Hunger ministry reaps great harvest
By Brian Koonce
JEFFERSON CITY – Nearly 1,000 people have come to know Jesus as their Savior this year as a result of hunger relief ministries in Missouri Baptist churches. Call it the ultimate expression of John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
“It’s been a wonderful ministry that Missouri Baptists are able to take part in: to not meet someone’s needs physically, but to feed them spiritually as well,” said Vivian McCaughan, the Hunger Relief coordinator for Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Through the third quarter of 2008, Missouri Baptists hunger ministries have yielded 984 professions of faith and 5,575 evangelistic encounters. More than 2,500 volunteers have distributed more than 19,700 evangelistic tracts and started 361 new Bible Studies while feeding 94,621 hungry Missourians.
According to the Missouri Hunger Atlas, roughly five percent of Missourians – nearly 300,000 people – will experience “food insecurity” this year. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) reports that an estimated 9 million people – including 3 million children – often do without meals or go without food for an entire day. Nationwide, Southern Baptists gave $1.2 million to domestic hunger funds to 2,200 hunger ministries, representing more than 3.5 million meals and leading to 35,000 professions of faith.
The second Sunday in October is the emphasis offering for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Offering. Eighty percent of that total goes toward hunger relief outside of North America, while the remaining 20 percent is funneled back to state conventions to fill requests from local churches and ministries. In 2008, that meant $38,500. Due to the slowing economy, that total will be $34,800 for 2009.
While that total is down a little from last year, McCaughan said it’s a huge jump in funding from as recent as five years ago.
“In 2003, we were getting $4,500 from NAMB,” she said. “It was a matter of poor reporting. They thought evangelism was probably going on, but we just weren’t reporting it. The more accurately we reported our results, the more they’ve allotted.”
Factor in $10,000 budgeted from the Rheubin L. South Missouri Missions Offering and there is nearly $45,000 available for local churches and ministries to request. A typical gift is $250 a quarter to help a church with their food pantry, but gifts can rise above $1,000 for special events and ministries. The only stipulation is that the funds must be used exclusively for food, and not to help pay utilities or buy clothing.
“It’s not just a hand out,” McCaughan said. “It must be evangelistic as well.”
That is true around the world as well. Besides receiving support from the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, many International Mission Board missionaries use gifts from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to help provide food for people or help them grow it, Baptist Press reported. According to recent studies, one in 12 people worldwide is malnourished, including 60 million children under the age of 5.