Bags of food go home with hungry kids
CARTERVILLE, Ill. (BP) -- Amy Simpson already had enough to do. With three kids and a full-time job with the city of Carterville, Ill., and a variety of church responsibilities, she had said no for four years when asked to start a Woman's Missionary Union group for younger women at her church.
And even after she relented in 2008 and agreed to lead the group, she certainly didn't have time to mobilize those women in a new missions venture.
Yet God made the time. Through a friend at another church, Simpson had heard of a need in her community to help feed school children on the weekends -- when they don't get their breakfasts and lunches at school.
"What's sad about our area is that there are few jobs here for parents," Simpson said, noting that many of the major employers in the area have closed. "Our economy is pretty shabby."
Simpson and the other younger ladies in the church WMU group wanted to help -- because it was something Jesus would do. Built around a simple declaration, "God Use Me," the GUM Drop Ministry of First Baptist Church in Carterville, Ill., provides much-needed help for hungry kids on the weekends.
Through the ministry, kids get a bag of child-friendly food to take home each Friday during the school year. Each bag has enough food to get a child through the weekend -- often including cereal, canned pasta and fruit.
Even though it's done on public school grounds, the ministry uses every opportunity to point the students to Jesus and tell the students why they're receiving the bags. Often it comes in the form of Scripture verses attached to food items or small gifts in the bags.
For the past four years the ministry has been a labor of love for Simpson and more than 1,000 volunteers (40 to 60 a night from a variety of churches and denominations). In the ministry's first week in 2008, it fed 12 children. Today, it feeds nearly 1,300 a week in 34 schools and six counties.
Simpson acknowledged that starting the ministry was a journey of faith.
"When we started, we had nothing," Simpson said. "I've had to step out of my box -- and He moves the box on me daily! We need to invest in our kids. They may never know me personally, but someday, when they get to be my age, maybe they'll look back and say, 'Someone cared enough for me to help.'"
Many children and parents who have benefitted from this ministry have written notes of thanks back to the ministry over the years, she said.
"I've gotten a couple of cards from different parents," Simpson said. "I've saved them all, and they make you cry."
The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund has been a big part of helping Simpson and others feed hungry children in southern Illinois. Though existence of this fund is highlighted by Southern Baptists each October, churches and faithful donors who contribute to the hunger fund throughout the year provide 5 million meals for more than 2,000 hunger ministries -- such as the GUM Drop Ministry -- in North America. More than 33,000 professions of faith have happened through those ministries.
"It has been a roller coaster of emotions to be honest," Simpson said. "Most of the time I want to cry [because of all of the needs this ministry meets]. I feel very honored, privileged and humbled that God lets me participate in this."
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. This article appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of On Mission magazine.