Monday, April 21, 2008

Food for the hungry

As I mentioned last week, from now until Mother’s Day, both at home and church, we are focusing on the issue of world hunger.

Hunger is making headlines these days, as food and fuel prices soar. While it seems like a huge, insurmountable problem, there’s actually a lot we can do. And even small things can make a difference.
As a family, we began by signing up for a two-hour shift with Feed My Starving Children, an amazing organization that provides nutritious food to the poorest of the poor.
Thousands of folks from our church and the surrounding community have signed up to do what my family did on Saturday. Feed My Starving Children sets everything up in stations where volunteers can assemble meals that are going to be shipped, in this case, to Zimbabwe. We filled plastic bags (about quart size) with rice, soy protein, dried veggies and a chicken-flavored powder that contained vitamins and minerals.

After the bags were sealed, we packed them into boxes. That quart-sized bag actually contains enough for six meals. And the FMSC partners (independent faith-based and missions organizations) provide one meal a day. So it’s a very small amount of food. But it can mean the difference between life and death for a child who had been eating only a few times a week.
Click here to see a great video about this amazing organization.

On Sunday, we went to church and heard an excellent, challenging message from one of our pastors, Nancy Beach, on what we can do to fight world hunger. It prompted a lot of interesting discussion.
And starting today, we are joining with others to engage in what our church is calling the Five-Day Solidarity Challenge. This is, in essence, a modified fast. As an act of solidarity, to increase our awareness and compassion, we will eat as the majority of the world does, for five days. This also provides an opportunity to redirect the resources we’d normally spend on groceries to a fund for helping feed the hungry. And to pray for those who are hungry.
We had oatmeal (minus the usual sugar and other toppings) this morning. The kids packed rice and tortillas for lunch. We’ll have rice and beans, or rice with a bit of veggies and chicken, for our dinners.
What’s amazed me is how my 14-year-old is embracing this. She and her friends are challenging and encouraging each other to do it. My kids attend public school. They’ll have an opportunity to talk about this issue with friends when they pull out their tortillas and rice today at lunch.
Admittedly, since I want my kids to stay healthy, I am “cheating” on this by giving my kids multi-vitamins and milk to go with their meals. But I’m also having a lot of conversations with them about why we are doing this.
The five day challenge is really an opportunity for us, as a body of believers, to engage the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is to abstain from something for a spiritual purpose. While we will eat some food, it will be substantially less than we normally eat.
The goal of this challenge is not to “grind it out” or simply endure hunger. It is not to “win” the challenge, as if we were competitors on Survivor. Rather, the goal is to be spiritually transformed. A secondary, and quite practical goal, is to reduce the amount we spend on food, and to redirect those resources to the poor.

The Bible is very clear that fasting is always linked with prayer. Specifically, that prayer is one of repentance, or prayers seeking God’s miraculous help, prayers that are especially heartfelt or intense. And so I am encouraging my family to pray. When they feel hunger pangs, use that as a reminder to pray. When they get bored with rice, remember and pray for kids who may eat very little besides a bit of rice, not just for a week but for a lifetime.
For us, a greater challenge than just eating rice and beans, perhaps, is to be open to letting God speak to us about our own complacency, and to repent of that. So as I pray for my church and myself, I’m hoping that God will move in the hearts of people in our church and our community.
The Bible tells us that if we just fast to impress God or others, but it doesn’t change our heart, God is not interested. He says to his people: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter…” (Isaiah 58:6,7).
If you’re participating in this challenge (and you don’t have to be a Willow member to do it), you may want to reflect on Scripture, and listen to God by reading the whole of Isaiah 58 during each of the five days. Let his word speak to you and touch your heart.
My prayer is that this will be a spiritually transforming experience for me, and for my family. I’d love for you to join us, even for one day of the challenge, and post your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I am constantly in awe of how much you do for God and the world around are such an inspiration to anyone that knows you. Thanks for keeping us posted on what you are up to and reminding us that "through Christ all things are possible."


Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Tomorrow is the last day of our five day challenge. it has been tough. rice and beans for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast. not only sparse but BORING.
our dinners we added a little bit of meat to the rice, beans and veggies.
did you know that you can feed a family of four with just two chicken breasts if you add enough rice and beans? :)
to me, the highlight of the week was hearing my 12 year old son pray at dinner, "God, help those kids in Africa to just make it through another day."
he was feeling their pain, in a small way. very touching!