WACO—The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering celebrated its 20th year connecting churches to ministries that meet nutritional needs of people living in poverty and develop long-term solutions.
Through 20 years of giving, Texas Baptists have raised $15.5 million, which has been disbursed through worldwide ministries combatting hunger and poverty.
“I like what Phil Strickland used to say,” said Charlie Whiteside of First Baptist Church in Kilgore, quoting the long-time director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. “‘Empty stomachs don’t have ears.’ Our first goal should be winning people to the Lord.”
Top givers recognized
Whiteside was recognized as the top individual donor to the hunger offering over the last 20 years during a celebration luncheon immediately following Texas Baptists’ annual meeting.
First Baptist Church of Midland was recognized as the top giving church both for the last 20 years and for 2015.
“There’s only two miracles all four gospels record consistently—Jesus’ resurrection and feeding the 5,000,” said Darin Wood, pastor of First Baptist. “Jesus knew meeting physical needs was important. The gift to the hunger offering is a reflection of the church’s generosity.”
In addition to First Baptist in Midland, the rest of the top 10 giving churches to the hunger offering in 2015 were Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene, First Baptist Church in Saginaw, Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, First Baptist Church in Longview, First Baptist Church in Brenham, North Side Baptist Church in Weatherford, First Baptist Church in Kilgore and Macedonia Missioary Baptist Church in San Antonio.
Sandy Mountain Fellowship of Sunrise Beach was this year’s top per capita giving church.
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Ali Hearon, hunger and care ministries specialist with the CLC, said in addition to seeing the hunger offering grow in size and scope of service, the future also will include relationship-building.
“These past 20 years have been bright and full,” Hearon said. “Churches have connected with ministries and ministries with churches. Individuals have gathered around the issue of hunger. The future of the offering is to continue to generate opportunities for people who feel called by God through support and ministry.”
This year, Texas Baptist churches’ gifts to the Hunger Offering supported the work of 182 distinct ministries that met short-term relief needs and developed long-term solutions to poverty.
“I would love to see the offering be a place for ideas and relationship generation,” Hearon continued. “I would love to see the offering be a hub where people can network and have ideas for more development models.”
Introducing people to Jesus
Carol Dorman runs i58, the food pantry ministry at Royal Haven Baptist Church in Dallas, which receives support from the hunger offering.
“Fourteen years ago, Griselda walked across the Rio Grande with her children to escape an abusive relationship,” Dorman recalled. “We helped with food, rent and clothes (for her children). In the time we’ve known Griselda, she has received a green card, a Social Security card, got a job, started paying taxes, has a Texas driver’s license and insurance.”
Dorman called the ministry a tool for building relationships.
“The most important part is that Griselda and her two oldest daughters, Teresa and Becky, met Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” she said. “We met their physical needs first, we built a relationship, we built trust and then we introduced them to our very best friend.”
Another ministry recipient is the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid, which ships water filtration, medicine, food, shoes and various support materials to nongovernmental organizations all over the world.
“It’s not just about eating,” Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes said. “It’s about sustaining families.”
Buckner also uses hunger offering support to feed people and to teach gardening and sustainability in Mexico and in colonias along the Rio Grande.
“I stop and think right now what it must have been like when Jesus had 5,000 people to feed,” Reyes said. “The disciples were encouraging him to make the people go away. Of course, Jesus fed the crowd. Because of the hunger offering, we don’t have to send anybody away hungry.”
During the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting, messengers and guests contributed $4,414.46 toward the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.