2014 Florida Baptist Hunger Awareness Offering: Feeding the forgotten
Jul 25, 2014
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention

A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. Prov. 22:9 HCSB

 
South Putnam Church sits in the southernmost corner of Putnam County, the third-poorest county in Florida, in a community where families and seniors live on fixed incomes and migrants provide cheap labor for the area’s fern industry.
 
Making ends meet for these forgotten people is a daily challenge.
 
But they are not forgotten to Pastor Brian Baker, who knows their names and has led the congregation to be “the hands, feet and voice of Christ in our community.”
 
“For some reason He put us in a community with real needs,” Baker said. “He sends people to us so we can love and pray on them.”
 
FBC photo
Twice a month a team of volunteers operates the “Feed the Need” ministry, providing grocery staples, fresh fruits picked from members’ homes and produce and meats to the hungry in their neighborhood. 
 
Using no government funds that would allow them to buy food in bulk but prevent them from sharing their faith, the volunteers and church members purchase “buy one, get one” items from local grocery stores, clip food coupons and exist on donations of money, food and clothing. 
 
Contributions from the Florida Baptist Hunger Awareness Offering provide a subsidy to the congregation as they love and minister to these often overlooked people. 
 
“We would not be where we are without the funds from Florida Baptists,” Baker said.
 
Dale Devries and Charlene Carwile began the ministry by helping a few of the residents. They and several dozen volunteers now welcome hundreds of people on the first and third Mondays of each month. The church feeds 360 families on an ongoing basis. 
 
“Most of the need is hope,” Devries said. “They have lost hope. This is a tough community and not a lot of jobs.”
 
“A lot of people are in survival mode,” Baker said. “It’s a day-to-day survival to make ends meet. People will have enough gas to get here for food, but don’t have enough gas to get home.”
 
More than a food pantry, the ministry team helps those in need find jobs, provides clothes and toiletries, and offers formula and diapers to young mothers. A medical clinic is offered in conjunction with St. Vincent Medical Center in Jacksonville once a month. 
 
Every person who comes to the church receives prayer and counseling to discover individual needs. During a three-month period this year, five people were baptized as a direct result of the ministry. Each Sunday, several who have been helped return to worship at the church.
“They come for food, but we want to give them Jesus,” Baker said.
 
Retiree Clint White comes to the church twice a month to help stretch his family’s food budget on his fixed income. 
 
“They treat me just like I’m a member of the family. They are good people,” he said. “A lot of families here cannot afford to buy enough food for an entire month.”
 
A car accident claimed Ray Lenley’s leg about 10 years ago; cancer claimed his health in recent days. Although he regularly comes to the food ministry, during those difficult days, the ministry leaders brought food to him, as they regularly do for other shut-ins.  When he was unable to purchase a part for his broken vehicle, Pastor Baker brought him the part and refused to be reimbursed.
 
“They treat us like a person, not a number,” Lenley said. “They don’t talk down to you, they talk like they love you.” 
 
The world is full of forgotten people, people who are trying to survive in troubled and economically tough times. The book of Proverbs speaks to the Christian’s responsibility to feed the poor, “A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” 
 
Through the Florida Baptist Hunger Awareness Offering, Florida Baptists are reaching out to those in need. While many churches can cover the cost of their compassionate ministry, others rely on a helping hand from God’s people in Florida.  
 
The Convention subsidy does not cover the entire cost of a church’s ministry, but supports a much-needed part of the church’s efforts.
 
During the past year, 128 Florida Baptist churches and associations received financial assistance from the Florida Baptist Hunger Offering.
These funds totaled $121,975 and fed 247,395 people in 2013. As a result, 2,832 of them made professions of faith and 600 were baptized into the fellowship of a local congregation.
 
When Florida Baptists give, their gifts to the offering go to alleviate hunger and the causes of hunger for forgotten people in the United States and around the world: 60 percent of all funds is sent to the International Mission Board to alleviate worldwide hunger; 15 percent is earmarked for the North American Mission Board and 25 percent is sent to Florida hunger relief ministries through local churches and associations. 
An estimated 1.2 billion people in developing countries live on $1 a day or less. 
 
Florida Baptists through the International Missions Board’s World Hunger Fund are making a difference. The Fund is not supported by either the Cooperative Program or the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
 
Gifts enable missionaries to minister by meeting human needs around the world through community development and disaster response.
In many ways, America is the land of plenty. But for one in five children in the United States, hunger is a daily reality. Nearly 49 million people in the U.S. are lacking food on a regular basis—or about 1 in 6.
 
Many people may believe that the problems associated with hunger are confined to certain socio-economic segments, certain areas of the country or certain neighborhoods, but the reality is much different. 
 
Right now, millions of Americans struggle with hunger. These are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot make financial ends meet and are forced to go without food for several meals or even days.
 
Funds earmarked for the North American Mission Board help Southern Baptist churches within the United States demonstrate God’s love to the forgotten poor in all 50 states.

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