In a single October weekend, 520 volunteers at Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville packed 155,520 nutritious meals that will be distributed worldwide by the church and by Feed The Hunger (FTH), a ministry based in Burlington, N.C.
Feed the Hunger partnered with Lake Norman to hold four packathon events in the past three years, according to Ron Hoppe, lay minister of missions for the church.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
People of all ages and abilities joined Lake Norman Baptist Church's October Packathon organized by Feed the Hunger.
“These meals are a powerful, powerful tool for sharing the gospel here at home, in our country and around the world,” he said. “The meals not only alleviate physical hunger in the short term, but feed the spiritual hunger for now and for all eternity.”
Each packed box has enough food to feed a child for a full year. The packets of dry food contain 20 vitamins that most children in developing nations do not get from their normal diet, according to FTH.
Ingredients packed at the Lake Norman packathon included vegetables, chicken soy, vitamins and pasta. With a shelf life of two years, the total cost of each meal is 28 cents.
Joseph Williams, CEO of FTH, said the meals packed by Lake Norman’s volunteers will arrive in Haiti in about three weeks. Other containers of food are meeting human needs in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Brazil. Large containers of packed food recently went to ISIS victims in Iraq. Boxes of food fed survivors of natural disasters in West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina this year.
FTH was founded as New Directions ministry in 1968 by Williams’ parents, J.L. and Patt Williams. In the early years the organization emphasized racial cooperation among Christians through the use of traveling music groups, but later transitioned into a cross-cultural outreach.
After leading the organization for the past 10 years, Williams said three years ago they changed the name to ‘Feed the Hunger.’ “People think ‘physical hunger,’ but we’re obviously thinking ‘spiritual hunger’ on equal footing. We want to do both at the same time,” he explained.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Families worked together to put together packets of food for Feed the Hunger, a ministry based in Burlington, N.C.
Williams believes that just as food ministers to the recipient, the packathon is designed to minister to the church. “It’s about getting the whole church in a service project together,” he said. “We want the packathon to be an extension of the church’s mission, not ours.”
Each church is encouraged to keep some of the packed food for use in their local outreach and their overseas mission partners. Lake Norman has delivered boxes of food to local mission needs, as well as to the Eastern European countries of Moldova and Ukraine.
Churches and schools held approximately 75 packathon events this year. Schools, both public and private, often use it as a service project. In some locations food from the packathon is placed in the backpacks of school children to take home for their family.
“We don’t hide who we are or why we do it – we are openly Christian,” said Williams. “We want anyone to feel welcome to do a packathon just like we want anyone to receive the food. Most schools are OK with that.”
FTH leads packathons at a large, major university in the southeast. Most participants are members of Greek fraternities and sororities on campus that require service projects of the membership, making the project an ideal function.
“We tell them why we do what we do, and they don’t feel threatened with our message,” he added. “We get to share about Jesus in general, and often in specific ways. … We just rest in the Lord that He will open doors and we’ll just walk through them.”
Williams said the organization was asked to conduct a packathon for one of the largest travel websites in the world. “The feedback was 100 percent positive,” he said. “But after the fact, someone in their HR department was worried that someone might get offended and we have not done one there since. There was no complaint – just the worry that a complaint might come. It’s a shame that it’s come to that.”
Haiti is the destination for more boxes of food than any country served by FTH.
“There is an excessive amount of humanitarian aid in Haiti so we focus on feeding school children,” said Williams. “We want to be part of the process of raising up a generation that’s going to make a difference. We feed 3,500 school children every weekday. Some of these kids have been on these meals for five to six years, and you can see the difference it’s making – not only physically, but in their ability to pay attention in school.”
Williams has felt a growing concern for needs in the United States. “God commands us to help the needy and poor in our land. That has convicted me because I was ignoring 75 percent of the Great Commission. I was working only in the [last part] of the Great Commission. … We’re all troubled for our country. I think the need is going to grow more and more here.”
Last summer FTH held their first All-American Packathon. “We wanted to create an extra supply of food to help in America in a time of need – not knowing that a couple of months later there would be Hurricane Matthew. … We were immediately able to deploy food to Lumberton and Fayetteville.”
They partnered with three other organizations in Fayetteville. Some were cooking barbecue, combining it with FTH meals, and distributing the food on site.
Hoppe said Lake Norman joined the special summer packathon. “As a result, we had half of a pallet here when the hurricane hit Lumberton. We were able to get that delivered in two days. It was not enough to meet all of the needs, but it helps in the immediacy of the crisis.”
For more information about Feed the Hunger visit feedthehunger.org. Contact them at P.O. Box 2347, Burlington, NC 27216 or (888) 772-9634.