Looking into the faces of thousands of hungry people, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13) The disciples respond, in essence, saying, “Seriously?! Impossible.” So, Jesus feeds them all. Fast forward to today. The Church now, the body of the resurrected Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, stares into the face of millions who are hungry and suffering. Jesus again commands, “Give them something to eat.” I’m here to tell you that the response if quite different than those disciples.
I’m in Chicago as I write. I’m here at the invitation of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to join with others from across the country to finalize recommendations for the Appeal’s Domestic Hunger Grants. I was not invited because I have some special gifts or influence. No, I’m here because the people of Holy Trinity are among the most generous congregations in the ELCA when it comes to giving to the World Hunger Appeal.
Over the last week, I have reviewed twenty of the 100 grants that have made it through the process thus far. Five teams review twenty grants each. I need to tell you that Jesus’ command to “give them something to eat” is being carried out by disciples all over the place. The miracle of the feedings of Jesus continues.
From small food pantries that are expanding to deliver food to people who can’t make it to the site to educational programs that teach young people about hunger, advocacy and grow tons of vegetables for local food pantries; from new programs to address root causes of hunger like affordable housing, health needs, and job training to a congregation that needs to redo a kitchen so it can expand its food pantry to provide hot meals and fresh food to the neighborhood; from urban centers that are food desserts (access to food is beyond workable transportation limits) to rural programs tending the folks left behind, Christ’s body is busy giving those in need something to eat – and a place to sleep, help with clothing, job training, education and training to speak out to the powers that be.
The grants I am reviewing address many aspects of hunger that accompany people in the struggle beyond simply giving out food. Theses dimensions include: Community Organizing; Education; Food Production; Food Security; Health; Housing; Peace, Justice, and Human Rights; Public Policy Advocacy; Sustainable Livelihoods; Water
Through our food pantry, Thrive Assistance Program, partnerships with Free Store, Family Promise, Mosaic, our God’s Work. Our Hands effort each year, and much more, we too respond to Jesus’ command: “Give them something to eat.” Through the nearly $60,000 we have given to the World Hunger Appeal in the last couple of years we are helping congregations, agencies and organizations all across the country do the same.
Even as we do respond, the command continues because the hungry still gather. I pray that we dig ever deeper to answer the call of the savior – Give them something to eat.
Pastor Tim Olson