Clergy and laity package meals to serve 'the least of these'
Nearly 150 volunteers gave up a meal so that 30,000 others could have one.
During the Annual Conference session’s two-hour lunch break on Monday, June 3, enough nutritious meals were mixed, bagged and boxed to feed thousands of the more than one billion people who go to bed hungry every night.
The mobile meals, packaged in a sealed cellophane bag, include a vitamin packet and a scoop each of rice, soy flour, and dehydrated vegetables. Recipients just add boiling water to have a nutritious meal. The meals packaged on Monday will be shipped to school feeding programs in 38 countries across the globe.
Ben Lee, Warner Robins First United Methodist Church’s director of student ministries, took a large group of youth to help pack meals. The students helped unload and set up, pack, and clean up.
“The overall experience was really, really cool and had a positive impact on our students,” he said. “I think that they understand now that we are a small part of a very big universal church.”
The atmosphere and energy in the room was exciting, he said, and it was encouraging to see all ages working together for a common cause. Kids worked with retired clergy, and people in flip flops and shorts served next to others in suits.
Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world, coordinates mobile meal packaging events across the country. Volunteers measure, scoop and package the food products, weigh and seal the bags, and pack 36 bags into each box. Each bag contains six meals. On Monday, more than 140 boxes were packed and prepped for shipment.
“The idea of 30,312 meals packed in under two hours going to 38 countries around the world, just the enormity of that sunk in (with the youth),” Lee said. “To truly feel like they were making a difference around the world was something that settled on them.”
Each meal costs 25 cents, stores easily, has a shelf life of two years, and transports quickly.
This year’s special offering, collected in local churches prior to the Annual Conference session and during the session’s Sunday evening worship service, benefited Stop Hunger Now, which is a Conference Advance Special (Advance #982795). Over $38,000 was given to help fight hunger. Of the $39,000, $7,500 was used to pay for the cost of the packaged meals. The rest of the money was given to Stop Hunger Now to support their ministry efforts.
“I am excited for the exposure that the ministry of Stop Hunger Now received through this meal packaging event,” said Allison Lindsey, assistant director of Connectional Ministries, the Conference office that planned and organized the event. “We were surprised in the number of news crews that stopped in to cover what the United Methodists of South Georgia were doing while in Macon to combat hunger, and now there are several churches that are setting up meal packaging events back in their own local churches and communities. The ripple effect will translate into many more meals packaged throughout South Georgia in the future.”
South Georgia United Methodists were also generous in their support of the Conference’s local mission agencies, donating movies, toiletries, school supplies, baby wipes and more to Magnolia Manor, the Methodist Children’s Home, Open Door Community Center, Vashti, Wesley Community Centers and Wesley Glen.
“The Office of Connectional Ministries was so excited to coordinate and promote these different mission opportunities during the 2013 Annual Conference session, and ‘The Least of These’ theme made it easy to tie into these experiences,” Lindsey said. “The different focuses were truly an expression of Nurture, Outreach, Witness and Advocacy all wrapped up in one. I am so thankful to be a part of a Conference that is so generous in sharing their resources in giving, collecting needed items and rolling up their sleeve to go to work.”