“I just can’t watch or listen to the news anymore, Pastor. It is too much.” I nodded my head and said I knew exactly what he meant. I hear this from many of you, and feel it in my own heart, on a regular basis. The suffering and pain of this world is enormous. It is overwhelming. It has so many dimensions that one can’t figure out where to start.
A little over ten years ago, our congregation looked around at all the ways our neighbors needed help and we asked, “What is God calling us to do?” Recognizing that we could not do everything, we asked, “What is the one source of suffering that we can address that evokes our passion most deeply?” After lots of prayer, discussion, and discernment the answer was clear. We could feed the hungry.
We heard Jesus say, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35) We agreed that having people in our own community, especially kids, was something we could and should do something about. Sharing God’s Love would start with making sure people had food to eat.
Since then, we established the first “choice” food pantry in Ankeny (which allows clients to take what they want rather than receive preset packages). We have partnered with Love Lunches to feed kids in the summer. We have erected A Helping Hand pantry boxes for people to take what they need. We have also grown in our support of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to become one of the most supportive congregations in the ELCA of this essential ministry.
Our Lenten almsgiving project this year, (M&M Tube project) set a goal of raising $7,000. We raised over $8,000 during Lent and nearly $10,000 this year. The World Hunger Appeal supports projects in 63 countries around the world and 34 in the United States. “From health clinics to microloans, water wells to animal husbandry, community meals to advocacy, your gifts to ELCA World Hunger make it possible for the ELCA to respond, supporting sustainable solutions that get at the root causes of hunger and poverty.” (ELCA Website) The World Hunger Appeal celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It has helped millions of hungry people. Holy Trinity has been an active participant.
None of this is intended to make us proud or to brag about “success.” There are still way too many hungry people in the world. There is too much waste, too little responsibility taken by governments. We have also followed our passions to allow us to hear the call to house the homeless, care for the abused, mentor and care for the forgotten, to name a few.
The bottom line is that when faced by the overwhelming suffering of the world, we have not given into despair. Instead, we took hold of one way to help and allowed God’s Spirit to guide us. Christ said, “I was hungry” and we offered food.
Thank you for your support and partnership, my fellow children of God. Do not despair at the suffering of the world. Care, weep, cry out, but do not fail to act because the problems are big. Like the “Good Samaritan,” just attend to the suffering before you.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor