SBC Life Articles

Feed Me Till I Want No More

Around the globe, in places like Africa and India, hunger often parades naked — exposed by gaunt faces, skeletal ribs, and the paradox of bellies swollen to conceal their emptiness. We look at photos of the world's most famished places and people, sometimes enveloped in clouds of dust and flies, and know for certain that slow death from starvation awaits them unless something is done.

The hungry in North America, however, may be harder to recognize. Although we see the need in homeless people digging scraps of food from Dumpsters, many hungry people cloak themselves in the trappings of normal lives. They dwell among us in apartments or houses, go to school, work, raise families, and live in retirement. The result of their hunger pangs may not look like malnutrition as much as a puzzling failure to thrive.

Southern Baptists have learned, no matter where the hungry live: if you feed the belly, the soul often wells up for nourishment, too.

As a response to the plight of the hungry, Southern Baptists established the World Hunger Fund. In many parts of the world, where 80 percent of SBC hunger funds are sent, hunger ministry takes the form of disaster relief, emergency rations delivered to people caught by famine, pestilence, or flood. Here in North America, however, where 20 percent of SBC hunger funds remain, hunger is sometimes relieved in less overt ways. Traditional soup kitchens still address the problem but so do block parties and kids clubs, tutoring programs, and Thanksgiving dinners. These are ways to feed food-insecure people often not ready to admit their need. In 2006, $1.4 million was channeled through 2,200 domestic hunger ministries, according to Sandy Wood of NAMB's ministry and servant evangelism team, all of it spent on food.

Mike Wright, community church planter for Living Hope Community Ministries in Cincinnati, uses hunger relief funds primarily for special events and needs. Every year the ministry uses funds to cater a Thanksgiving dinner attended by more than one hundred people. This single meal in the lives of people who are frequently food-insecure results in the growth of God's Kingdom — sixteen people made professions of faith in 2005. By that measure, it's bountiful.

Spending hunger relief funds through ministries like kids clubs often helps them reach such families' children first. Wright cited one family who came to his attention that way. "We found opportunities to help their situation," says Wright, and eventually a family member accepted Christ and was baptized.

In addition, Wright points to the unknown effects of such ministry as identified by Jesus in Matthew 25. "I think that applies to how we use the hunger funds," he says. "There are people who need Jesus Christ, and we may not know the outcome until we stand before the Lord." Meanwhile, more than thirty thousand professions of faith were reported in 2006 through hunger ministries in North America.

Adapted from the Fall 2007 issue of On Mission, published by the North American Mission Board.

Action Point

Feeding the hungry is a ministry that everyone can participate in. Why not organize a group from your church to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or with a missionary in your state. If you need help finding a place to serve, go to www.namb.net/hunger and click on state contacts to find your state's hunger ministry contact person. They will be able to refer you to a ministry in your area.

October 14 is World Hunger Day. Offerings designated for World Hunger are distributed between the International Mission Board (80 percent) and the North American Mission Board (20 percent).

    About the Author

  • Kima Jude