Food for the Hungry (FH) was honored to host members of the 112th Congress, White House, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department for dinner last week. Our goal was to thank our long-standing partners and to initiate a fresh dialog about assisting the world’s most vulnerable people. .
I shared three brief thoughts with them:
- The two-minute story of FH;
- A glimpse into FH’s funding and programming partnership with the U.S. government; and
- Thoughts on the future of foreign assistance.
The two-minute story of FH
The group enjoyed hearing about the deep faith and commitment of our founder, Larry Ward. They delighted in hearing how Larry would read about a disaster in the news, hop on a plane, max out His personal credit card for assistance funds and help as many victims as possible. He would then return to the US to raise funds to pay off the credit card, and then start the process all over again!
Thankfully, we have moved toward a more sustainable model for helping the world’s poor via a development-driven ministry model that began in the 1980s. But despite that change, we have tenaciously hung onto a profound principle that still rings true for FH today: they die one at a time, so we help them one at a time.
Today, 18,000 children die each day from preventable causes. That’s over 6.5 million in a year. A holocaust of innocents. When faced as a gigantic block, it seems insurmountable.
But, as Larry Ward said so many times, they die one at a time. So we can help them one at a time. In this, our founder laid the foundation of FH on the deepest, most stable bedrock that exists. And that bedrock foundation is that the God who exists above all things chose to place His wonderful and eternal image in each and every human being that comes into this world.
And that reality then transforms the work that we do as FH. So over the past 40 years, we have evolved from an early focus on giving a man a fish, to an adolescent model of teaching a man to fish, to an adult model of teaching a man to farm fish.
Our goal is nothing short of transforming every community in which we work, with every child’s welfare being at the center of that transformation.
Today we are 2,300 in number working in over 25 countries with an annual budget of over $100 million. We have come a long way, and we’re thankful for the journey … and for the stops along the way … and for God’s grace which carries us.
Our partnership with the U.S. government
FH’s partnership with the U.S. government began in 1983. A drought in Bolivia led to a food crisis, which in turn led USAID’s Office of Food for Peace to initiate a food aid program with FH as one of it implementing partners. That opened the door to a 30-year relationship of over one half billion dollars in program funding from USAID, the State Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We are proud to say we have stewarded those resources well and have positively impacted millions of lives. Like those in Ethiopia who were on death’s doorstep as a result of the 1984/85 famine. Or those in Mozambique who were trying to rebuild their livelihoods after their protracted civil war in the early 1990s. Or those in Democratic Republic of Congo over the past decade who had lost all hope of surviving the brutalities of the conflict in the east. Or those in Bolivia who transformed an arid corner of their country into a lush agricultural breadbasket that markets its products all the way to Japan.
We have learned and grown tremendously as a result of working with our U.S. government partners.
The future of U.S. foreign assistance
Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads as a nation and are coming dangerously close to abandoning our centuries-old ethic of helping the “least of these” in other lands. We are on the verge of drastically reducing the one half of one percent of the federal budget that goes to help the world’s poor beyond our shores in the belief that that one half of one penny will solve our deficit problem.
We in FH understand and deeply support stewardship and fiscal prudence, deficit reduction and solvency. But we also understand the biblical principle of tithing.
If our commitment to the poor wanes and then disappears in the name of keeping more for ourselves, then we will have lost this bedrock principle of setting aside a portion of our first fruits for those in greater need than ourselves.
As we look forward to the 113th Congress in January 2013, we are hopeful that the American commitment to the world’s poor will be affirmed and even strengthened.
What you can do
- Pray for America’s leaders, candidates and voters as we carefully consider who should lead us for the next several years.
- Vote for the candidates you believe will protect the world’s most vulnerable people, not by party line.
- Speak out on behalf of the world’s poor and vulnerable people – with your friends, family, neighbors, fellow church members and at town halls hosted by candidates for public office.
- Send a postcard to the presidential candidates asking them to address poverty: http://www.micahchallengeusa.org/lend-your-voice
- Give to your favorite local, national and international charities that have effective programs to help people break the bonds of poverty forever. You can give to FH at https://give.fh.org/projects.aspx.