By: Christa Meland
“We want to help kids.”
Joleen Carlson, a retired member of Bethel United Methodist Church in Mound, says that’s why she and half a dozen friends have been packing meals through Feed My Starving Children twice a month for the past four years—and it’s why she embraced the Minnesota Conference’s recent effort to pack at least 1 million meals for hungry children.
She is in good company. In early April, just two months after the Minnesota Conference launched its “Million Meals Marathon,” United Methodists and their families and friends had collectively packed more than 1 million meals through Feed My Starving Children. As of Wednesday, that figure totaled 1,210,113.
Carlson—whose group has packed seven times so far this year, contributing more than 70,000 meals to the conference’s total—says she continues to be amazed by how large an impact even a small group can have during a two-hour meal-packing shift.
“We go there and we know that our goal is the same: to feed people, to let them know they are loved, to give them hope, and to know that God is not only in our lives but in their lives also,” she says.
‘There is still room’
In Luke, chapter 14, Jesus tells two parables about hosting others at the banquet table. In the second parable, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we are to invite all who are hungry, sick, and poor—and that no matter how many are invited, “there is still room.”
“I rejoice in the faithfulness and generosity of Minnesota United Methodists who have already invited over 1 million hungry children to the banquet table through our Million Meals Marathon,” says Bishop Bruce Ough. “You are truly stewards of the gift of life and the mysteries of the Gospel. But there is still room! In God’s economy—in the feast that is God’s kingdom—there is always more room to invite others.”
Millions of the world’s children are under-nourished, and every meal packed means one more child is spared from having to go to bed hungry.
“It is now clear to me that God’s vision for the Million Meals Marathon is greater than our vision,” says Bishop Ough. “Why am I surprised? God wants us to invite all who are hungry and excluded to be fed. So, let’s continue to go to the city streets, the country lanes, the remote meal-packing sites, the annual conference session, and invite another million children to the banquet table. There is still room!”
‘A small way for us to help out in a big mission’
For the meal-packing effort, the Minnesota Conference is partnering with Feed My Starving Children, an Advance Special of The United Methodist Church. The nonprofit provides life-saving meals to people who need them most all over the world—from countries affected by natural disaster to places enduring economic despair. Meals have been distributed in nearly 70 countries through missionary partnerships at orphanages, schools, clinics, refugee camps, and malnourishment centers.
Arlys Meeker, a member of Glendale United Methodist Church in Savage, packs meals monthly with a group from her congregation.
“It’s a small way for us to help out in a big mission,” she says, adding that packing meals is fun. “When we get a box packed, we hoot and holler.”
She says her church decided to participate in the Million Meals Marathon because it allows members to make a positive difference while getting to know each other better.
“We all have so much, and to think that a child goes hungry is devastating,” she says. “When you see how a child can change in a few months’ time by us spending a couple hours a month . . . it’s heartwarming. No children should have to be going to bed hungry. It brings tears to your eyes to know that you can do your part.”
The Million Meals Marathon is being coordinated by the Minnesota Conference’s Mission Promotion Team and Lyndy Zabel, the conference’s director of missional impact. One of the reasons that this all-conference mission project was chosen is because every United Methodist of every age at every Minnesota church can participate.
“The turnout has been great,” Zabel says about the response to local churches’ response to the Million Meals Marathon. “I am amazed . . . but this is what Minnesota United Methodists do.”
Opportunities to participate
There are several ways to support our effort to help feed the world’s hungry children.
Churches can continue to bring groups to one of Feed My Starving Children’s three permanent locations in the Twin Cities area to participate in a meal-packing session. Additionally, there are four upcoming “mobile pack” opportunities in Greater Minnesota. Sign up for a shift!
Another way to get involved is by making a financial contribution. The Minnesota Conference will give 80 percent of this year’s Love Offering, an annual offering that benefits mission projects, to Feed My Starving Children to help pay for the meals being packed at the remote sites. Donations for Feed My Starving Children will also be collected at the “mobile pack” sites.
“Our volunteers are continuing to turn hunger into hope with their own hands,” said Zabel. “The more hands, the more lives that are transformed day by day.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church