Banks for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund
A bread loaf bank for missions made its debut during the Woman's Missionary Union report at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, June 23.
The bank, a new resource for the World Hunger Offering, will replace the plastic, disposable rice bowls previously used by churches to collect funds, Wanda S. Lee, WMU's national executive director, told messengers.
"Southern Baptists have demonstrated concern for the hungry throughout our history, and food banks and hunger projects are vibrant ministries in many of our churches," Lee said.
WMU, an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, introduced the bank as a resource to encourage giving to the World Hunger Offering, established by Southern Baptists in 1974. WMU is working on the project in partnership with the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, LifeWay Christian Resources, and Baptist Press.
Kaye Miller, WMU's president, said the banks, manufactured by a Southern Baptist family, are reusable and affordable and "serve as a visual reminder to help those who do not have enough food to eat." They can be ordered directly from WMU, she said.
World Hunger Sunday is October 11. Contributions made directly to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund are divided between the IMB and NAMB 80/20 respectively.
For resources and more information, go to: www.worldhungerfund.com.