I Was Hungry and You Fed Me
by Rev. Tim Green
We live in a very small, very rural community. The sign welcoming you to the largest town in our county reads “Population: 750.” (And I’m not entirely sure that number is up-to-date.)
When I say we are “rural,” I mean that we are surrounded by farms and forests, and that the deer population outnumbers the human population. It is a 40 minute drive to a Walmart or a shopping center. The standing joke is that you have to drive for 30 minutes to even get to the road that goes somewhere.
And yes, we have the high poverty rate that is too often a characteristic of these small, rural communities.
A number of years ago, our ministerial alliance was made aware of a grant program that would provide summer lunches for school-aged children and their families. Naturally, we were very interested. We easily met the criteria, which was based on the percentage of students eligible for free lunches in the school system, and we enthusiastically launched our first multi-congregation, multi-denomination summer lunch program.
I could tell you stories of the hungry families that came to the facility grateful for something to eat. Those stories are moving and memorable. But the stories that stand out – the stories I remember most – are those of regular, rural people who grasped the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus as they fed hungry children.
I saw a congregation who had struggled with their identity in the community, open their hearts and doors to host the program. Men and women of every age, from every walk of life and socio-economic level volunteered their time and money to transport meals, hand out meals, and serve kids and families. Youth groups and women’s groups prepared programs and activities. Churches throughout the community came together to share the love of Jesus Christ with everyone who walked through the door.
It was wonderful.
By the end of that first summer there was something different about our community. We were still small, rural, and struggling with poverty, but we had experienced something powerful. In the faces of those hungry families, we had heard the voice of Jesus say to us, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”
Rev. Tim Green is the pastor of Gospel Mission Tabernacle in Golconda, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, Jenny, and their three children.
Lenten Calendar for MARCH 11
Tonight, make a meal without any animal products. Donate a quarter for each fruit or vegetable you eat today.
We need your stories!
We’re already looking ahead to the 40 Days for Food Justice Project for 2016 and we’re looking for more stories, experiences, prayers and resources about food justice and food injustice.
If you would like to contribute – or would like to recommend a contributor – please send us an email and let us know.
In addition to being the founder and editor-in-chief of the “40 Days for Food Justice Project”, the Rev. MargaretAnne Overstreet is a mom, a Presbyterian pastor, and a certified Health Coach. She does ministry with and among the good people of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Belleville, Illinois, where she gets her hands dirty in the community garden and, every Sunday, preaches with bare feet. She treasures family time, relishes every opportunity to teach and write about food justice, and loves to play outside with her dogs. Find out more about her at www.AnInBetweenPlace.com