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INSIDE STORY: Throwing more than crumbs at the hungry


Stuck at a crowded intersection, I pulled up beside a scraggly looking fellow wearing faded camouflage and holding a cardboard sign.
“Homeless and Hungry Vet,” the sign said.
I tried to look the other way but instead reached into my pocket and fingered a $5 bill.
“God bless you,” the man said.
In my Sunday school class, a sheet listing food pantry needs came my way. That afternoon, my wife and I dropped a couple of boxes of the requested instant oatmeal packets into our grocery cart.
Can’t you tell that my heart aches for the hungry?
Yeah, right.
In reality, I take my own immense blessings — including my daily bread — for granted and don’t worry much about those who go without. Oh, now and then I throw a few crumbs at the hungry. But I seldom stop and ponder the cold, hard truth: People are starving.
It’s difficult for me to comprehend hunger because I’ve never experienced it.
As a child, I felt like my family was poor. We qualified for reduced-price school lunches. At home, we ate our fair share of fried bologna, mackerel patties and deviled Spam. But I never — never — woke up and wondered if I might not eat that day.
One of my favorite childhood memories concerns the time my family ran out of food. People from church showed up with carloads full of groceries. We ate like kings for weeks.
The only problem with that story: It didn’t happen the way I remembered it.
As my mother explained recently, we had moved to a new town in North Carolina where Dad had accepted a preaching job. The groceries were part of a “pantry party” welcoming us to town.
So, not only have I never been hungry — I have never been on the verge of it.
Just imagine if I really stopped and contemplated the fact that roughly one-half the world’s population lives in moderate or extreme poverty.
Might I drop to my knees and pour out heartfelt thanks for my abundance? Might I pause before scraping leftovers into the garbage can? Might I throw more than crumbs at those in need?
When Christian Chronicle assistant managing editor Erik Tryggestad proposed the Page 1 story about a global food crisis, I feigned a yawn. But when I read the story, I shed a tear.
Think about it: A mother resorting to cookies made of salt, vegetable oil and dirt to fill a baby’s tummy.
No doubt, the problem of world hunger may seem insurmountable.
Then again, we serve a Savior who took a boy’s tiny gift — five small barley loaves and two small fish — and fed 5,000.
At the recent Pepperdine University Lectureship in Malibu, Calif., I attended a session titled “Be Warm and Filled: A New-Old Strategy for Confronting Extreme Poverty.” Shaun Casey, a member of the Fairfax, Va., church and an associate professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., led the class.
The ironic thing, Shaun said, is that while Christians despair, renowned secular economists are becoming more optimistic about overcoming world hunger.
“God is in the business of loving the hurting and feeding the poor, and I think we have forgotten that,” said Shaun, who teaches a global poverty course. “We underestimate the power of our churches and the difference they could make.”
We underestimate the power of God.
So, what can I do?
My thanks to Shaun and other experts for these ideas: I can pray. I can donate money to feed the hungry at home and abroad. I can support the teaching of modern farming techniques around the globe. I can study the concept of “microloans” and see how my participation might benefit people in developing countries.
I can give up a few birthday and Christmas presents and provide a goat or a pig for someone whose language I don’t speak. I can make sure my church’s budget serves the poor and not just the well-dressed folks in the pews.
And I can learn from the examples of faithful Christians such as Aaron and Amy Etheridge and Carl Hardeman.
While I sit on the couch, the Etheridges — church planters in their 20s — feed teenagers three nights a week at a homeless youth shelter in Eugene, Ore.
Hardeman, a 61-year-old church member in Collierville, Tenn., leads an all-volunteer team that raises a vegetable garden for the local food pantry.
As Hardeman explained, “We grow all kinds of veggies and donate all of it to the needy.” Last year’s total donation: 2,986 pounds.
He’s sharing Christ, not crumbs.
May I repent of my indifference and do the same.


Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Thank you, Don!
    ,
    May, 28 2008

    I lived homeless for several years and would not be here now were it not for the church of Christ coming to my aid….on more than one occasion. Today, after many years of working to rebuild my life I am a college graduate and now working on going into the ministry. Can you put a value on something like this? For me it is totally priceless, and those that helped me along the way should always be known for what they did. But the point of my comments are this….it all happened because someone cared enough to help me. I thank God for those men and women who have helped me, and I thank you Bobby Ross Jr. for this very nice article. We definitely need to rethink our entire approach to this issue.
    ,
    May, 24 2008

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