By Jill Waggoner
For many Christians, the concept of hunger ministry brings to mind a governmental agency or a local food pantry. Yet the hunger need around the world is diverse and the ministries required to meet these needs will be also. Many churches across the country will recognize World Hunger Sunday, Oct. 12, and attempt to bring attention and solutions to this critical need.
So, why should you care about hunger?
- Hunger is in your church. For many, the question of where their next meal will come from is a daily, if not hourly, concern. In the United States alone, 89 percent of households with children are considered “food insecure,” meaning they do not know how they will provide their next meal, according to the 2014 “Hunger in America” study by Feeding America.
- Hunger is in your community. Today, 46.5 million people, or one in seven Americans, receive support through a feeding program. Hunger happens everywhere. It is not restricted to urban contexts or rural settings. Those affected include the employed and unemployed, educated and uneducated, military, elderly, children, and students—everyone.
- Hunger is a global crisis. This month, three U.N. food and agriculture agencies reported that although improvements have been made over the last decade, 805 million, or one in nine of the global population, still do not have enough to eat. With every international emergency we see on the news, hunger is a reality for those who are persecuted, displaced, or in war.
- Scripture compels us. Scripture is not silent about how God’s people are to minister to those in hardship. Even a quick look at the life of Christ illustrates that, while Jesus met spiritual needs, he also cared for physical needs. He often used the physical realities to point to spiritual truths. In Matthew 25:35-36, he says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.” For an extensive list of biblical texts on hunger, visit here.
- Meeting hunger needs is a critical part of our Gospel message to a watching world. The church must concern itself with this topic because hungry people are not just social issues; they are people who bear the image of Christ. “The message of the Gospel explains why we care for those in need: precisely because we believe Jesus’ teaching that ‘the last shall be first’ (Matthew 20:16) and that the kind of other-directed servant leadership our Lord demonstrated is the same kind we ourselves are to model,” says Russell Moore, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
My church uses the phrase “as you go” when talking about sharing the Gospel. We share Christ with others as we live our lives in our communities, in our families and in our jobs. It’s incorporated into everything we do.
Global Hunger Relief operates from a similar mindset. The work of Christians around the world is vast, varied and Gospel-focused. Yet, “as we go,” we encounter physical needs that must be met in order to effectively minister. GHR, formerly known as World Hunger Fund, is a cooperative initiative that comes alongside existing partners and provides the funding to meet those needs.
The church must have her eyes open to the hunger needs around us—within our bodies, communities and nation—“as we go.” Join forces with those who do effective, Christ-centered ministry and seek out those who still might be overlooked.
No matter how and where you serve, make hunger needs a priority in your church Oct. 12, World Hunger Sunday, and change forever lives and communities in the name of Christ.
Jill Waggoner is deputy press secretary for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and lead brand strategist for Global Hunger Relief.