I have spent over 35 years working with, and walking along side, the poor and hungry. I have seen some poor here in our country who expect help and who have been taught by our welfare system that they deserve whatever they can get. But these are a minority.
I have seen far more who struggle to climb out of poverty. This is especially true in other countries. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to watch a mother holding on to an infant dying of hunger. There is a pain in her eyes that time cannot erase.
The tragedy is compounded by knowing she has done everything in her power to keep that child alive. The poor are not lazy, not in my experience. In reality, they will do anything possible to escape the deadly trap of poverty, and that includes working far harder and longer than most of us do.
Thus endeth the sermon for today.
On Dec. 10, 2005, 50 volunteers formed an assembly line at a Raleigh warehouse for Stop Hunger Now’s inaugural meal packaging event. Those volunteers packaged 20,000 meals to feed people suffering from hunger.
In the 10 years since, we have enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have packaged over 225 million meals at 19 locations in the U.S. and six more abroad. The Raleigh warehouse alone has packaged over 33 million meals, including nearly 4.6 million meals packaged last year by over 29,000 people at 278 meal packaging events.
To mark the 10th anniversary of our meal packaging program, Stop Hunger Now will host an event at its Raleigh warehouse on December 12, 2015, that is expected to attract several hundred volunteers who will package over 100,000 meals. To register to attend, click here.
Initially developed to help provide rapid relief for disasters, meal packaging now is part of a larger strategy to help boost education and sustainable development in impoverished regions of the world. Stop Hunger Now distributes meals through schools, orphanages, health clinics, vocational training programs and, increasingly, through programs that focus on women’s health, women’s education and maternal & fetal health.
“We leverage the meals so we’re not just killing hunger pains but transforming lives and society,” says Darron Stover, Raleigh program manager for Stop Hunger Now. As a member of Fairmont United Methodist Church in Raleigh, which housed Stop Hunger Now for over 11 years starting shortly after it was formed in 1998, Stover participated in the inaugural meal packaging event. He then quickly volunteered to help organize and coordinate other meal packaging events. A year ago, he joined Stop Hunger Now as a full-time employee.
The Rev. Steve Hickle was pastor at Fairmont United Methodist Church and a member of the Stop Hunger Now board of directors at the time of the first meal packaging event. “We’re building a movement to end hunger,” says Hickle, who now is Faith Outreach Director for Stop Hunger Now. He has developed partnerships with over 30 Christian faith groups and eight other faith groups in the movement to end world hunger.
Meal packaging provides a highly visible point of entry for people to get involved in eradicating hunger, which affects nearly 800 million people, down from one billion 20 years ago, Hickle says. “By offering this experience, we’re having an impact on education and development in many places,” he says. “We’re one piece of a growing movement, and we invite others to join with us in any place they can help end world hunger.”
Grab your family and friends (all ages welcome!) and join us for the 10th-anniversary commemoration in Raleigh. Click below to save your spot!
– See more at: http://www.stophungernow.org/10-years-225-million-meals-and-counting/#sthash.aMgLtrQa.dpuf
God of mercy and justice, we praise you this perfect day for all the gifts you have given your children. We glorify your name for your sustaining grace and the everlasting love poured so freely into our lives. You have given us so much, and for everything we have and all that we are, we give you our thanks.
Our prayer this morning is for the grace to more fully respond to the love and grace you have first given us. Help us always remember, and always be aware that all we have comes from you.
We have been so richly blessed with material abundance. We have financial wealth unimaginable by most of our human family. We take solid shelter and good homes for granted in a world teeming with refugees and the homeless. Food security is never an issue for our families Instead, we complain about variety and search out ever newer and exotic meals. We spend without thought, and eat to excess in a world full of poor and hungry.
Forgive us, Lord, for our thoughtlessness. Forgive us for our lack of awareness. Forgive us for our continued misuse of the gifts so freely bestowed upon us. Forgive us for our lack of caring… and our lack of sharing.
Lord, open our eyes so that we might see our world through your eyes. Grant us compassion deep enough to bring us to our knees in true empathy with those of our family chained by poverty and hunger. Grant us the miracle-working power of your Holy Spirit to lift us above our self-centeredness, our selfishness and fears so that we might love the least of these among us enough to open ourselves fully enough to share not only all we have…but all we are. Lord, teach us this morning how to be generous, and to give as you have first given to us.
Grant us more generous hearts. Help us more fully reflect your love through our caring and our sharing. And let all we have been given be used to glorify you. Amen
The United Nations warned today that 30,000 people are “facing starvation and death” in war-torn South Sudan. The UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization are demanding immediate access to these starving war victims, who are in Unity State.
The war in South Sudan, between the government and opposition groups, has caused extreme hunger. Farming in conflict areas cannot take place. What little food is available has become high-priced.
Nearly four million people are living with severe food shortages and on the brink of famine. Many displaced families report eating only one meal a day, consisting of fish and water lilies.
The violence has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching civilians, leaving children especially vulnerable to deadly malnutrition. UNICEF’s South Sudan representative, Jonathan Veitch, warns, “Since fighting broke out nearly two years ago, children have been plagued by conflict, disease, fear and hunger. Their families have been extraordinary in trying to sustain them, but have now exhausted all coping mechanisms. Agencies can support, but only if we have unrestricted access. If we do not, many children may die.”
As long as the violence persists, hunger will only continue to escalate. War means hunger. Oxfam’s Zlatko Gegic says, “civilians are fleeing their homes and making the treacherous journey to safer locations, only to be faced with starvation as aid organizations are blocked due to fighting. Many children have arrived alone, their mothers killed in the fighting or during the journey, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, surviving on plant roots and whatever else they can forage.”
Malnutrition causes lasting physical and mental damage in children, so it’s urgent the food reaches them quickly. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is the lead hunger relief organization in South Sudan. Along with UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services and others WFP conducts emergency missions to relieve the suffering, provided they have access.
WFP depends on voluntary donations and this must be kept up to provide the food aid. The United States Food for Peace program is the single largest donor to WFP, and Congress has to boost its funding.
But a lasting peace deal between the warring parties has to take place for the humanitarian crisis to ultimately end. The alternative is famine for South Sudan.
I have had the privilege of visiting dozens of schools in developing cointries where Stop Hunger Now meals are being used in school feeding programs. The teachers, principals and headmasters have all told me the same thing.
The children come to school because they know they will get a hot meal. It will be the only food for the day for over 90 percent of the kids eating the meals.
Then the school leaders say,”Without the Stop Hunger Now meals the children will not come to school. If they do not come to school they will not get an education. If they are not educated there is no hope, there is no future for our nation.”
School Feeding Programs provide more than just food for hungry and malnourished kids. The meals provide hope. They provide a path out of darkness into the light.