By: Rev. Becky Brown
I clearly remember the first time I participated in a Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event. I was a Senior in High School in northern Durham in 2001, and the Durham area churches hosted a big youth event which included packaging meals together. The carpeted gymnasium and multi-purpose room at Aldersgate UMC was absolutely packed! There were youth everywhere. The entire operation was fascinating and inspiring. I had never seen a group of 100s of teenagers working so hard in my life. So many students showed up that there weren’t enough volunteer positions available. We had to sit on the sidelines until it was our turn to jump into our roles of bag holder, rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, weighing or sealing. I was moved by the 1000s of meals we packaged that day. I didn’t know a bunch of teenagers could make such a difference with such a global problem as world hunger.
Fast forward to August 2009 when I came on staff at FUMC. Our church staff was meeting to discuss ways we could begin to offer more church wide opportunities at the church. We wanted to find a way for people to develop connections with fellow Christ followers who might attend a different worship service. We wanted to connect people across the generations. So, we started planning a calendar for the summer of 2010 that would include church wide events every Tuesday. We called them Terrific Tuesdays. Genius, I know. The staff talked about ways we could incorporate mission projects into these summer activities, and I immediately remembered my experiences packaging meals with Stop Hunger Now.
Since 2010 we have packaged 219,796 meals over the course of 12 events. We have packaged anywhere from 10,000 meals to 30,000 meals in one night together. That is amazing to me. Then, in 2014, Stop Hunger Now started emailing the church with the details of where our meals were shipped. The event became even more fun! We learned that in 2014, our meals went to Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa. In 2015 our meals went to ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua and Leonarda's Home of Hope in Honduras. In 2016 our meals went to LeSEA Global: Feed the Hungry - USA in Kampala, Uganda. Kara Sither, our prior Children’s Ministry Director and current Communications Director had recently returned from a mission trip to Uganda and had visited this organization! It’s amazing how small our world really is. Also, in 2016, our meals went to CitiHope International in Dominican Republic. And finally, in 2017, our meals went to ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua (again) and Malawi Relief Agency.
Just recently, we packaged 15,000 meals together on August 12. I expect to receive a shipment confirmation from Rise Against Hunger (new name, same organization) in the next couple of months! I love serving alongside all of you in this great mission project! I fills my soul to see young children and older seasoned adults working side by side. It is truly the only service opportunity I know of that incorporates all abilities! What a great way to follow Jesus’ command to feed the hungry.
We will continue to host meal packaging events at FUMC yearly. You can also make donations to Rise Against Hunger throughout the year. We are still in need of $1000 to cover our event this month. Our next event will be on Palm Sunday, April 14. If you haven’t ever been a part of a meal packaging event, come. You won’t regret it. If you’ve been to several events, come! It’s always a joy to serve Jesus alongside you.