FIRST-PERSON: Open your hand to the hungry

WASHINGTON (BP) -- On Oct. 14 many Southern Baptist churches will be focusing on the tragedy of world hunger. Most of us probably have very little experience with hunger. Our stomachs rumble a little bit, and we put a stop to that pretty fast.

Yet, for millions of people around the world and here in the United States, hunger is a daily, unquenchable reality. More than 1 billion people in the world do not have enough to eat; that is nearly 1/6 of the world's population. Even here in the United States, nearly 50 million Americans, in this land of plenty, do not have enough to eat, and that includes 17 million children.

Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes around the world -- that's one child every five seconds. And millions more children and adults suffer from the effects of poor nutrition. In fact, hunger and malnutrition are still the No. 1 risks to health worldwide.

Surely, we can all do more to help those who, often through no fault of their own, are less fortunate. In Deuteronomy 15:11 God told His people, "For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, 'You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.'"

Truly opening our hearts should lead us to open our hands. Can you sit by while millions go hungry and children die for lack of food? If it were your child, and you had no way whatsoever to feed her, what would you do? You would be heartbroken, I'm sure. Mothers and fathers around the world at this very moment are cradling dying children in their arms, feeling helpless and hopeless. Imagine the guilt they feel. The sense of failure. The sheer terror. You can help that poor, desperate parent and her child.

Many of us worry that our kindness and generosity will be used simply to pay for outrageous bureaucracies and that very little of what we give for the world's hungry will actually put food in people's mouths. I share your concern. I want my gifts to directly feed the hungry, too.

There are many very reputable ministries that do everything they can to keep costs down. If you already give to one of them, I hope you will consider an especially generous gift this year. If you are looking for a hunger ministry to support, I encourage you to give to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Did you know that 100 percent of your gift will go to meeting the needs of the hungry? That's right -- 100 percent! The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund can do that because Southern Baptist churches already pay the overhead costs as part of our missions giving. Every penny of every dollar you give to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund will go to meeting the needs of the hungry. You can't do any better than that.

I hope you will open your hand and give generously to save a life. Go to worldhungerfund.com to help feed a hungry person today. Mercy is the mark of the compassionate person. I hope you will have mercy today and provide some life-saving food for a hungry person. May God bless you for your kindness.


Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).