The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering makes a transformative difference both to the ministries that receive support from it and to the individuals who benefit from those ministries.
The offering also effects those who contribute to it—allowing them to grow in their Christian walk by working together with other Christians to end hunger and promote holistic transformation, said Ferrell Foster, director of ethics and justice for Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.
“Concern for hunger and poverty are related to our broader passion for allowing the gospel to actually make a difference in how Christ followers live their day-to-day lives,” Foster said.
“Following Jesus changes us in our spirit and in our actions. We are in community with others and with all of God’s creation. You simply cannot have a healthy spiritual life and ignore those in need around you.”
‘A blessing to our communities’
Pastor Julius Bamibe and his wife Jizell understand what that means. That’s why they started Comforter Christian Center International—to serve people who live on the streets of Grand Prairie and the surrounding area.
When the Bamibes saw the veterans, ex-offenders, single mothers and other homeless people in their area, they were so moved with compassion that they initially took money from their own retirement account to help fund the center’s ministry to people living on the edge of survival.
Support from the hunger offering allows the Bamibes to enhance both the quality and quantity of the ministry they offer.
“The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering has been a blessing to our communities because it improved the type and amount of dry and canned foods we are able to purchase to support the less privileged,” he said. “We continue to serve our area as the Lord provides resources for us.”
Comforter Christian Center International’s outreach to people on the streets is one of 79 Texas-based ministries and 38 international programs that receive funds from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
‘Life-altering for some people’
In northeast Tarrant County, the hunger offering helps NEED East meet urgent needs, said Sherry Roe, manager of the ministry that provides food and personal hygiene products for people who are recovering from a crisis.
“The funding we received from the Texas Hunger Offering helps us provide food to people who otherwise might go hungry because their money went to pay for rent or utilities,” Roe said. “This help can be life-altering for some people who have nowhere else to turn. We can help more people not to go hungry with this funding.”
In Central Texas, the hunger offering has helped enable Churches Touching Lives for Christ—a cooperative of Temple-area congregations working together to meet physical and spiritual needs—to expand its weekend nutrition ministry to area schoolchildren who live in food-insecure homes.
Last year, the ministry provided food-filled backpacks to 410 children each weekend when they don’t have access to free or reduced lunches in school cafeterias.
“This ministry has increased to almost 700 children in 15 schools,” said Retha Snelson, who has worked with the Temple-area ministry for six years. “We received a letter from one of the children thanking CTLC for the food. This program has helped the children stay focused in school because they are not hungry.”
Another ministry that receives hunger offering support—Hiz Houze, a church in Waco that seeks to reach the hip-hop culture—also continues to grow. An article in the summer 2019 issue of CommonCall told how Pastor Juan Carreon uses funds made possible by the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to provide food twice a month throughout South Waco—feeding families and building relationships.
“We are moving along doing the work of the ministry and the vision that God gave us,” Carreon said. “We have baptized 11 people, started discipleship classes, and more people are attending church services. They are getting involved in leadership classes, serving in the church, and they desire to grow in Christ.”
In addition to hunger offering funds from Texas Baptists, Hiz Houze also received a grant from the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation.
“This will help us in starting a new Hip-Hop Hope in South Terrace Apartments of South Waco,” Carreon said.
Building relationships, changing lives
In Trinity, SOUL Soup Kitchen—a ministry of Burning Hope Baptist Church—seeks to provide nourishment for “hungry bodies” and “hungry souls,” said Anita Parrish, ministry coordinator.
Parrish recalled Gerrie, a woman who arrived at the soup kitchen about a year ago. A friend at SOUL Soup Kitchen invited her to church, and she began attending worship services and Sunday school until she received a dire medical diagnosis—cancer—and her health prevented her from participating.
“The church ministered to her by building a wheelchair ramp onto her porch,” Parrish said.
Her husband—Jim Parrish, pastor of Burning Hope Baptist Church—visited Gerrie several times, offering her words of comfort and hope in her final days.
“He conducted her memorial service, and the soup kitchen volunteers prepared and served a meal to the family and friends,” Anita Parrish said. “SOUL Soup Kitchen offers more than a free meal. Relationships are built. Ministry beyond the walls happens. Lives are changed. Texas Baptists’ hunger offerings are making a difference.”
Carolyn Tomlin writes for the Christian market and teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers.
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.