Hearing the cries
of America's hungry
By Kirk Noonan
There was a time when Frances Johnese, 61, of Natchez, Miss., didnt
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 churchs 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 didnt 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 couldnt
afford food. We had never been in a position where we had to receive
help to survive."
A few months after Johneses 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 worlds 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 Gods 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
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
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 Africas 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. "Thats when the food
stamps run out and I begin to feel angry and scared. Sometimes if I
cant put food on the table I end up borrowing something so my
kids wont go hungry. Often there are times when I dont 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."
"It makes me feel ashamed when I think of when we had plenty and
we didnt 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."
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.