What if we could end hunger and poverty in our community?

Published 11:55 am Saturday, November 23, 2013

by Brandon Robbins

I have a serious passion for mission work.

By mission work, I mean using my gifts and resources to help those who must live without adequate food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc. And I love it! I have ever since I was a teenager.

My first major mission experience came when I was in the ninth grade. Every year, our church would take a group of high schoolers and adults to volunteer for the Appalachia Service Project.  ASP is a ministry in the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky that seeks to make people’s homes warmer, safer and drier.

The first year I volunteered, our team’s job was to replace the roof on a family’s trailer. For a week, we spent each day in the hot sun, installing plywood, draping tarpaper and hammering down shingles. It was exhausting and exhilarating.

What made the week really amazing, though, was getting to know the family we were working for. Even though they were the subjects of our generosity, they never missed a chance to show their gratitude through generosity of their own. They would bring us drinks when it got hot and eat lunch with us from time to time.

We were able to hear their stories, learning what brought them to this point of desperate need. And as a consequence, we fully understood the importance of the work we were doing.

This trip and my subsequent experience in mission work have taught me that what really matters is not so much the work you do or the money you contribute. It’s the people you meet.

Mission work is really about building relationships. It’s about meeting people whose lives are different than your own, and realizing that they have just as much to offer to you as you have to offer them. It’s understanding that we are not so different from one another, even though we may live in different houses, drive different cars and wear different clothes. It’s embracing the fact that we are all God’s children, and loving and supporting one another is what we were created to do.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the imprisoned – when we do anything for those who suffer – we do it for him (Matthew 25:34-40). According to the Bible, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. And just as one of the greatest things two siblings can do for their parents is love one another, so too this is one of the greatest ways that we can show our love for Jesus.

That’s why one of the greatest blessings of pastoring Courtland United Methodist Church has been their passion for missions ministry – particularly in the area of food. Before I even arrived, the people of this church were actively engaged in a very powerful food ministry. This year alone, we’ve already distributed over 40,000 pounds of food to those in need.

But what is even more exciting is the love I see in the eyes of those serving. You can see that they truly care about those who come to receive food, and have formed relationships with many of them. Indeed, they are always looking for new opportunities to serve people, especially in times of greater need.

Next week in fact, several of the people in our church are coming together to make Thanksgiving meals for those who are sick, shut-in, or otherwise able to do so for themselves.

No one told them to do this. There’s no material reward that will come their way as a consequence. They do it simply out of love.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all lived in such a way? If we truly loved our neighbors and regularly found ways to act upon that love?

Clearly, Courtland UMC isn’t the only church doing these things. I open this paper each week and see story after story of churches and organizations doing what they can to serve others. But what if even more of us joined alongside them?

What if we could end hunger and poverty in our community? What if we could truly see one another as neighbors, as brothers and sisters in Christ?

What if we got rid of all the excuses that keep us from serving and instead looked for all the reasons that we should? Can you imagine what might happen?

Jesus said that he came to “bring Good News to the poor, proclaim that captives will be released, the blind will see, and the oppressed will be set free!” (Luke 4:18) He came to change the world!  And he has left that mission to us to fulfill.

May you see your part in it. And by His strength, may you make it so.

BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or pastor@courtlandumcva.org.