Many churches and organizations across the nation will gather this week to celebrate Thanksgiving by feeding hungry neighbors in their communities. But one of the Southeast District’s mission connections started early and stretched farther with their anti-hunger efforts.
About 70 volunteers from churches and communities in southern Chester County gathered in New London UMC’s fellowship hall Saturday, Nov. 1, to prepare 10,000 highly nutritious, packaged meals for Stop Hunger Now’s worldwide feeding ministry. Sponsored by the tiny church, the huge effort benefited from funding plus hands-on support from at least eight partner churches in its regional mission connection.
Together the churches raised and contributed $2,900 to purchase 10,000 meals from Stop Hunger Now (www.stophungernow.org), which delivers the materials and contents for volunteers to assemble and then eventually transports the packaged meals to where they are most needed. The Raleigh, N.C.-based agency has coordinated distribution of food and other live-saving aid to undernourished people around the world since 1998. Nearly 870 million people globally lack adequate food, it reports, which leads to 25,000 deaths a day, taking more lives each year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined, according to U.N. and USAID figures.Volunteers at New London UMC took under two hours to assemble packages of dehydrated rice, soy, vegetables, flavoring, and essential vitamins and minerals. Each package can feed up to six people. The fellowship hall bustled with activity, as music played and people of all ages and backgrounds worked together, talking and laughing but focused on their important, life-saving task. Someone struck a brass gong to announce every 1,000th meal completed.
Among the volunteers were youth from area churches and high schools and two students from nearby Lincoln University who videotaped and interviewed participants for a school presentation as part of their community service project. When the event was announced in the local newspaper, “our phone was ringing off the hook with people who said they were coming,” said the Rev. Mercedes Case, New London’s pastor. Recalling that a Stop Hunger Now project had been done before at annual conference, she said she and church member Beverly Lauver proposed the idea at a meeting of the South Chester County Mission Connection (formally known as the Oxford Club). Mission connection churches are challenged to collaborate in mission together.
“It’s just amazing,” said Lauver, “because our tiny church—of about 25 weekly worshippers, many on fixed incomes, she said—was able to do this big mission project only with participation from our partner churches and so many others.” The church also collected food donations to give to the local Bridge Food Cupboard.
“It was quite a day,” said a weary but smiling Case as workers straightened and cleaned up the hall. “We had volunteers from elementary-school age to 90-plus years old, and our mission connection worked together to make it happen. New London couldn’t have done this event on its own. It’s something other churches should think about doing.”
By John Coleman
EPA Conference Communications Director