Alabama Baptists not immune to hunger issues; state Baptists can take lead in relief, advocacycomments (2)
October 10, 2013
By Grace Thornton
Jude was an Alabama Baptist preacher — a preacher who had no food.
Severe health issues cost him his job. He couldn’t walk anymore. His wife left him, and he lived in a dark house for a month when the power and water got cut off.
Then it got worse — he got evicted.
But evangelist Rick Hagans of Opelika tells Jude’s story as one of redemption. Funds from Global Hunger Relief (see story, page 4) given to Hagans’ Harvest Evangelism ministry helped give Jude a room in a recovery shelter with hot meals every day.
His first day at Harvest Evangelism, Jude sat down to a plate full of roast beef, mashed potatoes, biscuits and sweet tea.
“If you could’ve watched this man eat, you would’ve smiled and passed him seconds,” Hagans said. “Through your hunger fund giving, that’s exactly what the Alabama Baptist State Convention is doing — passing seconds to hungry men, women and children.”
Jude isn’t the only Alabama Baptist who’s been the recipient of funds from Global Hunger Relief.
A mother of three who is a member of First Baptist Church, Fairhope, had given to the church benevolent ministry in the past, and then she fell on hard times.
Her husband left her, and her income was slashed.
Connie Hardman, a member of First, Fairhope, said, “Once she was able to courageously voice her need to someone … discreetly we were able to give her food and food vouchers at our local grocery store. We didn’t realize how much this family had struggled until one of the children voiced that ‘now we can have milk in the house again.’”
Alabama Baptists like Hagans and Hardman are finding themselves on the front lines of the battle to end hunger in Alabama — something that is part of a much larger worldwide war, according to Bread for the World, a Christian ecumenical anti-hunger group.
Globally one in four children is stunted because of malnutrition. Demand for food is projected to rise 50 percent by 2030, according to Bread for the World.
In the United States, 49 million people face food insecurity on a daily basis, 15 million of those children, according to Feeding America.
The numbers are big, but victory is possible, said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
“The number of extremely poor people in the world has been cut in half since 1990,” he said. “God has given our generation the possibility of ending hunger and extreme poverty — worldwide and certainly within our own richly blessed nation.”
Forty-three religious leaders — including Beckmann — signed a statement that said “with concerted effort, a system to hold all nations accountable and God’s help, we believe this is an achievable goal.”
In 2000, 189 countries got behind the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which sought to cut the proportion of people living with hunger and poverty by the end of 2015.
According to Bread for the World, the poverty goal has been met, but the hunger target hasn’t.
It’s still attainable, Bread leaders said, but even as they push for that they are focusing largely on what comes next after the MDGs end in 2015.
Bread for the World “urges the president of the United States to provide leadership to get the nations of the world to set specific goals for continued progress against poverty and hunger — and announce a goal and plan to end hunger in America,” Beckmann
According to Bread for the World, “the reason the United States still has hungry people is simply that national, state and local government leaders have not made hunger a top priority. With effective leadership and the right strategies, hunger and poverty could be ended in the United States much earlier than 2040.”
The organization encourages faith-based groups to urge the president to become more involved in developing a framework for the years following the MDGs’ conclusion and to “take the lead in rallying all countries to support a goal of ending hunger and poverty.”
This is where LaMarco Cable, Bread’s deputy director of organizing and grassroots capacity building, said Alabamians could help.
“We are making the case that goals (for the future) should truly be universal, meaning that they should apply to all countries, including the United States,” Cable said. U.S. leadership, he said, needs to be encouraged by Americans to address the issue on American soil, not just focus on low-income countries as the MDGs did.
To back this principle up at home, Alabama Baptists continue to meet hunger needs head on in their communities — Alabama Baptists like Michelle Weaver, coordinator of the food and benevolence ministry at First Baptist Church, Alabaster.
“A family of Mormons visited our church, and we found out that between the six of them in the household they were barely eating,” Weaver said.
Church members took groceries to their home and even organized to prepare them meals, she said. “Between all of the ministering to this family and assisting them with groceries, they continued to visit our church.”
They are now members and have professed Jesus Christ as Savior, Weaver said.
George Thompson, director of missions for Judson Baptist Association, said Baptists in his area have been able to see similar needs met.
“The director of Love in Action (a Judson Association ministry center in Abbeville) was approached by a new client who was crying real tears, saying ‘You have helped me so much with this food. I am so hungry.’ She was ‘for real’ hungry,” Thompson said.
“We have had more than a few to shed real tears when receiving Jesus Christ as Savior” after they are touched by people meeting their needs, he said.
“These are only a few of the stories we hear often.”
For more information about Global Hunger Relief, visit www.GlobalHungerRelief.com. For more information about Bread for the World and the MDGs, visit www.bread.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Some names have been changed.