NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Southern Baptists observe their
annual World Hunger Sunday, Oct. 9, they will be called to demonstrate the love
of Jesus, several key Southern Baptist leaders said.
Scripture recounts several instances, like the one recorded
in Matthew 14:14, when Jesus’ compassion for a large crowd moved Him to meet
their needs. The Greek word translated “compassion” refers to tender emotions,
deeply felt feelings or a deep churning in a person’s spirit. That surge of
compassion compels a response, said Tom Elliff, president of the International
Mission Board (IMB).
“When the Scripture speaks of our Lord being ‘moved with
compassion’ it refers to the kind of response we would call ‘gut-wrenching,’”
Elliff said. “Society is accustomed to being lulled to sleep by scenes of
indescribable horror and hunger, but genuine compassion, the kind of compassion
that moves a person to act, is part of the DNA of every true believer.
“The tragic plight of people, whose lives are being ravaged
by physical and political upheaval that has left them reeling and often dying,
is an invitation for us to express the heart of our Savior. He did not overlook
the needy, and we cannot – we must not,” Elliff said.
“Failure to respond cuts the heart out of future attempts to
share the gospel. After all, who wants to hear about a Savior whose followers
simply do not care for the needs of those who are suffering?”
Scripture also makes it clear that Christians will be held
accountable for helping people in need, said Wanda Lee, executive director of
WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union).
“Matthew 25 reminds us as followers of Christ, we must help
when it comes to hunger issues,” Lee said. “After hearing His teaching on the parable of the talents,
the people asked Jesus, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or
thirsty and give You a drink?’
“And He answered by saying, ‘Inasmuch as you did it to one
of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ … Let’s be sure we do
our part to minister to the ‘least of these’ as we join the fight against
Nearly 35 percent of American families have found themselves
forced to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage,
according to the domestic hunger-relief charity Feeding America.
In an economy like that, hunger ministries are a powerful
strategy for opening hearts to a gospel witness, said Kevin Ezell, president of
the North American Mission Board.
“So often before we try to meet a person’s spiritual needs,
we need to minister to their physical needs. There is nothing more basic than
providing food for someone who is in crisis,” Ezell said.
“We’re working hard to be sure our hunger ministries share the
hope of Christ, while providing the help of a warm meal and a kind greeting. I
want to thank Southern Baptists for their past generosity to this offering.
“With so many people facing economic uncertainty right now,
I know we will be greatly depending on these funds in the year ahead.”
Donations to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund have
been trending downward in recent years – perhaps in part a reflection of the
economic challenges families are facing – but many are praying Southern
Baptists will continue to be “Jesus people” who act out their deep feelings of
compassion for people in need, said Frank Page, president of the Southern
Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
“During these days of increased need, we desperately need to
reaffirm the validity of this offering to touch those for whom Christ died. One
must only barely read the Scripture to understand the deep compassion that
Christ had for the hungry and the poor,” Page said.
“I pray we will become Jesus people as we give sacrificially
and prayerfully to an offering which so powerfully touches the lives of so many
in this world. I pray that this year’s World Hunger Offering will reverse its
downward trend from the last couple of years and be the greatest ever – simply
because of a love for Christ and a love for people.”
Overseas, Southern Baptist missionaries and humanitarian
workers rely on the World Hunger Fund for crucial ministries, said Richard
Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Millions of people around the world are suffering from
chronic and acute malnutrition,” Land said.
“Thankfully, missionaries are on the
field feeding many of these adults and children as well as providing the
expertise necessary for their communities to reclaim their lands for crops and
“Yet without the generous gifts of Christians, these
missionaries lack the food and means to aid these who are literally on life’s
sharp edge. I hope you and your church will join with others in giving to feed
the hungry in Jesus’ name.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is senior writer and an
assistant editor for Baptist Press. For information and resources related to
World Hunger Sunday and the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit
World Hunger Sunday resources
Churches and other groups who want to engage hunger issues
have a variety of resources available to them.
A new item for 2011 is World Hunger 101, a two-hour
church-wide event that explores the issue of world hunger. The downloadable
event pack from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) includes suggestions about ways
to introduce the topic and how to consolidate a full understanding of issues
related to hunger. Each age-level session plan includes promotion ideas and
hunger project ideas. World Hunger 101 is available for download at wmustore.com.
A wide variety of resources also can be found at
worldhungerfund.com, the homepage for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund
- Bulletin inserts, the World Hunger Fund logo, mini-poster
ads, videos and a PowerPoint presentation.
Soup can labels to create receptacles for WHF donations.
A mini coloring book depicting real people whose lives are
being touched through Southern Baptist hunger ministries.
A drama script that can be used to educate church groups
on the Christian mandate to minister to the poor.
Among the low-cost items available for order on the site:
“Impact World Hunger,” a four-page publication, sized for
easy placement in most church bulletins, that also can be used as a stand-alone
World Hunger Bread Bank to help churches, schools, or
community groups fight world hunger by collecting money to donate to the World
World Hunger Fund offering envelopes.
A “B.E.A.T. Hunger” retreat kit.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also provides
resources at erlc.com/hunger, including:
Articles on topics such as biblical directives for
combating hunger and poverty and how to begin a hunger ministry.
- Two sermons, “The Ministry of the Open Hand” and “Do Justice
to the Afflicted and Needy.”
News reports on how Southern Baptists are fighting hunger
both in North America and abroad.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has
information and resources available as well.