MBC attacks poverty through hunger evangelism
By Allen Palmeri
April 5, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) will distribute $55,000 for hunger relief evangelism outreach this year, which is the largest single-year effort by the convention to reach out to the poor in this manner that Vivian McCaughan, the MBC specialist overseeing the distribution, can remember.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is providing $40,000, with the MBC contributing $15,000 through the Rheubin L. South Missouri Missions Offering, said McCaughan, MBC Woman’s Missionary Union / Women’s Missions and Ministry Specialist. About $4,000 of the $55,000 has been allocated so far for hunger evangelism projects.
“Ministering to people in our state who are hungry gives us an opportunity to meet their physical needs, which gives us credibility and integrity then,” McCaughan said. “And the door’s opened for us to share the Gospel. I think from my vantage point, that’s the key.
“I see it fitting very well into our convention’s thrust of evangelism and church planting, because we can use this as a tool for evangelism opportunities.”
In the last quarter of 2004, 23 professions of faith were recorded as a result of hunger relief evangelism, McCaughan said. Typically this outreach takes place through food pantries, soup kitchens, community mission projects and ministry centers. This type of work is becoming increasingly more important, McCaughan said, because of the dramatic rise of poverty in Missouri. In December of 2004, there were 297,567 households in the state getting public assistance. Five years ago the number was around 180,000.
Churches and associations have been identifying opportunities to minister to these people, and several projects of an evangelistic nature have received funding through McCaughan’s office.
Two MBC churches in Jackson, Fruitland Community Church and Cape County Cowboy Church, received $750 to help deliver a basket of groceries before Thanksgiving to everyone in a Jackson mobile home park. Each home was given a 10-pound turkey, cans, bread, a bag of potatoes and a bag of fruit, along with a New Testament. About 55 turkeys in all were purchased.
“We got to talk to quite a few folks,” said Fruitland Pastor Mike Parry. “It was more relational evangelism. We’ve had some folks visit our church because of it.”
First Baptist Church, Butler, runs a food pantry where 33 people professed faith in Christ last year. Pantry Director Joyce Fitzpatrick said she would like to start a Bible study this spring.
Another group of hunger evangelists runs a food pantry with devotions 20 minutes before the pantry opens. The theme always leads to soul winning, with many coming to Christ.
McCaughan is hoping the Missouri WMU will become even more involved in this type of evangelism this year as an extension of the Project HELP poverty emphasis that the WMU has adopted for 2004-2006. The purpose of Project HELP is to lead the church to local and global actions that will help break the cycle of poverty by meeting needs and sharing Christ.
“They’re the vehicle that could help us know where the hunger pockets are,” McCaughan said.
Much of the funding comes as a result of Southern Baptists giving to World Hunger Sunday. Eighty percent of these funds go to the International Mission Board (IMB) for international hunger, with 20 percent going to NAMB for domestic hunger. World Hunger Sunday this year is Oct. 9.
NAMB maintains a Web site on hunger evangelism. It is www.namb.net/hunger.
For more information on how your church or association can participate in this type of evangelism by applying for these funds, call McCaughan at (800) 736-6227, ext. 640, or email her at email@example.com.