The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering celebrated its 20th year connecting Texas Baptists churches to serve and support ministries that meet the immediate nutritional needs of people living in poverty and developing long term solutions. Through 20 years of giving, Texas Baptists have raised $15.5 million, which has been disbursed through worldwide ministries combatting hunger and poverty.
“I like what Phil Strickland used to say,” Charlie Whiteside of First Baptist Church of Kilgore noted. “‘Empty stomachs don’t have ears.’ Our first goal should be winning people to the Lord.”
Top-giving donors and churches recognized
Whiteside has been the top individual donor to the Hunger Offering in the last 20 years and was recognized as part of the celebration luncheon on Tues., Nov. 15, at Texas Baptists’ Annual Meeting.
As a former executive board member, Whiteside said he made sure to talk about it publicly whenever he had the chance.
First Baptist Church of Midland was similarly recognized as the congregation has been the top giving church for both the last 20 years as well as for 2015.
“There’s only two miracles all four gospels record consistently—Jesus’ resurrection and feeding the 5,000,” said Dr. Darin Wood, pastor of First Baptist Midland. “Jesus knew meeting physical needs was important. The gift to the Hunger Offering is a reflection of the church’s generosity.”
Sandy Mountain Fellowship of Sunrise Beach was this year’s top, per capita, giving church.
Ali Hearon, Hunger and Care Ministries specialist, said in addition to seeing the Hunger Offering grow in size and scope of service, the future will also include relationship-building.
“These past 20 years have been bright and full,” Hearon said. “Churches have connected with ministries and ministries with churches. Individuals have gathered around the issue of hunger. The future of the offering is to continue to generate opportunities for people who feel called by God through support and ministry.”
This year, Texas Baptists churches gifts to the Hunger Offering supported the work of 182 distinct ministries which met short-term relief needs and developed long-term solutions to poverty.
“I would love to see the offering be a place for ideas and relationship generation,” Hearon continued. “I would love to see the offering be a hub where people can network and have ideas for more development models.”
The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering supports a variety of ministry efforts from a variety of approaches to ministry.
Ministry partners showcase impact
Carol Dorman runs the church’s food pantry ministry at Royal Haven Baptist Church in Dallas which receives support from the Hunger Offering.
“Fourteen years ago Griselda walked across the Rio Grande with her children to escape an abusive relationship,” Dorman recalled. “We helped with food, rent and clothes [for her children]. In the time we’ve known Griselda, she has received a green card, a social security card, got a job, started paying taxes, has a Texas driver’s license and insurance.”
Dorman called the ministry a tool for relationship.
“The most important part is that Griselda and her two oldest daughters, Teresa and Becky, met Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” she said. “We met their physical needs first, we built a relationship, we built trust and then we introduced them to our very best friend.”
Another ministry recipient is the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid, which ships water filtration, medicine, food, shoes and various support materials to NGOs all over the world.
“It’s not just about eating,” Buckner President and CEO Dr. Albert Reyes said. “It’s about sustaining families.”
Buckner also uses Hunger Offering support to feed people and to teach gardening and sustainability in Mexico and in colonias in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I stop and think right now what it must have been like when Jesus had 5,000 people to feed,” Reyes said. “The disciples were encouraging him to make the people go away. Of course Jesus fed the crowd. Because of the Hunger Offering we don’t have to send anybody away hungry.”
A special offering was taken during Monday evening’s worship session and gifts totaling $4,414.46 will be added to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.