Methodists in the Cleveland District packaged 6,000 meals Sunday after morning worship service to fulfill one of the great commandments of Christ to help the least of their neighbors.
The project gave church members the opportunity to witness the love of Jesus through their actions rather than sharing a message through words.
Ooltewah Methodist Church Associate Pastor Amy Nutt said the Stop Hunger Now meal packaging program is a volunteer-based effort through which participants package high-protein, dehydrated meals for use in crisis situations.
“It’s an effort to bring our laity and pastors together to do education and training on various topics and leadership and to equip the laity,” she said. “As Christians, we can be more of a witness through our actions and expressions of love as Christ did rather than any words we can go share. When we go to try to meet someone where they are and bring them food in the name of Jesus and show them that love, that speaks far more than what our words could.”
The Stop Hunger Now was one of four workshops which also included the topics of church finance, technology in churches, and emergency training resources.
“Today, we are going to package 10,000 meals to be shipped internationally,” she said.
The meals are a mixture of dehydrated vegetables, rice, soy nuts, flavoring and 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Each meal costs 25 cents and they are shipped internationally to impoverished countries.
“Everyone of every age and every ability can be a part of this,” she said.
Elizabeth and Shawn Parnaby, also of Ooltewah, were working as a family with their young children, Nathan and Victoria.
“We’re trying to teach them to volunteer and there are not many opportunities for 5- and 7-seven-year-olds, but they can understand this and do it,” Elizabeth said.
The Rev. Nutt became interested in the aid program in 2011 when she attended the World Methodist Peace Conference in South Africa.
“There were hundreds of us who participated in this hands-on mission project and I was fascinated by the process — how quickly it goes about, the ease of it all and the satisfaction you feel after being part of this project,” she said. “Just knowing where the food you’re packaging is going gives you a tremendous sense of being something much larger than ourselves and what God is calling us to do.”
The meals are actually distributed to the people by Stop Hunger Now and do not end up in a large government warehouse or on the black market.
Wesley Memorial’s senior pastor, the Rev. Robert Smith said anytime Christians can come together to help stop hunger is a plus to the community and the church. Also, involving youth helps them have more hands-on involvement in reaching out to show the community they care.
“I know this goes beyond our community, but it helps people out there who are looking for daily food just to live from day to day. I think it’s a great thing to see our sister and brother churches coming together and helping with this ministry.”
The Cleveland District includes Methodist Churches from Athens to Spring City, Ooltewah and Copperhill.