Hunger fund gifts rise as Baptists increase emphasis on world hunger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)-Strengthened commitment by Southern Baptists to combat world hunger is reflected in gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, which increased by nearly $1 million dollars in 1997, for a total of $7,966,663, an increase of 14.8 percent over 1996.
While celebrating the increase, Southern Baptist workers plan to do more and hope others will want to participate in 1998 as they reach out to touch the world's hungry and hurting.
Amidst a furor of media attention this past summer, Southern Baptists passed the Disney boycott resolution during their annual meeting in Dallas. By contrast, the resolution which followed hardly received a yawn from the press. But little did many know that this resolution addressing world hunger fired a first shot in a renewed war by Southern Baptists on starvation.
Often perplexing to viewers are the infomercials of private charities which tug the heartstrings while spending a large percentage of donations on salaries and airtime. However, because Southern Baptists already have missionaries and volunteers in place, gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund are used 100 percent for hunger ministry, with nothing taken out for administration or promotion.
"We praise God for the generosity of Southern Baptists and many Christians of other denominations in their response to the world's hungry people," said Richard Land, president of Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, of the increase.
"I truly believe this is only the beginning of a great outpouring of the compassion of Christ through his disciples for millions of poor both in the U.S. and around the world," he said, adding, "This year proved other Christians want to get involved, as 71 Christian bookstores placed change canisters next to their cash registers which generated thousands of dollars in gifts which will be used 100 percent to minister to those in need. While this aid is distributed by Southern Baptists, it is given to anyone in need, regardless of their religious preference."
Land further noted the urgency of the hour as El Nino-induced famine has wracked several nations such as Indonesia and Honduras. Welfare reform also has increased the needs of thousands of Americans, he said.
"It is time for the church to reaffirm its commitment concerning compassion for the poor. God has given us the opportunity to show his love in a very tangible way. Compassion opens hearts to hear the good news of Jesus Christ," Land stated.
Examples abound such as the Brinkley Heights Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., which used discounted foods and volunteer labor to stretch $8,000 in hunger funds into 64,000 meals last year. This multiethnic church provides emergency food aid and counseling for families in need.
Southern Baptists recently chartered the world's largest cargo plane to deliver massive food and medical aid to North Korea. Through the use of dehydrated soup mix, $1.40 in hunger funds provides meals for a victim of the North Korean famine for one month. Food monitors are present to make certain the food gets where it is supposed to go. In Argentina, $1.70 provides milk for a hungry infant for one month. During the 1997 Ohio River flooding, volunteers serving with Southern Baptist disaster relief units served hot meals to thousands of flood victims, utilizing $45,000 in hunger funds.
While the media will always focus on strong cultural stances taken by the nation's largest Protestant denomination, such as the Disney boycott, their churches and more than 9,000 missionaries will go on quietly touching millions of lives. As Sandy, a single mother in Washington, recently stated as she received a sack of groceries, "Thanks so much. Please tell people to keep giving. It really helps a lot of people."
Further information about Southern Baptist anti-hunger initiatives may be obtained by contacting the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce St., #550, Nashville, TN 37203. Tax deductible contributions may be made payable to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.