By: Christa Meland
“God is working through Minnesota United Methodists to perform life-saving, life-transforming miracles,” says Bishop Bruce Ough.
First, Minnesota United Methodists came together to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in sub-Saharan Africa, raising upwards of $2.3 million to date for Imagine No Malaria. Then last year, Minnesota United Methodists rose to the occasion when Bishop Ough issued a Cleaning Bucket Challenge for disaster relief, donating nearly 2,000 buckets.
“Now, God is calling us to another miracle offering,” says Ough. “God is calling us to feed the hungry. God is calling us to be in ministry with the poor. God is calling us to embrace the children—the most vulnerable of God’s beloved community. God is calling Minnesota United Methodists to provide 1 million meals for the world’s starving and malnourished children.”
This year, the Minnesota Conference will come together for another hands-on mission project: packing 1 million meals through Feed My Starving Children, an effort being referred to as the “Million Meals Marathon.” The campaign will extend throughout 2014, although the goal is to hit the 1 million mark by the end of this year’s annual conference session, taking place May 28-30.
Feed My Starving Children, an Advance Special of The United Methodist Church, 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.
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. Zabel says 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.
“In Matthew 25, Jesus asks his disciples to feed the hungry in his name,” says Zabel. “It is one way we work toward the third Gospel imperative laid out by Bishop Ough: ‘Heal a broken world.’”
In addition to committing to pack 1 million meals, the Minnesota Conference will also 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.
Meeting the ambitious 1 million meals goal will require statewide participation. There are multiple ways to participate:
—Give to the Love Offering, 80 percent of which will go to Feed My Starving Children.
—Bring a donation to a mobile pack site, 100 percent of which will go to Feed My Starving Children.
—Visit a special Minnesota Conference page on the Feed My Starving Children website and click the gold-colored “Donate” bar (upper-left), then click the black “Give Now!” bar (upper-right) and follow the prompts; 100 percent your donation will go to the organization.
Meal-packing shifts last for two hours, which includes a 15-minute orientation. All food and equipment will be provided, so volunteers need to bring only themselves. During their shifts, volunteers assemble highly nutritious rice- or potato-based “MannaPacks,” which contain food blends that are easy and safe to transport, simple to make with only boiling water, and culturally acceptable worldwide.
More than a decade ago, when Zabel visited a feeding center connected to a hospital in Sierra Leone, he saw firsthand just how significant the need for nutritious food is in developing countries experiencing poverty—and the important role that Feed My Starving Children plays in filling that need.
Zabel recounts seeing vans go to nearby villages to pick up children who had bloated stomachs and red hair due to malnutrition and starvation—and the mothers of those children. They would spend four weeks at the feeding center, where the children initially received a liquid formula, then food from Feed My Starving Children, and eventually more solid food before going home.
“The mothers were trained in nutrition,” Zabel says. “Every week, another 30 or so children came to the center. Along the way, lives were transformed.”
Throughout the meal-packing initiative, visit the Million Meals Marathon page on the conference website to view progress made toward the 1 million meal goal and to download bulletin inserts, photos, and other resources for use in local churches. Please talk with your congregation about the role it will play in the Million Meals Marathon, which provides an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.
“It is our connectional system working at its best, doing more for the hungry of the world together than we could ever do by ourselves,” says Zabel.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church