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Hearing the cries of America's hungry

By Kirk Noonan

There was a time when Frances Johnese, 61, of Natchez, Miss., didn’t have to worry about where her next meal was coming from. Her husband had a good job and a steady paycheck. Things were going so well financially Johnese even donated food to her church’s food pantry and to local organizations during food drives. But when her husband had to leave his job after becoming terminally ill in 1999, Johnese quickly learned what it meant to be hungry. "We didn’t go completely without food," she says. "But we were down to the last thing we had to eat. I had a real sense of despair when I realized we couldn’t afford food. We had never been in a position where we had to receive help to survive."

A few months after Johnese’s husband left his job, he died. Today, Johnese lives in low-income housing for disabled persons and senior citizens. Each month she receives a check from the state and is enrolled in Medicaid, which pays for her medical bills and prescriptions. Because of her situation Johnese qualifies for a church-sponsored program operated by Vidalia First Assembly of God in Louisiana. Each month Johnese receives a box of groceries. If not for the program, Johnese says, she would be forced to go without meals. "Before I participated in the program I would pay all of my bills and pray what I had in the cupboards would get me through the month," she says.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture some 31 million Americans are food insecure. Being food insecure means one is not assured access at all times to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle. Of the 31 million Americans who suffer from hunger or live on the edge of it, 12 million are children.

Assemblies of God feeds the world’s hungry

According to one source, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger-related causes. Seventy-five percent are children. For years, the Assemblies of God has been combating hunger in countries throughout the world through an array of ministries.

In Central and South America the Assemblies of God’s Latin America ChildCare ministry is bringing hope to more than 75,000 needy children through its integrated network of evangelical schools, which operates in 21 nations. In addition to providing students with a Christian education, children also receive nutritious food and preventative medical care.

In Africa the A/G has responded in countries such as Mozambique when the country was ravaged by cyclones and flooding. There, the A/G sent 20 tons of rice.

When wars or disasters strike, Convoy of Hope, a compassion ministry that works in cooperation with the A/G, is often one of the first responders on-site with food and other supplies.

"Through the far-reaching network of local Assemblies of God churches, we have an incredible grassroots system for reaching the most needy," says Don Tucker, director of Africa’s Special Ministries for the A/G. "In many countries our network of churches is the very best system for covering an area in need."

Tyra, 37, a single mother with five children under the age of 15, struggles each month to provide enough food for her children. It is a battle that is monetarily and emotionally taxing.

"The end of the month is my biggest challenge," Tyra says. She works full-time in a nursing home. "That’s when the food stamps run out and I begin to feel angry and scared. Sometimes if I can’t put food on the table I end up borrowing something so my kids won’t go hungry. Often there are times when I don’t know where the next meal will come from and that makes me sad."

Peggy Ledford used to live in a food-insecure household. But in 1998 Convoy of Hope, an international compassion ministry and cooperative ministry of the Assemblies of God, held an outreach in Tulsa, Okla., where Ledford was living. She attended the outreach for the free groceries, but received much more than that. She committed her life to Christ and felt empowered to make much-needed changes in her life. She found a job, moved out of public housing and began attending church. "I know God is real because of the way He has provided for me," she says. "I could not have survived without extra help."

Since 1998 Ledford has volunteered at three other Convoy of Hope outreaches. Helping those who are in the same situation she once was in is her way of giving back. "People are hurting, lonely and helpless," she says. "They need our help."

Johnese agrees.

"It makes me feel ashamed when I think of when we had plenty and we didn’t give more for those in need when we could have," she says. "If I ever get to the point where I can help someone else, I am going to be there for them."

Those who want to fight hunger in America can give an offering on Assemblies of God World Hunger Day. In addition, they can give to Assemblies of God missions through their local church. Experts suggest that organizing a food drive for a local food bank or adopting an elderly person or shut-in and taking the person meals is also effective.

"Anything people can do is appreciated," Johnese says. "Their help could be the difference between someone giving up on life or getting a new lease on it."

Click here to give to the Assemblies of God World Hunger Day Fund

Kirk Noonan is an associate editor for the Pentecostal Evangel. Additional reporting by Isaac Olivarez, staff writer.

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