Seeds Publishers Engaging churches in the healing of hunger & poverty


A Night without a Home

Nov. 16, 2010

People in the Waco community will voluntarily sleep on the streets tonight. As a part of the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, “A Night without a Home” is showing participants what it’s like to be homeless.
The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a meal at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen. Participants will then be heading over to Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, where they will spend the night outside. A breakfast with the homeless at First Lutheran Church will conclude the simulation on Wednesday morning.
“A Night without a Home” is just one of the events being put on by The McLennan Country Hunger Coalition and the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition to promote awareness this week.
Other events include “Dinner and a Movie,” which is being held at Jubilee Theater Wednesday night. The movie Easy Street will be shown at 6:45 p.m. On Thursday night, Beatnix Burger Barn is hosting Open Mic at 8 p.m., and Friday is the Annual Food For Families Food Drive. Donations for the food drive are being accepted at every event.
For more information, contact Ellie Lewis (, or Kenneth Moerbe ( at 254-715-0134.


Where Are People Hungry?


Liberia, Guinea & Sierra Leone
North Korea
Horn of Africa
South Sudan

Where Are People Hungry?

An Introduction

by Katie Cook

From Millennium Development to Sustainable Development

Before 2008, the “anti-hunger” community saw some progress toward ending hunger in the world, although it seemed slow to many of us. The number of people who died each day from hunger had shrunk from a reported 38,000 in the mid-1980s to 25,000 (depending on whom you asked and what criteria they used).

A United Nations summit in the year 2000 had chosen eight Millennium Development Goals—aims for cutting global poverty in half by 2015 (see below for a list of the MDGs). Some gains had been made toward the eight goals, which included eradicating extreme poverty, providing education for everyone in the world, empowering women, reducing child mortality, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

But the petroleum crisis of 2008, brought on largely by the war in Iraq, caused food prices to skyrocket. The ensuing crisis set the anti-hunger movement back a decade or more. The global recession was exacerbated by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and extended droughts across the globe. During that year, riots broke out in a number of countries where the scarcity of food grew and the prices of food spiked.

Although fewer people died from hunger-related causes in the ensuing years, more people were at risk for food insecurity and undernourishment. In 2009, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that global climate change alone could increase the number of undernourished people by between 40 million and 170 million.

In 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders to attend a September summit in New York, NY, in hopes of accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.  In June 2013, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced that 38 countries had met the MDGs, and that 18 of them had also met a more stringent World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the number of undernourished people.

It is now 2015, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is declaring this year a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for sustainable development. In September, UN member nations will meet to decide on new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide global development priorities for the next 15 years.

Who's Hungry in the World?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reported in 2011 that 65 percent of the world’s hungry people live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. The World Food Programme lists the following 13 countries as having the highest rate of undernourished people (35 percent or more of the population): Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

Twenty-two other countries were listed with 20 to 34 percent of their people undernourished and at “moderately high” risk of food insecurity. Several regions of Somalia, in the Horn of Afica, were recently designated by the UN as official famine areas.

Several countries—Africa’s Western Sahara, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Somalia, along with Syria, Bhutan and Papua New Guinea—were in such turmoil that the WFP didn’t have enough data to rate them. (Some of these countries may have shifted into the “very high” category since the WFP published its report, and some may have improved conditions Go to this link to see the WFP’s latest hunger map.)

In 2009, almost a billion people went to bed hungry every night. The current number, according to the WFP, is 795 million. Although this, of course, is heart-breaking and unacceptable, it shows that those who work so hard to end hunger have made steady progress.

On this page, we will take an all-too-quick look at some of those high-risk countries. (Watch here and in future issues of Hunger News & Hope for more profiles.) After reading these reports, we suggest that you get in contact with your denomination’s or faith community’s hunger response program and find out how you can help them respond to these and other food-insecure regions. If you need help in contacting your denomination’s hunger program or finding a program to support, please feel free to call us at 254-755-7745 or email

—Katie Cook is the Seeds of Hope editor. Sources: UNDP Newsroom, Africa Renewal and Hunger News & Hope (HNH). See “Who’s Hungry in the World?” in HNH Vol. 12 No 1, Summer 2011. For more information about the Millennium Development Goals, see “Millennium Development Goals: How Far Have We Come in Eight Years?” “The US Responds to Millennium Goals” and “Praying Toward the Millenium Development Goals,” HNH, Vol 9 No 4, Spring 2008; “Special Section: UN Summit to Accelerate Progress on Millenium Development Goals,” HNH, Vol 11 No 2, Summer 2010; “UN Summit Pushes toward 2015 Goals,” HNH, Vol 11 No 3, Fall 2010. For more information about preparation for the September Sustainable Development Goals summit, go to this link.


The Millennium Development Goals

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2. Achieve universal primary education

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

4. Reduce child mortality

5. Improve maternal health

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

8. Develop a global partnership for development

—For more information about the MDGs, go to or go to the Hunger News & Hope page of this website and look for the Special Section on MDGs in Vol 11 No 2, Summer 2010, pp 5-8, and Vol 11 No 3, Fall 2010, page 1.

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Decline in Exported Oil, Drought and Government Shutdown Cause Hunger

by LeAnne Kerr

Market predictions from last August have Venezuelans in a tight bind. Last summer, an infuriated mob looted and set fire to a National Guard post due to outrage stemming from ongoing food shortages. These attacks were inevitable reactions to long lines at supermarkets, suspicions about market prices and an ultimate sense of desperation among the people. The Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict recorded 500 protests over food shortages and 56 looting incidents in the first half of 2015 alone. Incidents of looting, black market sales, smuggling and social resistance to the government are on the rise again in 2016.

Venezuela map

Map of Venezuela

Last year, Venezuelan government officials targeted smugglers for looting supermarkets and grocery stores. The government is regarding this act of taking stolen goods across the border as “treason.” The Wall Street Journal reported that a middle-aged man and his two friends were beaten by Venezuela’s military because they were accused of smuggling.

Since then, the situation has only worsened. A vicious drought settled in the country in the first part of 2016, exacerbating the economic, social and political disasters. The country is rationing energy; 70 percent of the energy now comes from the Guri Dam in Bolivar State. In April, the government announced that more than 2.5 million public sector employees were to work only two days a week to conserve daytime electricity. This summer, protesters are blaming Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for the country’s decline.

When oil, the main export of Venezuela, has a lowering price, it worsens the economic crisis. Drought conditions control whether the country generates hydroelectric power or not. The drinking water is contaminated, making the people sick and unable to maintain proper hygiene for healthy living. Above all, people are becoming more and more poor, and desperately hungry. Food smugglers are being pursued and prosecuted for selling stolen food at a higher price than the price that is set by the government. The set price for food is now lower than the cost of producing the food.

With 10 lootings per day, food riots continuing, protests at every turn, power outages, lack of food and lack of water, Venezuela is scrambling to make it out of this turmoil. Consider this country in your prayers as they are in desperate need of God’s faithful hand.

- At this writing, LeAnne Kerr was a Professional Writing major at Baylor University and the interning Editorial Assistant for Seeds of Hope Publishers. Sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBC News.

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Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone:

Hunger and Devastation in Ebola-stricken West Africa

by Grayson Wolf

The Ebola crisis in West Africa has garnered headlines since December 2013 without undue cause. The most recent outbreak is the worst ever recorded for the Ebola virus. In fact, it has killed more people than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. Displacing countless lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, this epidemic seized the world’s attention. Often lost, however, in the hysteria surrounding a possible pandemic, were the frightening implications of Ebola and food insecurity.

The data about the Ebola crisis is absolutely stunning. As of the most recent World Health Organization situation report, there have been 27,049 documented cases of Ebola, resulting in 11,149 confirmed deaths. This total is widely expected to be higher than recorded.

liberia, guinea, sierra leone

Map of the Ebola Countries

The epidemic was at its height from August 2014 to October 2014. Thankfully, Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May 2015, after 42 days with no new cases. Even so, new cases are cropping up each week in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Disaster relief poured into West Africa, sometimes to the detriment of relief workers, some of whom contracted the disease. Doctors Without Borders alone treated nearly 10,000 people, losing 14 of its own staff to Ebola. Many other organizations provided healthcare and vital resources to the disease-ridden countries. These relief efforts were duly well publicized.

Unfortunately, news outlets frequently overlooked the importance of food assistance when reporting the Ebola disaster relief. The World Food Programme has fed 2.8 million people affected by Ebola since April 2014. In doing so, they coordinated the distribution of over 66,000 metric tons of food. Despite this tremendous effort, 1.7 million people still lack reliable access to food in the region, of which at least 200,000 are food-insecure directly because of Ebola.

Ebola attacks food security in multiple ways, but none more apparent than Ebola’s propensity to devastate family units. Ebola is transmitted by contact with the body fluids of an infected person. Accordingly, Ebola has spread most easily within families, jumping from one family member to the next. In this manner, the main providers and caregivers of the family are stricken, leaving behind widows, orphans and otherwise vulnerable family members.

Ebola also disrupted the national economies—another factor in amplifying food insecurity in West Africa. Because of the crisis, many countries closed their borders to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The decrease in imports caused the price of many basic food sources to increase dramatically. Furthermore, the epidemic upset trade and food markets within the respective countries, which also contributes to food scarcity and higher prices. Consequently, the already destitute, Ebola-ridden populations face severe food shortages.

It appears that food insecurity appears will be a lasting element in West Africa, notably due to the effect of Ebola on agriculture. The World Bank estimates that “the three countries will lose at least US$1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result of the epidemic.” Since these countries rely on agriculture, production is expected to drop considerably for 2015.

The fight against Ebola is still in progress, and its devastation will most assuredly outlast the outbreak. You can show support for West Africa by staying updated on Ebola news, helping fund relief efforts, and keeping the stricken countries in your thoughts and prayers.

—At this writing, Grayson Wolf was a religion and English major at Baylor University and a Professional Writing intern Seeds of Hope Publishers. He grew up in Waco, TX. Sources: BBC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , Doctors Without Borders, Food and Agriculture Organization, International SOS, IRIN News, UN World Food Programme, World Bank, World Health Organization.

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Earthquake Leaves Nepal in Tatters

by Grayson Wolf

Nepal’s worst natural disaster in 80 years has left millions in need of aid. On April 25, 2014, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal’s Western and Central Regions. A second earthquake occurred on May 12, 2015, this time registering a magnitude of 7.3.

More than 8,000 people have been confirmed dead, and thousands more were injured. Many of those who weren’t injured are now displaced. The earthquakes destroyed or damaged more than 750,000 homes, thereby putting 2.8 million people in need of shelter. The Nepalese government estimates 3.5 million of its citizens will require immediate food assistance.

Many global organizations are rallying to provide aid for Nepal. Groups such as the UN World Food Programme and the ACT Alliance have assisted more than 250,000 Nepalese by providing food, shelter, and other necessities. Unfortunately, disaster relief in Nepal has been an arduous affair.

Map of Nepal

Map of Nepal

Responders face numerous difficulties in accessing those who need help. They face external impediments such as poor infrastructure, treacherous terrain and a looming monsoon season. Furthermore, humanitarian agencies desperately need funding.

“We’ve achieved a lot already but we must do much more. That’s why we’re bringing in more trucks and helicopters and working together with more partners to get help where it’s needed—not just food, but shelter too,” said World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “An operation of this scope and complexity requires more financial support to see this through.”

Nepal is not unfamiliar with food insecurity. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Consequently, its people are among the most malnourished. The World Bank ranks Nepal 157th out of 187 in human development and reports that 47 percent of Nepalese children under age 5 are stunted.

Moreover, the World Bank estimates malnutrition in Nepal results in a two-to-three percent loss in Gross National Product. Thus, Nepal is stuck in a downward spiral of poverty and food insecurity. The country’s economic condition, combined with concerns about the earthquakes’ effect on agriculture mean that Nepal is likely facing an enduring problem in food insecurity.

As with all food security problems, relief first requires awareness. In light of Nepal’s ongoing troubles, let’s not forget about their hungry people when the disaster has faded from the public view. One excellent resource provided by Church World Service is a hymn-prayer written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette for Nepal. If your group wishes to use this hymn as an awareness tool, go to this link.

—At this writing, Grayson Wolf was a religion and English major at Baylor University and a Professional Writing intern Seeds of Hope Publishers. He grew up in Waco, TX. Sources: ACT Alliance, Care International, Church World Service, UN World Food Programme, World Bank.

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Civil Conflict and Drought Plague Syria

by Stormy Campbell

In March 2011, political tensions in Syria exploded into violent civil conflict that continues to devastate the nation’s economy and citizens at this writing. Protests against Syrian ruler President Bashar al-Assad have been answered with ever-escalating violence for almost two years. Forces loyal to the president and rebel forces have been battling each other, often with Syrian civilians caught in the middle.

Map of Syria

The conflict has permeated the lives of each citizen, leading to difficulties in attaining food and even getting to work. Both food and fuel prices have risen rapidly and steadily throughout the nation.

The country has also suffered a drought, which has devastated crops and livestock, crippli

ng the agricultural sector of the economy. Syria, once a net exporter of wheat, in recent years has become a net importer. The agricultural sector  lost US$1.8 billion this year, with most of the loss being attributed to the conflict.

The drought, along with the political crisis, has led to high unemployment rates. Syria’s economy was already declining drastically in the months leading up to March 2011; after the conflict began, unemployment reached frightening heights. Government estimates place the unemployment rate at between 30 and 45 percent.

A Joint Rapid Food Security Needs Assessment was conducted in June 2012 by the United Nations (UN) and Syria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. The findings showed that the drought, combined with the fighting, had caused significant damage to the agricultural economy, had ruined strategic crops, and created an alarming amount of deforestation. The report also found that about a third of the rural population needed immediate assistance, with around 10 percent of those farmers being female-headed households.

As the bloodshed in Syria persists and economic conditions continue to disintegrate, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. According to a UN refugee agency, 102,000 Syrians fled in the in August 2012 alone, up from 85,000 in June.

Officials from the World Food Programme predict that some 1.5 million people will be in urgent need of food assistance within the next six months.

Jordan and Turkey hold the highest number of Syrian refugees, somewhere between 75,000 and 85,000 each. While international aid agencies have responded quickly, they have found it difficult to keep up with the needs of the increasing number of refugees.

Three million Syrians who have remained in the country will be in need of food, crop and livestock assistance in the next year. In areas of where armed conflict has become common, the ability to meet basic needs, such as food, water, medical supplies and electricity, has decreased dramatically.

Many of the families who have remained behind are being forced to cut the number of meals they eat daily, eat lower-nutrition food, withdraw children from school and cut back—or cut out—medical and educational expenses. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 people have died since the protest began in March 2011.

—At this writing, Stormy Campbell, a native of Yoakum, in the Texas coastal region, was a Professional Writing student at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope intern. Sources: United Nations World Food Programme, BBC News, US State Department, New York Times. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 1, Winter 2013.

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Five-Year Recession Throws Many Greeks into Poverty

by Stormy Campbell

While all of the European Union has felt the effects of the European financial crisis, it may be that Greece has suffered the most. The homeless population in Greece has soared in the last two years, rising 25 percent between 2009 and 2011, and 27 percent of the country is currently classified as either living in poverty or being at severe risk of poverty.


Map of Greece

The economic condition of Greece has steadily declined over the past five years. Greece’s national spending problem can be traced back to a time before the country joined the European Union. However, after joining the European Union and the adoption of the euro, public spending in the country soared even higher than before. Within eight years, public wages had increased by 50 percent.

Public spending was increasing and wages for citizens were rapidly rising. Greece became unable to support itself. The country also faced widespread tax evasion, a practice commonly accepted in Greece. Estimates put the amount of money Greece annually loses through tax evasions between US$14 billion and US$30 billion.

Even at the most modest estimate, the money owed in taxes could potentially finance a large portion of the nation’s debt, but the Greek government has had difficulty collecting the money.

Between the swift rise of wages and the lack of public money, the country soon spiraled into massive debts. Greece found itself unable to repay its loans, and was forced to seek help from the International Monetary Fund and the rest of the European Union. Under the bailout agreement between Greece and the rest of the European Union, the country needed to show it could cut €11.5 billion in spending within two years, causing crises in businesses throughout the country.

These conditions have forced Greece into a five-year recession, causing many businesses to lay off employees and lower salaries, leading to an unemployment rate of 20 percent. Many Greek citizens have lost their jobs, depleting their savings accounts paying for basic needs before they were able to find new employment.

These citizens, so affected by the recession, have been labeled as a class of “new homeless.” Soup kitchens are serving double the number of meals they did two years ago, and several hostels, particularly in Athens, have filled their beds with these new homeless people. In 2009, the average age of regular guests at the soup kitchens in Athens was 60 years. As of 2012, that age is now 47 years.

This shift in age indicates how severely Greece’s economic state is affecting its citizens. The new homeless are often well-educated and formerly held respected jobs that allowed them to afford housing, transportation and basic living needs. After the economic crises hit, many of them lost their jobs, as employers could not afford their salaries. Unable to find new work, these citizens were left with nothing.

Greece does not officially recognize the homeless population as a social group that needs assistance. Therefore, no government-supported homeless shelters exist. All shelters, soup kitchens and other agencies seeking to provide resources are independently run and operate without government support.

—At this writing, Stormy Campbell, a native of Yoakum, in the Texas coastal region, was a Professional Writing student at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope intern. Sources: New York Times, BBC World News, Athens News, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 4, Summer 2013.

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North Korea: Food Supplies Go from Bad to Worse

by Stormy Campbell

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea, is a country known for its closed and secretive state, its harsh ruling dynasty, and perpetual turmoil. A recent change of ruling, resulting from Kim Jong-il’s death in late 2011, led to Kim Jong-un’s rising as the leader of the nation. Under its new leader, North Korea may face changes.

north korea-col

Map of North Korea

While Kim Jong-un speaks of economic reform to repair a broken economy, rice prices have risen, making the grain—the main staple food for the country—unattainable for many. Some of the country’s citizens who could afford to do so seized the opportunity to gain a profit while publicly talking of reform, and started hoarding rice, leading to a decrease in the amount of food available to the general public. The price of a month’s supply of rice is thought to be around one month’s salary.

Even without rising costs, the food situation in North Korea seems grim. A long-term problem has been keeping  crop production high enough to feed the population, as the mountainous regions of the country force agriculture to be confined to a small area of the country. Only 20 percent of the land in North Korea can be used for agriculture. The country also is also situated in a climate prone to natural disasters, causing food production to be even more challenging.

In May of 2012, North Korea faced the possibility of a severe drought, which would wither the crops and lead to another shortage in food supplies. Just two months later, in July, the situation had shifted completely, as the country faced wide-scale flooding that took out several crops, once again decreasing food supplies.

The small amount of food that is available is often given to government officials and military members as a first priority, leaving the majority of the population severely lacking in resources. Around 16 million North Korean citizens are thought to be chronically food-insecure and dependent upon a public distribution system to have enough food to sustain them on a long-term basis.

As of March 2011, a United Nations survey found that over 6 million people in North Korea were at risk of outright famine without international food assistance. Nongovernmental organizations in South Korea have begun to report deaths from starvation and other hunger-related causes among their neighbors to the north.

North Korea has received the most aid from the United States and South Korea in the past, but  both countries have recently withdrawn their agreements to supply food because the North Korean government has taken actions that have been interpreted as being in direct conflict with the terms of the food deals. This has worsened an already bad situation.

—At this writing, Stormy Campbell, a native of Yoakum, in the Texas coastal region, was a Professional Writing student at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope intern. Sources: Human Rights Watch, BBC World News, New York Times, United Nations 2012 Report. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 4, Summer 2013.

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Famine in the Horn of Africa

by Katie Cook

A few days before press time (in the summer of 2011), the United Nations declared that Somalia’s food crisis had become a famine in several parts of the country.


Map of Somalia

Somalia has lurched from crisis to crisis since 1991, when the central government imploded. In 1992, a similar combination of drought and war set off a famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people and started a cycle of international intervention that, despite billions of dollars and more than a dozen transitional governments, has yet to stabilize the country.

Now, some 11 to 12 million people  struggle to survive the driest period in the Eastern Horn of Africa in 60 years. The drought caused widespread crop failure, devastating livestock and causing substantial increases in food prices. In hard-hit Somalia alone, some 3.7 million people face a crisis, and hundreds of thousands are pouring into other countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

The UN says that tens of thousands of Somalis died of malnutrition-related causes in the first few months of 2011.

The UN defines famine as occurring when “acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 percent, more than two people per 10,000 die per day and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.”

Those conditions have been met in southern Somalia, in Bakool and Lower Shabelee, both controlled by Islamic militants known as the Shabab. But people ran out of food throughout the country, and other regions were added to the “famine” category just before press time. According to American officials in the region, more than 10 million people continue to need emergency rations to survive in the wider Horn of Africa—which includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea. South Sudan, an emerging new country, and Djibouti are also affected by the drought and food crisis, as well as parts of Uganda. Many of these people are also at risk for cholera and measles.

Aid deliveries from the UN and other sources were discontinued in 2009, because of violence from the Shabab, which is considered a terrorist group by Western nations. Some Somalis reported that Islamic militants were still being violent against those who “had food from the infidels.”

A European Union aid spokesperson said, in late July 2011, that deliveries of food were still complicated by the presence of the Shabab, some supplies are now getting through to the affected regions. A Somali aid worker told the BBC in early August that international organizations were handing food over to Somali agencies, and this seemed to be working well.

In late July, the WFP began sending airlifts with 80 tons of nutritional supplies into the capital city of Mogadishu. Lutheran World Relief, CARE and Church World Service, along with the WFP and a number of other aid agencies, have been recently been concentrating on bringing help to the huge refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

—Katie Cook is the Seeds of Hope editor. Sources: New York Times, Baptist World Aid, BBC World News, The Independent, Bread for the World. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 1, Summer 2011.

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South Sudan: Challenges for the World’s Newest Nation

by Katie Cook

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest country in the summer of 2011. In January of this year, the 8 million people of southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence, and, in July, South Sudan became an independent state, with membership in the United Nations and the African Union.

south sudan-col

Map of South Sudan

The new country faces enormous challenges, including one of the worst health situations in the world.

Sudan’s most recent civil war, a brutal one that earned charges of genocide from the international community, began in 1983 and officially ended in 2005, when a peace agreement was signed between the northern and southern regions. The referendum this January was a result of that agreement.

Some 1.5 million people died in what is referred to as the Second Sudanese Civil War, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) is cited for vicious human rights violations and hundreds of atrocities during that conflict.

These civil wars destroyed what little infrastructure there was in the South and contributed to what the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) terms as the region’s “appalling health indicators.” An estimated 75 percent of people in the new nation have no access to basic medical care. One in seven women dies in childbirth. Malnutrition and disease outbreaks are constant concerns.

While the elections in January were conducted in relative peace, sporadic fighting erupted in late February and March in the Upper Nile and Jonglei states, as well as in the disputed oil-rich border district of Abyei. MSF reports that its hospital staffs treated scores of gunshot wounds during the last few months. Its clinics have also treated tens of thousands of people for severe malnutrition. MSF reports a 20-percent increase from two years ago, and a 50-percent increase from 2008.

Almost 200,000 more people have been forced from their homes since February. Another 300,000 have returned to the south from homes outside the region. This is placing an enormous strain on the country’s already limited supplies of food and water, as well as shelter.

South Sudan’s people are also experiencing a large outbreak of kala azar, a deadly disease spread by the bite of the tsetse fly.

—Katie Cook is the Seeds of Hope editor. Sources: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, Sudan Tribune, Associated Press. Note: MSF has been working in Sudan since 1978. The agency employs more than 2,000 Sudanese staff, along with almost 200 international staff in 13 projects throughout North and South Sudan. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 1, Summer 2011.

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Haiti: A Long History of Poverty

by Katie Cook

In January 2010, catastrophic earthquakes tore apart the tiny Caribbean country of Haiti, which was already choked by centuries of poverty and oppression. Before the 2010 earthquakes, 75 percent of Haiti’s 9 million people, according to UN figures, survived on less than $2 a day. About a third of the Haitian population was considered to be food-insecure.


Map of Haiti

The Republic of Haiti is located on the western third of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, and shares the island with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. According to the UN World Food Programme, more than 35 percent of its population is undernourished.

In the 18th century, Haiti was called the “Jewel of the Antilles,” the richest colony in the world. This wealth, however, was based on a particularly harsh system of slavery. Known as the French colony Saint-Domingue, it was described as one of the most “brutally efficient” slave colonies.

The country has been continually wracked by colonialism and indigenous dictatorships. Even after the slave revolt of 1804 brought independence to the nation, slavery and oppression continued—perpetuated by the Haitian elite and a hostile international environment.

Added to the ravages of oppression were earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides brought on by tropical storms, floods and international embargos. Around 2005-2006, Haiti experienced some economic growth. A US embargo was partially lifted, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund canceled 80 percent of the country’s debts.

In 2008, however, the global food crisis hit Haiti. Riots broke out as food prices skyrocketed. This turmoil continued until January 2010, when a 7.0 earthquake, with at least 52 aftershocks, hit the island and devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The city crumbled. More than 300,000 people were killed and 1.6 million left homeless, according to the Haitian government.

In October 2010, a cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti, killing more than 900,000 people. Officials speculated that the disease was accidentally introduced into the population by earthquake relief workers.

In 2011, the Haitian people still struggle to rebuild their nation from the rubble. General elections, originally set for January 2010, took place in November of last year, amid some violence between parties.  Runoffs for president took place in March, and Michel Martelly was elected. Many humanitarian agencies remain in the country. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, food insecurity in the areas directly affected by the earthquake has dropped in the last year and a half, but levels are still higher than they were prior to 2010.

—Katie Cook is the Seeds of Hope editor. Sources: Oxfam (, US Geological Survey, (, Global Voices Online (, New York Times, United Nations World Food Programme. For more about the earthquake, the history of Haiti and resources about Haiti, go to and find Hunger News & Hope, Vol 11 No 1, Spring 2010, or email for a pdf copy. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 1, Summer 2011.

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Slow Reconstruction in Iraq

by Katie Cook

Nearly 30 years of conflict—with Iran in the 1980s and with the US and Coalition forces after 1991—along with UN economic sanctions beginning in the 1990s, have caused severe humanitarian consequences in the Republic of Iraq.


Map of Iraq

The years of conflict and sanctions were also years of economic decline. The United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, reported in 1999 that the sanctions had caused the mortality rate of children in Iraq to double.

Since 2004, the Iraqi provisional government, with help from the international community, began to rebuild its infrastructure—including water supply and sewage, electricity production, health care, education, housing and transportation. Last summer, a National Public Radio report said that, despite the fact that Iraq's economy is driven by oil, the country still only had half the electricity it needed.

A United-Kingdom-based research group reports that security issues, corruption in the government and a lack of coordinated funding have slowed the progress of reconstruction in Iraq.  In the first five years after the US invasion, 94 aid workers were killed, 248 injured, 24 arrested or detained, and 89 kidnapped or abducted. (One of those kidnapped and murdered was Margaret Hassan, the director of CARE International in Iraq and an Iraqi citizen since 1972.)

Also during those five years, some 2.4 million people were internally displaced, 2 million fled the country, and 4 million became food-insecure. One-fourth of Iraq’s children were reported in 2008 to be chronically malnourished, and only one-third of them had access to safe drinking water.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), education and health services have continued to deteriorate in Iraq, a situation that severely affects women, children, elderly people and chronically-ill people.

Iraq is now at a crossroads to political stability and socio-economic recovery. Although the food security situation in Iraq is improving, the data from the Iraqi government and the WFP showed 930,000 people in need of food assistance and an additional 6.4 million who were extremely vulnerable and could easily become food-insecure. The survey also showed that female-headed houses and people in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.

In response to these findings, WFP says it is shifting its strategy in Iraq from traditional food aid to innovative food assistance and supporting the government in finding durable solutions to food insecurity.

Katie Cook is the Seeds of Hope editor. Sources: World Food Programme (, Overseas Development Institute (, National Public Radio (, BBC News (, Care International (, The Guardian (, UNICEF ( This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 12 No. 1, Summer 2011.

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War and Drought Perpetuate Hunger in


by Stormy Campbell

Afghanistan’s long history of war and conflict—as well as a drought that distressed the northern provinces during 2011—have led to a large number of food-insecure Afghans. A National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment conducted in Afghanistan found that about a third of the population lacks access to a sufficient amount of food for a healthy life. Overall, 37 percent of Afghans are either currently food-insecure or at-risk for food insecurity.

afghanistan map-col

Map of Afghanistan

While billions of dollars in aid money have been poured into Afghanistan in the last decade, the aid has been unequally distributed across the country. While southern Afghanistan-especially in provinces where war and conflict is high-receives the most aid, the northern provinces typically receive little, further contributing to the problems caused by the 2011 drought.

The drought, mainly affecting the northern provinces of Afghanistan, killed several crops completely, while severely damaging others, leading to rising food prices. The price of wheat doubled during this time, and other crops faced a significant price increase.

Fourteen of the country’s 34 provinces were hit by the drought, which caused extreme hardship for the children in the Northern provinces. As families were forced to decrease the size of meals, children often suffered from the sudden decrease in the amount of nutrients they received daily, causing them to be more susceptible to disease. Many schools in the northern provinces have also closed, as children have been forced to enter the workforce to help pay family debts and to help buy food.

From October 2011 until the harvest in May 2012, 2.6 million people in the northern provinces of Afghanistan were food-insecure. Harvest prospects were better, however, because of an early wet season with higher-than-normal precipitation levels. However, while the rain ended the drought and some families have started to recover, many citizens are still suffering from long-term effects of the drought.

Citizens in southern Afghanistan also suffer from hunger-related issues, in spite of the fact that the south receives more international aid than the north. Approximately one-third of the children in the southern provinces are malnourished.

One concern in the south is that, while citizens may not be food-insecure, many are malnourished, because the food available—although it is enough to prevent starvation—lacks many of the essential nutrients they need. Health initiatives that have resulted in some success in most developing countries, such as the addition of iodine to salt in order to ensure healthy brain development, have not been implemented universally in Afghanistan.

Natural disasters also caused problems with food availability throughout the country. Consequently, some 400,000 Afghans are adversely affected by droughts, flood, earthquakes or other extreme weather conditions each year.

—At this writing, Stormy Campbell, a native of Yoakum, in the Texas coastal region, was a Professional Writing student at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope intern. Sources: United Nations World Food Programme, BBC World News, The Guardian, Save the Children. This article was printed in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 1, Winter 2013.

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Poverty and Food Insecurity in Cameroon

compiled by Jessica Foumena

“The world is facing a hunger crisis unlike anything seen in more than 50 years,” the hunger advocacy agency Bread for the World recently posted online. There are 925 million hungry people around the world and 16,000 children die each year from hunger-related causes.


Map of Cameroon

This is one child every five seconds, the agency estimated. In 2005, 1.4 billion people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, with an income less than $1.25 a day.

Located in Central Africa, Cameroon is home to more than 200 different linguistic groups and enjoys a relatively stable political environment. The nation has distinguished itself from other West African countries through the diversity of its economy, geography and cultures. However, some significant socio-economic disparities, such as persistent rural poverty, remain.

For the past 30 years, 80-year-old Paul Biya has been the Head of State in Cameroon. In a recent online article, BBC News Africa gave an overview of the country’s current political state.

The article reports that several Cameroonian high-profile political figures and one of the president’s doctors have been jailed for sentences as long as 25 years. The article reports that the army, well paid and loyal, has successfully extinguished protests—such as the 2008 food riots. In that same year, Cameroon’s constitution was changed to remove presidential term limits.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that enables rural people worldwide to overcome poverty.

According to IFAD, Cameroon’s most recent household survey (ECAM III), undertaken in 2007, revealed that poverty affected an estimated 39.9 percent of the population, compared with 40.2 percent in 2001, and that 55 percent of the country’s poor people live in rural areas.

Other international agencies post similar facts on their respective websites. The World Food Programme (WFP), the food assistance branch for the United Nations, points to Cameroon as one of the eight countries whose populations are threatened by food insecurity throughout the Sahel region.

The Sahel region, the zone skirting the southern portion of the Sahara Desert, is known to be vulnerable to drought and desertification. The other eight countries are Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Gambia.

The WFP also states that 40.2 percent of Cameroonians live below the poverty line—that’s one US dollar per day. The number is 52.1 percent in rural areas. Over the last three decades, the North and the Far North regions of Cameroon, located between the Republic of Nigeria and Chad, have been affected by the Sahel drought.

Thus, natural and man-made disasters, paired by a growing impoverishment of the rural population, have contributed to food insecurity and poverty in the North and Far North regions of Cameroon. In an online report, the World Bank reports that poverty in Cameroon has stagnated between 2001 and 2007 at close to 40 percent, with 55 percent of rural households living in poverty, compared to 12 percent of urban households.

IFAD also stated that women and children are particularly hit by poverty in Cameroon; 52 percent of people in poor households are women and half of them are under 15 years of age.

Disparity in access to education is another major issue. The 2007 ECAM III report states that 83.3 percent of boys aged between 5 and 14 attend school, compared to 77.6 percent of girls of the same age; 18 percent of rural women have secondary-level education, and women in the North and Far North regions are the least educated (12 percent and 14 percent, respectively).

Many believe that a strong conservative Islamic influence could be one of the reasons behind the low level of education among Cameroonian women living in those regions. Even though the Cameroonian government has developed programs aimed to improve the lives of women and girls, some cultural ideologies keep the Cameroonian society from fully embracing the importance of female education.

SOS Children’s Village International, an  organization that provides homes for children in need, confirms that the groups most affected by poverty in rural areas of Cameroon are women and children.

As a result, the organization reports that nearly one in four children is either moderately or severely underweight; young children often become the breadwinners for an entire family, especially in families that are affected by HIV/AIDS.

International organizations working in Cameroon have implemented programs for numerous disadvantaged groups. The WFP claims to have provided food assistance to malnourished children, pregnant women and mothers of young children.

SOS Children’s Village International has also established several facilities in Cameroon, such as two SOS kindergartens, one SOS youth facility, two SOS medical centers and one SOS social center.

CARE, the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, is an international humanitarian agency whose goal is to help the world’s poorest people find routes out of poverty. CARE has been helping families in the northern part of Cameroon by providing them access to savings and loans accounts.

The money provided helps families to make investments. The organization has also assisted local farmers of the same region in increasing their crop yields through the construction and the improvement of irrigation systems.

Despite the socio-economical challenges they face, Cameroonian women manage to be successful contributors in their society. This is the case with young social entrepreneur Jacqueline Kamsu Souba, who went from simple bead-making to global acclaim.

In a country where young people and women are frustrated by the acute lack of opportunities, the work accomplished by Souba is a true success story. In 2006, she  started “Beads of Peace,” a small nonprofit business based in the northwestern Cameroonian city of Bamenda.

According to Voice of America (VOA), an external US broadcast institution, Souba’s breakthrough came after she attended a skills-building seminar for women in 2011.  When she created her business, the Beads of Peace Founder and CEO was herself a single mother without a dollar, according to the Pan-African business magazine Ventures Africa.

After collecting different items, such as used plastic bags, old newspapers, outdated calendars and cardboard boxes, Souba recycles them into fashionable and colorful handbags, earrings and necklaces. Her company won the first prize at a national exhibition in Cameroon.

Later, Souba was one of the eight young entrepreneurs from five African countries that attended the 2012 “Mentoring Partnership for Young African Leaders” event. Organized by the US government, the event is a two-week professional development program that aims to give leadership training and mutual exchange to young African leaders in the fields of social and business entrepreneurship. Even though she now runs a separate fashion design business, Souba chose to keep Beads of Peace as a nonprofit to train other single mothers.

—At this writing, Jessica Foumena was finishing a Masters degree in International Journalism at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope internship. She hails from Cameroon, which is located along the Sahel region in West Africa. For more information about these sources, email Sources: Bread for The World (; World Bank (; World Food Programme (;  International Fund for Agricultural Development (; CARE (; All Africa ( This article appeared in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 2, Spring 2013.

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War, Drought and Hunger in Mali

compiled by Jessica Foumena

Ongoing turmoil in Mali, a country in West Africa, has recently intensified and come into the global spotlight. During a previous crisis, the international community—led by France and the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA)—began to lend their support to the Malian Government. The crisis, caused by rebels associated with Al-Qaeda last December, has worsened the fragile humanitarian situation in West Africa and the Sahel region.


Map of Mali

In January 2012, ethnic Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants entered Mali’s northern area and took control of some of the main towns. Located in the heart of the Sahel, Mali is a vast landlocked country of about 15 million people. The Sahel, the zone skirting the southern portion of the Sahara Desert, is known to be vulnerable to drought and desertification.

Even though French is the official language, the country recognizes 13 local languages. Prior to the recent uprising, Mali has enjoyed a steady economic and social progress, paired with a democratic governance. The country was in the final stages of the preparation for democratic elections when the last crisis began.

According to CNN, radical Muslims, in an attempt to impose sharia, the stricter form of Islamic law, have generated fears by compiling a list of unmarried mothers. These groups claim that Islamic law condemns relationships outside marriage. There are reports of rebels physically harming civilians who fail to follow the law, by means of executions, amputations and stoning.

As the members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continue to use northern Mali as a safe haven for their operations, Mali faces challenges including food shortages, population displacement and water scarcity.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), more than 200,000 Malians have fled from their homes and the same number have left the country altogether to become refugees in neighboring West African states such as Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

As of May 2012, a World Bank report stated that more than 17 million people are facing possible starvation in the Sahel. The report explained that the food crisis is the result of a combination of drought caused by poor rainfall in 2011—along with food shortages, high grain prices, environmental damage and large numbers of internally displaced persons.

Responding to the emergency food needs, the WFP has reached out to many Malian families in need. The food sent included cereals, cooking oil, and Plumpy’Sup, a ready-to-use nutrition product aimed at children under the age of five. The organization has partnered with other NGOs to boost nutrition among mothers and children.

At a press briefing held in Geneva, UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) spokesperson Melissa Fleming said that the countries of the Sahel region have faced severe drought conditions for years and they are among the poorest in the word. Fleming added that UNHCR only received 60 percent of the US$123.7 million requested for its Mali crisis operations, which take care of food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, health and education. UNHCR and WFP stated on their respective websites that children represent the most vulnerable group.

At this writing, Jessica Foumena was finishing a Masters degree in International Journalism at Baylor University and a Seeds of Hope internship. She hails from Cameroon, which is located along the Sahel region in West Africa. For more information about the sources, email Sources: United Nations High Commission on Refugees (; UN News Centre (; World Food Programme (; World Bank (; CNN News (; US Department of State (http//; “Food Running Out for Refugees from Mali Conflict,” by Williams Lambers, author of Ending World Hunger ( This article appeared in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 2, Spring 2013. 

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Climate Change & Food Prices Cause Hunger in Guatemala

compiled by Leslie Reiter

In the past two years, climate change and the global increase in food prices have made a drastic impact on food security in Guatemala. Guatemala has one of the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the fourth-highest rate of malnourishment among children in the world.


Map of Guatemala

The country is especially vulnerable to erratic weather due to its location in an earthquake and hurricane zone. Untimely rains, accompanied by violent storms, are often followed by periods of drought, resulting in the loss of many crops. An Action Against Hunger survey reported that harvests in 2010 were reduced by 60 percent because of climate change.

The East Pacific Corridor, known as the “dry corridor,” and the highlands are the most affected by drought, leaving these areas at high risk for food insecurity. The production of maize and beans, staples on which many of the country’s people rely for sustenance, has been drastically affected by these extended droughts.

Though Guatemala’s 30-year civil war came to an end in 1996, many of its people are still displaced and lack clean water and sanitation systems. Over half of Guatemala’s population live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for both food and income. Poverty is the most prevalent in these rural areas and among the indigenous population.

The way land ownership is structured in Guatemala is also problematic. A small percentage of the country’s population is in control of the majority of its farmland, forcing many small farmers higher into the mountains where there is little cultivatable land. Underdeveloped countries such as Guatemala do not have access to more effective agricultural techniques that could be of assistance to those having to use less arable land.

Leslie Reiter is a freelance writer in Austin, TX, and a former Seeds of Hope intern. She works with at-risk children in the Austin area and teaches violin. Sources: World Food Programme (; Hunger Relief International (; Action Against Hunger (  This article appeared in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 2, Spring 2013.

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Yemen: the Poorest Country in the Middle East

compiled by Leslie Reiter

A surge in food and fuel prices and political instability have left Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, facing the worst hunger crisis of its history. Yemen has been plagued with conflict since the Yemeni revolution, which began in 2011. The uprising has brought on civil unrest and increased violence throughout the nation and has left many of its people displaced and hungry. A 2013 report from the UN states that over 431,000 people are displaced in Yemen.


Map of Yemen

The nationwide uprising happened amidst similar revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Mass protests were launched against the Yemeni government and its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in power for more than 30 years.

The revolt against Saleh was incited by issues such as unemployment, economic conditions and corruption. Though Saleh has since resigned from the presidency and Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi was elected in February 2012, there are still threats of violence from the Houthi rebels and armed militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

High unemployment rates, along with the rise of food and fuel prices caused by a region in turmoil, have put over half of Yemen’s 24 million citizens at risk for hunger. According to the World Food Programme, hunger in Yemen has doubled since 2009, and the country now has the world’s third-highest rate of child malnutrition.

Since much of the land in Yemen is not suitable for growing food, its people rely mainly on imported food.  As a result, people who are not able to keep up with the rising food prices are forced to go without.

Health conditions throughout the country have declined because of the increase in poverty rates. The result is more than 13 million people without a source of safe water or basic sanitation. These conditions leave many citizens susceptible to diseases such as malaria and bilharzia.

—Leslie Reiter is a freelance writer in Austin, TX, and a former Seeds of Hope intern. She works with at-risk children in the Austin area and teaches violin.  Sources: World Food Programme (, Amnesty International (, BBC News (,uk). This article appeared in Hunger News & Hope, Vol. 13 No. 2, Spring 2013.

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Counting Calories in a Starving World

by Brett Younger

Matthew 25:31-46

The parable of the sheep and the goats is nobody’s favorite story. There are lots of paintings of the waiting father embracing the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan helping the man in the ditch, but there aren’t any pictures of the goats being damned on the walls of children’s Sunday school classes. Growing up, I was in church every Sunday that I didn’t pretend to have a cold, and I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon on this story. If there are hymns on this parable, nobody sings them. In Bible studies, this is one of those passages where the teacher ends up saying, “Okay, we agree that Jesus didn’t mean what he said, but what did he mean?” Most of the time we just skip this part—and with good reason.

Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when he told everyone to take a seat. “This is important. Listen carefully. Judgment Day is coming and there will be surprises. The judge will divide the people like a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

“Then the King will say to those on the right hand, ‘Come and get your reward. When I was a victim of famine, you sent food. When I needed a drinking well, you took up an offering. When I was homeless, you found me a room. When I was shivering, you gave me a coat. When I was in prison, you tried to help. Now it’s time to show my appreciation.’

“Those people will say, ‘We don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but we don’t remember any of that. When did we do those things for you?’

“And the judge will answer, ‘You’ve been doing it all your lives. Every time you helped one of your needy brothers and sisters, you cared for me.’

“Then the King will turn to the goats on the left hand and say, ‘To hell with you. When I was hungry, you kept your money in your wallet. When I had only polluted water to drink, you were worried about your IRA. When I was homeless, you wouldn’t even look me in the eye. When I was cold, you had extra blankets in your closet. When I was in prison you said, ‘Let’s build more prisons.’

“And those people will say, ‘We never did that to you. As for the poor, we don’t know any poor people.’ And the judge will say, ‘You’ve condemned yourselves.’”

This story is disturbing because it’s about how God sees us. Religious people try to boil down the wonderful biblical theme of salvation, wholeness and healing, into a simple formula—four spiritual laws or five steps to be saved. This is as close as Jesus ever comes to summarizing what salvation means, but no one ever puts this on their church’s web site under the heading, “How to Become a Christian.” According to Jesus those who don’t care for the poor have missed the gospel. Regardless of what’s said at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning in most churches, people who neglect the needy aren’t God’s people. How could Jesus have been any clearer?

This story is disturbing, because we are calorie counters in a hungry world. Have you noticed that our meals have been getting bigger? As recently as five years ago, a 10-inch plate was standard in restaurants. Today the standard is 12 inches and one chain is experimenting with a 15-inch model. It wasn’t that long ago that 20 ounces of soda seemed thirst quenching enough. Then in 1976, Seven-Eleven introduced the 32-ounce Big Gulp. They followed that with the 44- ounce Super Big Gulp and the 64-ounce Double Gulp. The human bladder, meanwhile, has a capacity of about 13 ounces. Do the math on that one. America’s obesity rate is three times that of European countries, even though we eat many of the same foods. Americans eat more—even as much of the world starves.

The story of the sheep and the goats is disturbing, because most of us haven’t done much. We try not to think about hunger because the problem seems overwhelming. The statistics are mind-boggling. By one hunger relief organization’s recent estimate, 24,000 people die each day of hunger-related diseases. That’s 1,000 an hour, 17 each minute.

The statistics are so overpowering that the victims become statistics. It’s easy to forget that hunger is suffered one missed meal at a time, one person at a time.

The numbers are sobering, but the faces are far worse. The faces of hunger are the faces of children. Three quarters of those who starve are under the age of 12. Hungry children have eyes that are dulled by insufficient protein. The lack of nutrition means that their mental development is permanently impaired. Many will never be able to think for themselves. Their stomachs are bloated. Their arms and legs are spindly. Their hair is thin. They have no energy. And every one of them has a name—a six-year-old named John, a nine-year-old named Angela.

The resident of a slum in Brazil, Iracema da Silva, said, “Sometimes I think, if I die, I won’t have to see my children suffering as they are. So often I see them crying, hungry, and there I am, without a cent to buy them bread. I think, God, I can’t face it! I don’t want to look any more.”

The faces of hunger are the faces of mothers. Fathers often walk away from children they can’t feed. Mothers are less likely to leave. These poor, sad, lonely, frightened, frail, sick women suffer not only their own suffering, but also that of their children.

These are the words of a mother in the Philippines, a Mrs. Alarin: “I feel so sad when my children cry at night because they have no food. I’m so worried about the future of my children. I want them to go to school, but how can I afford it? I’m sick most of the time, but I can’t go to the doctor because each visit costs too much and the medicine is extra. What can I do?” Hunger is a hundred million mothers weeping, because they cannot feed their children.

The faces of hunger are old. They are wrinkled, tired, and miserable. Their eyes are sunken. Their sight is dim. Their cheekbones protrude. Their teeth are gone because, in their poverty, they know nothing of dental care. Against all odds, they have managed to grow old; and now they have fallen on such hard times that many hope for some sudden fatal disease that will release them from their misery. It’s hard to see the faces of hunger.

Our lack of concern is embarrassing. We lose sleep over problems at work, difficulties at school, and family troubles, but few of us lose sleep over children starving. We tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do about it, but we know that isn’t true. The problem isn’t a lack of food. If the world’s present food supply were distributed equally, there would be enough for everyone to have more than 3000 calories a day. The major cause of hunger is the apathy of those who have more than they need.

We’re capable of more concern than we let ourselves feel. More than that, we’re capable of the compassion that would lead us to action. Jim Wallis describes the step between concern and compassion in this way: “Being concerned is seeing something awful happening to somebody and feeling, ‘Hey, that’s really too bad.’ Having compassion is seeing the same thing and saying, ‘I just can’t let that happen to my brother, my sister.’”

We can’t solve the problem of world hunger, but we can make a crucial difference. Mother Teresa was asked how she kept from being overwhelmed by the multitudes of needy people. She replied, “I love them one at a time.” You and I can make a difference for one or two or three.

We can give more generously than we have. We can ask whether we care enough for these people we’ll never meet, these children of God, to give up some measure of our own comfort to save their lives. No one following the example of Christ can be content to have too much while others have too little. The rich must live more simply so that the poor can simply live.

A middle-aged couple earns good money and yet chooses to live simply. They go without status symbols and luxuries, so that they can give money to feed the hungry. They live a trimmed-down life. Every month the mother gathers the children around the checkbook.

For each check that she writes to whomever it might be, to whatever cause, she tells them a story: “This is why these people need the money more than we need it.” And so these children actually know where the family money is going and that it isn’t there in the bank account for them to buy a new toy.

The parents themselves choose not to always have new, better, more things. Their children are mature, alive, and joyful. The mother’s check-writing process is Christian education at its best. She’s saying, “This is what love means.”

Our contributions won’t tip the scales of injustice, but we can place our stubborn ounces on the right side of the balance. A Swahili proverb has it, “Drop by drop, the bucket fills.” And our one drop will make a difference—for us, too. It sounds paradoxical, but the more we care for the hurting, the more passionately we’ll love life. Giving is celebrating life at its fullest.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what God wants. This isn’t one of those times. This is judgment day, because we’re deciding whose side we’re on.

Brett Younger, a frequent contributor to Sacred Seasons, is a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas. This sermon was printed in the2004 Hunger Emphasis Packet of Sacred Seasons

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At Ease in Zion? What it Means to Be God’s People

Ashtrays & the Cosmic Order of the Universe

By Lynn Tatum Amos

5:14-6:1; Luke 10:25-37

In the mid-seventies I was a behind-the-ears Baylor student in biblical studies. Having an interest in archaeology, I was presented with my first opportunity to travel on my own to the Middle East. Anwar Sadat had just kicked the Russians out of Egypt, and it was just beginning to reopen to Westerners. So I packed my backpack and headed for the tombs of the pharaohs.

One of my most interesting experiences that summer involved an invitation to the hut of a poor peasant family near Maadi, Egypt. Now, if you've never experienced Arab hospitality, you've never experienced real hospitality. Don't misunderstand me; there was nothing opulent. Living as peasants, this family dwelt in a mud-walled hovel: no windows-just holes in the walls. The Spartan furniture consisted of pieces of sticks and scrap-wood roped together with jute.

But my mother always taught me that, no matter how humble the abode, you can always find something on which to compliment the host. This was going to be a challenge. I scanned the hovel; and then I saw it: Proudly displayed, they had a translucent ashtray, hand-carved from alabaster. Trying to be the good guest, I began to wax effusive on its delicate charm. I was amazed, so I said, at the elegant simplicity of its craftsmanship.

Much to my horror, the host went over, picked up the alabaster ashtray, handed it to me, and said, "Take it, it is a gift for you." The finest thing they had in their home! All of a sudden my anthropology classes began echoing in my head. I remembered that you should never compliment an Arab peasant on material possessions. If you do, they will feel obligated to give it away.

My options at this point were strictly limited. I could not refuse it-that would be the same as saying, "Ha! The best you've got isn't good enough for me!" And I couldn't pay for it. First, I was a student with zero excess cash. (You couldn't exactly cash a check in Maadi, Egypt drawn on a bank from Waco, Texas.) Second, that would be like saying, "I can buy and sell the best you've got."

So my only option was to give a gift in return. My tattered tennis shoes wouldn't qualify. Neither would my worn backpack. The only thing I had of value was a gold-plated fountain pen that my mother had given me for graduation. (It was her advice that had gotten me into this predicament, anyway.) So I gave away the pen.

There were embraces and smiles all around. They seemed quite impressed with my generosity. So when the day ended, I left that peasant hut carrying an alabaster ashtray-and I don't smoke. They had a gold fountain pen-and they were illiterate.

I don't know what this story says about the cosmic order of the universe, but it must say something. I thought it would make a great sermon illustration, but I couldn't figure out what it illustrated. Then I was reading through the book of Amos this week, and I understood its significance. This episode actually illustrates a fundamental principle- there is a foundational irrationality about material possessions. What we have is sometimes nothing but a pure, cosmic, accident.

In the eighth century BCE, the prophet Amos was preaching to the wealthy elite of ancient Israel, to people of property, to people of substance, to people of power. The people of Israel had made a fundamental perceptual mistake. They fell into the trap that I fear we all stumble into at one time or another. Those wealthy aristocrats believed that we have what we have because we deserve what we have.

Amos preached during a time of unrivaled prosperity in Israel. The book of Amos is replete with references to ivory couches, luxurious ointments, fine wines, vacation homes, summer palaces. Moreover, archaeological excavations from this era have revealed a stunning array of luxury items: imported fine wares, exquisitely carved furniture, opulent architecture.

The elite of Israel had made a success of themselves. They were prosperous; they were secure; ergo (so they thought), they must be righteous. They looked at their business associates. They looked at their friends. They looked at their social acquaintances. They were all wealthy. They were all comfortable. They were all, as the title of our sermon says, at ease in Zion.

But they had not looked at the poor in the land; they had not looked at the hungry in the streets; they had not looked at the widows whom they had made homeless in order to expand their luxurious estates.

When Amos called the elite of Israel to adhere to Yahweh's covenant demands, they refused to hear. They refused to believe that a person could be as successful, as prosperous, as wealthy, and as powerful as they were, and still be corrupt and unrighteous. They believed that material gain was a sign of God's blessing: If you trust God enough, you too can have a three-chariot garage.

But Amos cried out: Woe to those who are at ease with material possessions. Worldly success is no sign of heavenly blessing.

Burger King and the Good Samaritan

Our New Testament text today is the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. Now, I am student of the Old Testament, not the New, but I would argue that this parable is almost always misunderstood. We usually visualize a hypocritical priest and an uncaring Levite callously bypassing this bleeding, wounded victim of crime. I would argue that to properly comprehend this passage you need to understand an important intra-Jewish debate that was raging during New Testament times.

Jews, among which Jesus and his disciples should be counted, were caught up in an intense debate over what it meant to be a Jew, what it meant to be God's nation. What is the proper calling of God's covenanted people? Many Jews, like Rabbi Jesus, argued that God's covenanted people should be a compassionate people-a ministering people-a people concerned about, and reaching out to, others.

Other Jews, with the same dedication, the same fervor, the same level of conviction, felt that God had called the Jews to be a holy, ritually pure, people set apart. As a matter of fact, the term "Pharisee" means "one who is separated out." The Jews, according to such thinking, were to be a holy nation, separated out, in order to be God's shining beacon in a corrupt and pagan world.

The priest and the Levite represent this second view. They were, with profound conviction, dedicated to performing the rituals and the sacrifices that God had ordained for the Jewish people. The Levites prepared the sacrifices; the priests actually carried them out.

Imagine, then, the predicament of the priest. Picture it: he comes along and finds a tragic victim bleeding on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this bloodied man, according to Jewish law, would be ritually unclean. If the priest so much as touches this victim of crime-if he so much as touches the blood of this dying man-he would be rendered ritually impure and, therefore, unable to carry out the sacrifices that God had commanded.

The Levite is in the same predicament. He may not touch this victim of crime; if he does, he becomes unclean and the all-important sacrifices cannot be prepared or performed.

I'm convinced that the priest felt terrible about this suffering victim. I'm sure he returned to Jerusalem and gave a big donation to the Victim Assistance Fund of the Red Star of David. I'm sure he began to campaign for more centurions on the beat.

I'm convinced the Levite was equally depressed over his inability to help this mugging victim. The Levite probably returned home and started advocating for stiffer laws, for mandatory dungeon sentences, for three-strikes-and-you're-crucified laws. Nevertheless, both the priest and the Levite saw their duty to carry out their ritual functions as taking precedence over helping the less fortunate of society.

Some time ago this church's college group asked me to lead one of their Tuesday night Bible studies. The group met at eight o'clock. I had to work late that evening; it didn't make much sense to go all the way home and then come back into town.

So sometime after seven o'clock, I headed over to this little gourmet restaurant over on 17th and Speight called Burger King. I went in, grabbed a burger, and sat down to do some last minute preparation for the Bible study.

About ten 'til eight I gathered up my things in order to leave. I looked out in the parking lot and noticed a disheveled, dirty, obviously hungry, old man digging through the trash cans trying to find something to eat.

My wife has often said that you should be cautious about giving money in such circumstances, but always, always give food. Well, I didn't have time...but, I thought, it shouldn't delay me more than a minute or two. So I went and ordered a double-burger-happy-combo meals to give to this obviously homeless individual.

The restaurant was busier than usual, and by the time they finally got me my mission-outreach meal, I should have already left for church. To make matters worse, as they handed me the food, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the old man slinking into the restaurant and making a beeline for the toilets.

So I'm late for a Bible study-which I'm supposed to teach; I've got a bag of food I don't need; and there is a hungry man in the Burger King toilet. What do you do in a situation like that? You can't just walk into a restroom, walk up to a perfect stranger, and say "Hi, I'm Lynn Tatum. I thought we should get to know each other."

I decided to wait outside. Being a minute or two late wouldn't be that big of a problem. So I waited-two minutes, four minutes, five minutes. He still didn't come out. I started monitoring the restroom to see who's going in and who's going out. (And that will get you some weird looks.) Eventually, I estimated that he was in there by himself. So I went in to check it out, sort of pretend to wash my hands. Sure enough the stall on the left was closed. But I still didn't know what to do.

I went back outside. Now I was really late for the Bible study. I honestly considered walking into the bathroom, throwing the bag over the stall, yelling out, "God loves you and so do I," and running out of the building. I was getting desperate.

Fortunately about that time, he walked out. I rushed over to him, gave him the bag, mumbled something ineloquent like, "Here, I'm not hungry. Eat this." I then ran out, got into my car, and went to Seventh and James church, in order to teach a Bible study on, as irony would have it, the parable of the Good Samaritan.

So here was an elderly man obviously alone, obviously in need of shelter, obviously in need of friendship. And I had left him alone, without shelter, with barely enough food to last till dawn. I had not even asked his name . . . all so that I would not be late for a solemn assembly, a Bible study on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I had fallen into a snare as old as Amos. When we place our assemblies, our rituals, our Bible studies, our solemn gatherings above the covenant call of justice and compassion, we need the searing indictment of Amos, "I take no delight in your solemn assemblies....Take away from me the noise of your hymns....But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream." (5:21-24)

Amos cries out: Woe to those who are at ease in Zion while injustice and suffering prevail in the world around us.

The Covenant of God is a Fearsome Thing

Finally, we should take note of the terrible and terrifying insistence of Amos, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion..." period!

The covenant of God is a fearsome thing. "Covenant," after all, means "a contract, an agreement, a compact." When we enter into God's covenant, we are not covenanting to relax. We are not promising to take the easy way out. We are agreeing to submit to the righteous demands of a Holy God.

The covenant community is not to be a cushy retreat from the demands of the world. It should be a boot camp, steeling us for the arduous demands of a jealous God. We sometimes hear so much about God's love, that we fail to heed God's call to righteousness, God's call to holiness, God's call to service.

Some of my first-year students tell me with disarming naivete, "I just can't wait for the Lord's return." Folks, if the Lord walked bodily into this sanctuary today, I would be the first one to dive for cover: For I have not kept God's covenant-and neither have you.

Amos 5:18 says, "Why would you desire the day of Yahweh, the day of the Lord? It will be darkness and not light, gloom with no brightness in it." We need to hear the terrifying warning of Amos: "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion." The covenant community is not-should not- cannot-be a place of rest and comfort. It must be a temporary refuelling shelter, preparing us to confront the arduous task of being God's people in a godless world.

We should not be at ease in Zion. We should not be at ease with worldly success. We should not be at ease with social injustice. We should not be at ease, period! Amos announces, and God demands, a higher calling for you and me.

If we are to be God's covenanted people, then we are summoned to strive for more than the material comforts of this world, those material comforts that this world calls "success." We are called to be pursuers of righteousness and makers of justice. Until the day arrives that we live in a land in which it can truly be said that "justice flows down like water, and righteousness like an everlasting stream," may we never be at ease in Zion.

We close today with a call to consider the words of Amos, this jagged prophet from a bygone era. The words of Amos summon us to covenant with God and to covenant with each other. We offer an invitation to all that would commit themselves to the pursuit of God's purpose in this God-needing world. Amos calls upon you to prayerfully consider God's calling for your life and for the people of God.

Lynn Tatum is a biblical archaeologist. He sometimes dresses up like Indiana Jones to show artifacts and tell stories of his archaeological digs to enthralled groups of children. This sermon was part of a midwinter study Tatum led at on the book of Amos. It was printed in Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2002.

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What it Means to Worship

By Ashlee Wiest-Laird

Matthew 12:1-14

In today’s lesson from the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus and the disciples find themselves in a bit of trouble for breaking the rules. Actually, the situation was like this: it was the Sabbath, the day that God had declared that the people should rest. And so, according to the Jewish law, no work should be done on that day.

The problem was in deciding what, exactly, defined work. There were many schools of thought on the subject, even among the Pharisees. It would seem, however, that the particular Pharisees who questioned Jesus on this occasion were pretty strict. By plucking grain to eat and healing a man with a withered hand, the disciples and Jesus had, in the eyes of these religious leaders, violated the Sabbath law.

What is interesting is Jesus’ response to their charge. First, we note that he doesn’t do away with the observance of the Sabbath. The day of rest and worship is still to be honored, it’s just that sometimes there are higher priorities. Those priorities, says Jesus, are mercy and human life. It is mercy that God requires, not temple ritual.

Jesus challenged his accusers to rethink the spirit and purpose of the Sabbath rules. The needs of hungry people were to be considered over the letter of the law. If exceptions could be made in order to save a sheep, how much more to bring healing and care to a human being. How much more?

As we gather for worship this morning we know that approximately 20 million people die each year from starvation or hunger-related illness. About 28 people in the last minute.  More starve to death in three days than were killed by the bomb in Hiroshima.

In this country alone, groups like Bread for the World estimate that there are 36 million people who are at risk of hunger, 14 million of those being children under 12. That’s about one child out of every five.  And yet how hard it is for these statistics to move us. They’re just too abstract, too unreal. 

Perhaps we should speak of Theresa Simmons, a mother of two young children, pregnant with the third. Theresa’s husband was disabled at work and she cannot earn enough to support her family. Without the meals they receive at the local soup kitchen, her children would go hungry.

Or maybe we should listen to Shanequa Johnson, who says, “This is a scary time. My husband works, but all our money goes to paying rent. I don’t want to leave the kids home alone, so I don’t work. Our neighborhood is just too dangerous. Our food stamps don’t make it to the end of the month, but they help. I try to feed my kids well.”

Perhaps it is only a real encounter with the realities of hunger that wakes us up. Will Campbell shares the following story:

Some of us were conducting a workshop on voter education in Memphis. I had gone to a home in what can only be described as a slum with two of the young people who were doing a survey of registered voters. Two small boys were seated at a vinyl-covered table in the kitchen. They said their mother was not at home. We had the good judgment not to ask about their father. It was mid-afternoon. The scene was one of depressing squalor. One of the boys was eating something I could not identify from a cup. The other one sat across the table from him, making no move to share what his brother was eating. “Why isn’t he eating?” one of the students asked, nodding toward the first boy. He answered matter-of-factly, like he had been trained to say it, and conditioned to believe that was the way thing would always be. “It was his turn yesterday,” he said. It was obvious that his brother understood, and there was not the slightest hint of rancor between them.

What do these hungry people have to do with our Sunday morning worship? And what does our worship have to do with them? 

Everything, it seems to me. For if we come to worship to praise and honor God, are we not also empowered toward compassion, as was Christ? But if on other days and in other places our lives are not a reflection of this spirit of Christ, then how can we truly worship?

To worship God is not simply to come into a church for one hour on Sunday morning thinking somehow we have fulfilled our obligations of faith. Rather, worship encompasses our gatherings for songs, prayers and sermons, and extends beyond to include all our deeds of mercy and justice.

In fact, I’d venture to say that some of the best services of worship never saw the inside of a church. Don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean we don’t belong here. I believe it’s absolutely crucial for Christians to gather as a community of faith, for this is where we come to rest and gather strength. Sometimes, though, we need to be reminded what our worship is all about.

There is a prayer by Janet Nightingale that helps us do just that. She asks God:

When we stand gazing upwards, bring us down to earth with the love of a friend through the songs of the sorrowing in the faces of the hungry. When we look to you for action, demand some work from us: by your touch of fire, your glance of reproof, your fearful longing. As ruler over all, love us into action, fire us with your zeal, enrich us with your grace to make us willing subjects of your rule.

In the letter of 1 John, it is written, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” In other words, with integrity. Not only must our lives have integrity, but so must our worship. As nice as it is, a gold star for perfect attendance isn’t what matters most.

You’ve probably all heard the saying, “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk.”  I think that those who go on hunger walks, work in food pantries, and serve in soup kitchens are doing just that. And in every step they take, in every bag of food that is given, in every meal that is provided, God is loved and worshipped.

May we too walk in the path that is before us, exercising the merciful love that has come to us through Christ Jesus our Lord; giving thanks and praise to God along the way. Amen.

Ashlee Wiest-Laird is a pastor in Jamacia Plain, Massachusetts. She originally preached this sermon on the day that her church's youth group participated in Boston's annual Walk for Hunger. This sermon was printed in Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 1999.

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Knowing Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread

By Clyde Tilley

Luke 24:30-35

Strange it is that they would not have recognized him—these two people who walked together on the road to Emmaus. For two days they had thought of little else.

They spoke painfully of him as they walked. Their hearts ached for his loss. Then he joined them on the road. He conversed with them and they heard his voice. They saw him as he walked and extended him an invitation to be their guest. He accepted their hospitality— and still they did not know him.

Stranger still it is that they should come to know him in this particular way: He broke bread and they knew him. What an astounding source of revelation! More articulate than the words he had spoken was his breaking of bread. More vivid than his countenance was his breaking of bread. More penetrating than the scriptures he expounded was his breaking of bread.

Or maybe it was not so strange after all. How often they had seen him break bread! Jesus had distinguished himself as a hearty and even controversial eater. He brought down the wrath of the religious elite upon himself because of his dietary customs. He ate food with sinners and tax collectors in violation of the sanctimonious taboos of his day. When he was hungry on the Sabbath, he proceeded to help himself to the standing but forbidden grain and to lead his disciples to do the same. Choosing the celebrative feast rather than the somber fast as the hallmark of his ministry, he had actually been accused of being a glutton.

In fact, he enjoyed a good meal so well that he felt everyone should be entitled to adequate provision. When the multitude had heard him eagerly throughout a long day, he refused to send them away until they had been fed.  His followers had seen him take a little boy’s lunch of two fishes and five loaves, bless this food, break it, and then distribute it to a throng of people that numbered in thousands. He had actually taught his disciples that when they fed another who was hungry, it was as though they were doing it to him.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus had insisted upon eating the Passover meal with his disciples. After supper, in what was to be his last meal with them before his death, he once again broke bread with them saying, “This is my body.” He shared the cup with them and likened the wine to his blood, soon to be shed.

These were among the flood of memories these men brought with them to the table at Emmaus. Thus it is less mysterious but no less moving that we read: “When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him....” (Luke 24:30-31) They came to know Jesus, their risen Lord, in the breaking of bread.

This event on a Sunday in Emmaus need not be an isolated event of revelation. Nor has it been. It has been the testimony of the centuries that not only the devout have recognized him anew but that also those of the world have come to know him when bread is broken. When bread is broken, Jesus is known in the hands that break the bread. He is known in the hungry who take the bread. He is known in the bread that is broken and taken.

First, he is known in the hands that break the bread. Jesus was moved with compassion when he encountered human needs—like hunger. The Great Liberator came to set people free from every sort of bondage—including hunger, and including the greed or complacency that withholds bread from others. With his own hands he solicited bread, received bread, and broke bread.

With his own words he called people to follow and participate in his life-giving, life-sustaining ministry.

He still calls us today and judges us when we fail to respond. In his name, in his place, in his stead he calls us to give a cup of water, a piece of bread. As his earliest followers wrote:

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go and be filled,” without giving them the things they needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)
If any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

Deprived now as he is of his earthly body for soliciting and breaking this bread, Christ did not intend to be left without a body by which this same life-sustaining ministry of giving bread could be continued. His ministry has not been completed.

Luke told the story in his gospel “of all that Jesus began  to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), but a whole separate volume—the book of Acts—was needed to tell how Christ continued to do and teach these same things through his second body—the church. In saving us, Christ is incorporating us into himself. We become people in Christ. We become his new body—the body of Christ.

Quite frequently the apostle Paul spoke of the church as a body, but most notably he speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 12. He speaks not only of the unity of the body (v. 4), and the diversity of the body (v. 14), but he speaks also of the identity of the body (v. 27). It is Christ’s body that we comprise. Although metaphor, this is no mere metaphor.

Christ takes his identity with his church seriously. Encountering Saul on the road to Damascus, he asked Saul, who had never seen the historic Jesus, “Why do you persecute me ?” He proceeded to identify himself by saying “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Christ’s identity with his church is so real and personal that for Saul to persecute the church was to persecute the Christ.

We who are in him constitute no less than the very body of Christ. Our ministry performed in his name is no less than an extension, a projection of the incarnation of God in Christ. If there is a difference between these two bodies, it is one of degree rather than of kind. God who perfectly incarnated himself in Jesus of Nazareth is incarnated, however imperfectly, in those who bear his name.

Though by now these words may seem trite, they are no less true:

God has no hands but our hands
To do God’s work today.
God has no feet but out feet
To take God on the way.
  —Annie Johnson Flint

It is ours to be the continuing agents of our Lord’s ministry, including the ministry of breaking bread for our hungry world. The early church broke bread both in joyous celebration and in equalizing distribution “as any had need.” (Acts 2: 44-46) Across the years and the miles, Paul gathered funds from the adequately-fed Gentile churches so that the impoverished and famished saints of Judea might be fed, “that there may be equality.” (2 Corinthians 8:14) We are still God’s agents of ministry to make Christ known in the hands that break bread.

In addition to being known in the hands that break bread, Christ is also known in the hungry who take the bread. Just as he identifies himself with the blessed hands that bless and break bread for the hungry, so he also identifies himself with the hungry who live when we break bread and who starve when we do not.

A few days before his death, Jesus spoke of the great judgment of the Son of Man before whom the nations of the worlds shall be gathered. (Matthew 25:20-46) Those who are present shall be separated into sheep on his right hand and goats on his left hand. To those on his right his words shall be, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food....”

In utter surprise the righteous shall answer: “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” And the king shall respond: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto me.”

But that is not all of the story. To those on the left, the King will say: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food....” Then they shall answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry... and did not minister to you?” His rejoinder shall be: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

Surely we cannot read this story without drawing the obvious conclusion: Jesus identifies with the poor and the hungry and he is known in their faces. He is known in their glad  faces when bread is broken. He is known in their tearful faces when bread is withheld.

Conrad, a kindly German cobbler, lived alone. One day, according to Edwin Markham’s well-known poem, “How the Great Guest Came,” when Conrad received a revelation that Christ would be a guest in his home, his joy knew no bounds. He busied himself feverishly with preparation for the Holy Visitor. But he was not so busy that he could not help three needy strangers who came intermittently to his door throughout the day—a cold beggar, a hungry woman, and a homeless child.

The day sped on, and still the expected guest did not appear. As the day slipped away, Conrad knelt in puzzled prayer: “Lord, what has delayed you?” Out of the silence came a voice:

Conrad, be not dismayed, for
Three times I came to your friendly door
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat
I was the child on the homeless street.

The growing millions of hungry people in our world are both a judgment upon our overstuffed affluence and an opportunity that presses urgently upon us. When nearly 10 million people in our land, over one-third of them children, live in households experiencing hunger, Jesus is present, demanding a response. When one in ten households in our affluent nation reports that its access to food is extremely limited or uncertain, Jesus is present, awaiting a response. An estimated 828 million people on our planet are undernourished.

Christ is shown in mercy when his people break bread to them; he is shown in judgment when we do not. Never did Lazarus press closer to the rich man’s door than does the hungry world that presses its claim upon us in Jesus’ name right now. God’s people ought to break bread to them in sacrificial giving, in political action, and in economic sharing of our abundant resources. The challenge is to find the way rather than bemoan our helplessness.

Finally, Jesus is known also in the bread that is broken and taken. “The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, and said: ‘This is my body which is broken for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24) In the very bread itself Jesus is revealed. When God’s people gather together to share the common loaf and to partake of the common cup, Jesus is present—revealed.

But do not think that these are words alone for the cloistered sanctuary or the sheltered altar. They are his words also for the dirty hovel and the lengthening breadlines and the makeshift canteen. Whenever bread is broken in his name, he is being recognized.

It was not in an upper room, aloof from the common people, but perhaps on a grassy knoll, the day after Jesus fed the masses that he said to them, “My father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world...He who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35)

The church may preach God’s love with great eloquence, yet there is no eloquence so persuasive as that expressed when God’s people as Christ’s body feed the hungry in this world. They are the ones with whose needs Christ fully identifies himself. Then does the loaf make itself known as the Lord of the Emmaus road. We rightly sing:

Bread of heaven, on thee we feed,
For thy flesh is meat indeed;
Ever let our souls be fed
With the true and living bread.

God feeds his people not only that we may be filled but that we may feed. We feed in order that he who “is all and in all” (Col. 3:11) may be known. And how is he all and in all? He is the hands that break the bread. He is the hungry who take the bread. He is the bread that is broken and taken.

Clyde Tilley has been a college professor and a pastor in Dandridge, Tennessee. His writings on hunger issues have appeared in Seeds publications over a span of many years. This sermon was originally printed in Christian Ethics Today and was reprinted in Sacred Seasons, Hunger Emphasis 2002.

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