May 17th, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Since 1996, Texas Baptists have contributed over $10 million to buy and distribute food, to help people grow their own food, to drill water wells, to provide job training, to start microenterprises and to sustain a host of other Baptist ministries in dozens of countries on every continent.
The Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger supports critical ministries to help eliminate urban and rural poverty. Twenty-five percent of the offering goes to ministries in Texas, while seventy-five percent goes beyond Texas to the U.S. and countries around the world.
Not only does the Hunger Offering send money to numerous food distribution centers, but it also provides resources for development purposes, helping people to come out of their poverty. Development ministries are planting community gardens, teaching language skills and providing training in life skills and job readiness.
The need is great in Texas. The Texas poverty rate is 25 percent higher than in the nation as a whole. Ten of the 30 poorest counties in the U.S. are located in Texas, and one-tenth of the nation’s poor live in our state.
The Texas/Mexico border is vast, running for more than 1,250 miles from El Paso to Brownsville. Two million people, including nearly 700,000 children, live in a Texas border county. Almost all of the state’s poorest counties are located on or near the border. Child poverty in these counties consistently approaches and sometimes exceeds fifty percent.
The Hunger Offering for Texas Baptists seeks to extend a helping hand to all areas of Texas, but also around the world.
In Peru, great poverty exists. Most of the children living in Collique, Peru suffer from growth retardation and other effects of malnutrition, but very few are emaciated due to extreme starvation. Felipe was an exception.
When Felipe was discovered wandering the streets of Collique, his body “looked like skin and bones,” said Vince Smith, a member of South Main Baptist Church in Houston who has made five trips to minister in Collique.
His body weight was that of an eight year-old, even though he was 14. Felipe, it turns out, had been featured in a Peruvian television documentary telling about poverty and hunger in their country. The producers had put a “face” with poverty, but they were not able to find a way for Felipe to be physically and emotionally fed, Smith says.
Operación San Andrés, a ministry supported by the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, stepped in to provide that “food” through its Living Water program. OSA is a mission organization of South Main Baptist Church in Houston and receives support from several other congregations, including Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston.
Felipe’s recovery from malnutrition was not easy. His digestive system was so unaccustomed to a regular meal, that he was unable to eat much the first day. Even though he was older than the other kids in the Living Water program, Felipe was invited to stop by for lunch every weekday.
Gradually, he began to gain weight and was soon running up and down the streets of Collique like the other kids. He participated in Bible school and began to exhibit an artistic flare.
“Felipe’s art exhibited lots of imagination and creativity that could never have emerged from his malnourished body just a few months earlier,” Smith said. Two years after being “discovered,” Felipe and his family have moved further “up the mountain,” but “he will always be a reminder that hunger around the world can be addressed one child at a time.”
You can join other Texas Baptists who are “speak[ing] out for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all the destitute” (Prov. 31:8).
Ask your church leadership to consider a Fifth Sunday Hunger Offering emphasis on May 29, July 31, or October 30. Host a hunger meal with instructions and script at www.texasbaptists.org/worldhunger.
Teach the children to care for the hungry as Jesus did with the Children’s Hunger Curriculum available as a free download at this same website. Use this curriculum together with Texas Hunger Banks in Vacation Bible School, Sunday School or missions organizations.
Deuteronomy says that there should be “no poor among you….” Rich blessings are yours, it says, if you are careful to follow the commands of your Lord God.
Jesus fed the hungry, and now we should do the same.
By Joyce Gilbreath, Specialist for the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger