By Kevin Ezell
For many in North America, hunger is someone else’s problem. It’s the emaciated children halfway around the world. It’s people who live on the other side of the tracks. And, occasionally, it’s the person holding a cardboard sign at a freeway exit.
But as a follower of Jesus, hunger is your problem and it’s my problem. Jesus showed us, over and over again in the gospels, that the physical needs of those around us matter to God—and should matter to us as well.
Because Jesus didn’t ignore hunger (read the stories of Jesus multiplying the fish and the loaves in the Gospels), we can’t ignore it either. Hunger impacts one in six Americans. No matter where you live you know someone who is hungry. And no matter how it appears on the outside, that hunger impacts every area of life—including physical health, mental processing ability and social relationships. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than a third of poor families in the United States have to choose whether to eat or pay for a roof over their heads.
That’s why Southern Baptists have worked together for decades to push back hunger in North America. Through your gifts to the Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief fund—more than $1.1 million in 2013—local church-based ministries in big cities and small towns provide food for hungry people throughout the U.S. and Canada.
More important, these ministries provide hope, by connecting the hungry to gospel-preaching churches where they can hear about Jesus and learn to follow Him. Your gifts to Global Hunger Relief last year led to more than 22,000 professions of faith reported through Southern Baptist hunger ministries in North America.
Lynn Gardens Baptist Church in Pueblo, Colo., is a great example of this.
The small church averages around 35 in attendance each week, but its food ministry—called God’s Food Pantry—has grown to become one of the largest in the community. Every week the church helps 180 to 190 families put food on their tables.
As the church has provided food for the community—which had been ravaged by unemployment in recent years—it has reversed the perception of Southern Baptists in Pueblo. Pastor Lonnie Hartke says when he first arrived at the church and would go door to door no one wanted to listen to a Baptist preacher. But as his small church has loved its community unselfishly by providing much-needed food, perceptions have shifted. Residents are more open to hearing him share the gospel.
One lady had attended the church years earlier but had been hurt by someone there and left. Through God’s Food Pantry, she re-connected to the church, became a follower of Jesus and was baptized. She now helps others as a volunteer in the food pantry.
Your support of Global Hunger Relief helps us push back hunger and lostness in Pueblo, Colo., and throughout North America.
Hunger is our problem as Southern Baptists. Thank you for working together to do something tangible to help our neglected neighbors.
Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board. For more information on Southern Baptist efforts to confront hunger in North America, visit http://www.namb.net/hunger-relief/. Southern Baptists will observe World Hunger Sunday on Oct. 12.