Jesus had a way of sneaking up on his pupils. Good teachers are like that. While spinning stories on the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, the topic gets serious. The king will separate them, and bless those that welcomed and fed him, but curse those who failed to respond.
They questioned the king. “When did we see you hungry?” After all, he was a king. That was when Jesus dropped the hammer: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” The least of these are related to the king? It is a radical notion, even more astounding in an age of empire.
Three years ago, Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based relief agency came to Ahwatukee Foothills for a mobile packing event. FMSC packages contain rice, soy, vitamins and vegetables to provide daily nutrition for 19 cents per meal. The dried food is easily shipped to more than 70 countries and is reconstituted with boiling water. Since that first event in 2007 thousands of Foothills residents have participated. The effort expanded Valleywide and in November 2009 four sites working simultaneously across the Valley, utilizing 5,000 volunteers, packed more than a million meals in one weekend.
Foothills resident Janine Skinner is a development advisor to FMSC: “What we most notice is that the experience of learning about world hunger and then doing something about it is transformational, especially for youth and over 50 percent of our volunteers are under 18.”
Although FMSC is a Christian organization, it has brought together people of many divergent faiths as well as those claiming no faith at all. Providing for starving children seems to strike a unifying chord that rings beyond denominational and political lines.
“The educational piece is vital,” Skinner said, “it puts a face on starvation. Kids here get it that there are people in the world worse off, but they do not understand much about starvation. They come away, understanding that what you do can make a difference.
“Following last January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, several FMSC volunteers saw news reports on food distribution and recognized the FMSC packages being distributed,” Skinner continued. “There was no need to define the term ‘the least of these.’”
On June 17 Feed My Starving Children will open a temporary, dedicated packing site in Tempe as part of a six-month pilot project. Located on Priest Road south of Elliott Road, the 8,000-square-foot facility will offer volunteers the opportunity to feed members of the king’s family all over the world. Skinner said.
There will be one packing session on Thursday evenings, two on Friday’s and four all day Saturday, and this will go on through Dec. 4. The goal of the project is 1.5 million meals, enough to feed 4,100 children for a full year. If the FSMC site, currently the only one in the west, can become self sustaining, there is an opportunity to make the dedicated packing facility permanent. Skinner directed people to www.fmsc.org to learn more about the Tempe site and ways to give to both the food packing and to the establishment of a permanent site.
“What we are also doing is creating a generation of volunteers,” Skinner said. One 19-cent meal at a time, those volunteers are feeding “the least of these, who are members of my family.”
For more information or to schedule a visit to the Tempe site, contact Janine Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.