Worldwide, 870 million people don't have enough to eat—and the vast majority of them have no idea how much God loves them. A new initiative involving the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund aims to tackle both those problems.
Global Hunger Relief, a new branding of the World Hunger Fund, takes the historic World Hunger Fund's unique "dollar in, dollar out" message to new and wider audiences—and challenges a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus' love to starving souls, in both word and deed.
A booth in the exhibit hall during the June 11–12 SBC annual meeting in Houston introduced Global Hunger Relief to the Southern Baptist family. The booth presence was sponsored by the seven partners that collaborate in promoting World Hunger Sunday each year (ERLC, IMB, NAMB, WMU, LifeWay, the SBC Executive Committee, and Baptist Global Response).
"No one is for world hunger. We all think it's a terrible thing and we wish it would go away," said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is charged by Southern Baptists with raising awareness about the hunger issue.
"Having the right feelings about hunger, though, isn't enough. That's the equivalent of the apostle James's warning against saying Be warmed and filled (James 2:16) to those in need," Moore added. "The World Hunger Fund—and the new Global Hunger Relief initiative—is a tangible way for Baptist Christians to feed hungry people in Jesus' name. The Bible tells us we'll be asked at the Judgment Seat about our response to the hungry. The least we can do is give—to offer a meal and the Gospel of life to those who are starving."
While Southern Baptist donations to the hunger cause had tailed off over the past decade the strategic value of those funds has increased dramatically, both in North America and overseas. This past year saw an encouraging increase in contributions to address world hunger.
Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, sees hunger funds playing a crucial role in taking the good news of God's love to people who otherwise are unlikely to hear.
"Right now across the world there are more than three thousand unengaged unreached people groups," Elliff said. "That means they have not had the privilege of hearing the Gospel."
When IMB uses Southern Baptist hunger funds among the unreached, "every project is tied to a long-term strategy, not only for evangelism and discipleship, but for planting reproducing churches," Elliff said. "There can be no better investment of your resources and your life than through projects like that, which will bear fruit unto life eternal."
Hunger funds play a crucial role in Southern Baptist humanitarian efforts as well, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, an international relief organization.
"Hunger strategies are one of the most effective tools we have in reaching people in need both physically and spiritually," Palmer said. "The simple act of helping people with their basic hunger need has shown over and over to be an effective compassion strategy that also gets us into heart conversations with people who do not know God's love."
"I have seen countless people touched by the kindness of having their basic needs met," Palmer added. "In many cases, they are surprised and sometimes astonished . . . as we give a piece of bread or a cup of cold water. . . . I have seen that the Word of God never returns void. I also have seen that the compassion of Christ, meeting needs like hunger, doesn’t return void either."
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said NAMB's close work with Southern Baptist state partners "has given us many opportunities to be sure underserved communities in North America are receiving food for the hungry and a chance to experience the hope found in Christ. We look forward to this continued partnership and to expanding these opportunities."
Healthy churches that want God to use them in transforming lives and communities will touch needy people with the love of Jesus, added Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
"Healthy churches reach out to people in crisis," Rainer said. "Feeding hungry people is one of the best ways to help them experience God's transforming love. LifeWay Christian Resources is pleased to support hunger ministries across America and around the world, and encourages churches and their members to participate in the Global Hunger Relief initiative."
Wanda S. Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman's Missionary Union, agreed, saying that followers of Christ must help when it comes to hunger issues.
"After hearing Jesus' teaching on the parable of the talents, the people asked Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you a drink?' And He answered, 'Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me'" (Matthew 25:37,40 KJV), Lee said. "Jesus modeled for His followers how to reach into the heart of those who were lost and hurting by feeding them physically and spiritually.
"For many years, the World Hunger Fund has made it possible for many of our missionaries serving in places where hunger is a real and daily challenge to minister to the people they serve," Lee added. "Our gifts through the World Hunger Fund are enhanced by the support of the Cooperative Program to cover administrative costs, enabling 100 percent to be used for feeding hungry people. By following the example of Jesus, we become more like Him as we share His love with a hurting world."
100 Percent Meets Needs
Global Hunger Relief follows the unique "dollar in, dollar out" path blazed by the World Hunger Fund. While many hunger relief organizations keep as much as 70 percent of donations for administrative overhead, the Southern Baptist channel sends 100 percent of every gift to meet hunger needs in North America and around the world.
SBC Executive Committee
Southern Baptist gifts through the Cooperative Program dramatically enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of Global Hunger Relief projects, said Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
"Because of the faithful gifts of our churches through the Cooperative Program, every penny of every dollar of personal gifts to Global Hunger Relief goes directly to feeding the hungry here in the United States and around the world," Page said. "Southern Baptists have been passionate about meeting hunger needs for many years. The new artwork for this historic fund will help connect a younger generation to the urgency of this need."
Global Hunger Relief
The new World Hunger Fund/Global Hunger Relief logo is a key element of a strategy to help a new and wider audience appreciate the effectiveness of combating hunger through a channel that dedicates their entire donation to Gospel-centered projects that share God’s love.
That strategy will continue to support promotion of World Hunger Sunday, which Southern Baptists observe the second Sunday of October each year, but leverages a fresh look and new media to raise awareness with a wider audience about Southern Baptists' unique approach to hunger relief.
The clearinghouse for information about Southern Baptist hunger relief is on the Internet at worldhungerfund.com.
Resources also are available through the websites of the national World Hunger Fund/Global Hunger Relief partners: Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (www.erlc.com), North American Mission Board (www.namb.net), International Mission Board (www.imb.org), Baptist Global Response (www.gobgr.org), Woman’s Missionary Union (www.wmu.com), LifeWay Christian Resources (www.lifeway.com) and the SBC Executive Committee (www.sbc.net).
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response and is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.