She was an elementary school teacher for more than two decades – until a disability forced her into early retirement . . . and a reduced pension. She soon discovered that she couldn’t stretch her income enough to meet her monthly financial obligations. She was in need–and hungry–for the first time in her life.
He’s a legal immigrant, daily working the fields of the Sunshine State from sun-up to sun-down. Although surrounded by the bounty of the land, he has barely enough to feed his family of four children. He and his wife often go to bed hungry so that their children don’t have to feel the pangs of hunger as they try to sleep.
He is on the go constantly. Week in and week out, he is in a different city, doing his job so that others can enjoy a few hours of fun. He’s a carnival worker, setting up and tearing down rides and displays. Although carnival attendees love the funnel cakes and cotton candy, sometimes all he wants is a hot meat-and-vegetables meal.
Throughout Florida, the faces of hunger may be as close as the senior adult who lives down the street . . . or the child who can’t focus on schoolwork because of gnawing hunger . . . or the person who has been out of a job longer than he cares to admit.
Pastor Michael Fredette of Liberty Southern Baptist Church in Plant City didn’t clearly see these faces of hunger until one Wednesday evening about six years ago at his church.
That evening, a teenager approached him and asked if he had a snack. Standing in the church’s kitchen, Fredette, who was then serving as youth minister, turned and opened the cabinets behind him. All he saw was a box of graham crackers, stale from having been opened for far too long. He took the box down and gave the young man a couple of crackers. Before he could even put the box back in the cabinet, a line had formed.
That evening, Fredette realized, for the first time, that he was looking at the faces of hunger.
“Hunger is our enemy,” he said. He decided that evening to lead his church to fight the enemy of hunger aggressively and, in so doing, to share God’s message of redemption.
The church’s approach to combat hunger is multifaceted, including hot meals on Sundays and Wednesdays, weekly food distribution, an emergency box program, a backpack ministry for school children, ministry during the state’s annual Strawberry Festival and more.
This comprehensive approach to the enemy of hunger is undergirded by Florida Baptist Global Hunger Relief.
During the past year, 134 Florida Baptist churches, including Liberty Southern, received financial assistance from the Florida Baptist Global Hunger Relief, which fed move than 200,000 people and resulted in 2,260 people coming to know Christ as Savior.
“It’s remarkable what God has done,” said pastor Fredette.
Once Fredette became involved in hunger ministry, it didn’t take long for him to make a commitment to God: whatever hunger ministry resources God provided to him or the church through the generosity of others, he would make sure those resources were given out to those in need.
He’s learned one important lesson: “You can’t out-give God.”
His church, although small by many standards, has learned to obediently share whatever hunger resources come their way.
Because of the church’s hunger ministry, lives have been changed in Plant City; many, for eternity.
Florida Baptists’ generous gifts to the Global Hunger Relief change lives in Florida and the world. To learn more about Global Hunger Relief go to http://www.flbaptist.org/hunger.
by Margaret Colson, Florida Baptist Convention, July 8, 2016