By Jessica Connor
GREENWOOD—The pictures say it all: children so malnourished they are literally skin and bones, wasting away. Across the world, thousands of children — an estimated 16,000 — die daily from one simple cause: they have nothing to eat.
This month, the Greenwood District of The United Methodist Church is stepping up and doing its part to help.
Inspired by a powerfully successful Stop Hunger Now food packaging event in its sister district, Greenville, the Greenwood District has decided to hold it own district-wide Stop Hunger Now.
Hosted by St. Mark UMC, Greenwood, the event is set for Saturday, Sept. 29, beginning at 9 a.m.
People of all ages, 5 and up, are encouraged to come and spend the day sorting grain, sealing food packages, hauling boxes and loading up trucks to be shipped out to starving families.
They have nothing to eat, but we can do something about it, said the Rev. Barrett Alewine, St. Mark s senior pastor. We can stop hunger now.
Alewine and St. Mark Associate Pastor the Rev. Dean Lollis have a heart for hunger ministry, and they knew they wanted to do more to get entire families in their church involved in ministry together. But when they heard about their sister district s successful Stop Hunger Now event in April, they immediately knew this would be perfect for their church “ and their district.
A family can all participate together, Lollis said. It gives everybody a chance to work together on a mission project.
Lollis also had a very special gauge up his sleeve. He ran the idea by his 5-year-old daughter, Grace, asking her if there were something she could do to help people, what would it be?
She said, ˜I want to feed people who are hungry, Lollis said.
With that, the idea took flight and soared.
St. Mark invited all district churches to participate in the event, and immediately, several churches signed on with donations and commitments to pack meals.
Organizers started with a very small goal: just 10,000 meals.
But we quickly went past that goal, so we said 30,000. And as soon as we set that goal, we went over that, too! Alewine said, laughing. When we got over 50,000 meals, I just said to the congregation, ˜We re not going to put a limit. We just don t know what God can do.
As of press time, the district had raised enough money to pack more than 58,000 meals. In addition to monetary donations to purchases supplies for the meal bags, they need a flock of people to pack bags on Sept. 29, plus strong backs who will load and unload 50-pound bags of food on the meal delivery truck.
They are also reaching out to people in other denominations to help.
We don t care who does it; this is something we are really passionate about, Alewine said. People are putting it out on Facebook and inviting their Facebook friends. It s really gotten to be so exciting.
Organizers have tried to help people get creative in ways to raise money for Stop Hunger Now. Children and youth are encouraged to save up their quarters, or sacrifice soda for a period of time and then donate the amount they would have spent on a soda to the hunger relief effort. Adults have been asked to fast for one meal a week, and donate what they would have spent on that meal to the effort.
The cost to provide a meal for one person is just 25 cents.
We really believe God has given our country so much, and it is immoral for people in other parts of the world to be dying because they can t get food, Alewine said. We throw away more in a day than many people get to eat in a week.
If you are 5 and can stand at a kitchen table, then you can help.
All are welcome to participate in or donate to Stop Hunger Now.
Want to help Stop Hunger Now?
9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
At the Rivers Street Campus
of St. Mark UMC, Greenwood
1633 Rivers Street
Ages 5 and up
Preregister at www.stophungernow.org/stmark or 864-229-5416, or just show up