By David Deulofeu-Antunez
When we think of poverty and hunger, what images come to mind? For many years, this question evoked images of absolute poverty and starvation. It reminded me of images of global south countries, like Haïti after the 2010 earthquake, or of my own native Cuba during the period especial, a euphemism the undemocratic elites used to call economic crisis and lack of food in the island in the late 1990s. It never occurred to me that hunger could be used in a U.S. national context. It never occurred to me that hunger, or namely the ministry to the hungry, and petitioning our elected leaders was a cornerstone of our faith.
The summit gathered a diverse group of faithful people from many different Christian faith traditions. We convened in Washington, D.C. over a period of two days where we prepared our minds and hearts to be a voice for the voiceless. I was blessed to participate in the Latino Leaders meetings, and then join our Pan-African brethren in a joint session. We discussed the issues our communities face that lead to hunger. For the Hispanic and Latin communities, issues such as low wages, the legal status or lack thereof in many members of our community, economic and educational disadvantages, and the language barrier all led to higher chances for our community to face hunger. I was surprised when I learned that one in six Latinos in the U.S. will face hunger at least once in a year.
Reverend Cho, the president and CEO of Bread for the World, gave a sermon on the first day using the story of the miracle of the bread and fish. His message was simple, yet impactful: First, to care for others is to meet their necessity right then and there; second, Jesus sent his disciples and orders them to meet the need of the people in the same way that we must go and serve others; third, Jesus blesses the world through the actions of those who hear his word, and answer his call. We must be like the child, who not having much, offered whatever little he had to Jesus.
While Jesus was walking among us, his ministry focused not only in bringing salvation to us, but in two core extensions of his divine purpose. Jesus came to heal our souls and our relationship with the father; but he also healed the lepper, and raised some from the dead. Jesus came to feed our hearts and souls, but he also gave us bread and wine. To follow Jesus’ example is to not be stuck just in the spiritual aspects of our faith, or the rules, or the order of the service (I’m looking at you, worship leaders.), but to put our doctrine into praxis: visiting the sick, advocating for justice and tolerance, opposing injustice and bondage, visiting the sick, caring for the poor, and feeding the hungry.
The message was clear then as it is clear now. We as the church cannot sit idle like the 5000, waiting for Jesus to provide for us and others. Instead, we need to be active and listen to where God wants us to move, and fulfill the necessities of our community, as he would have done. We, as people of faith, also must advocate for the least among us to our elected representatives.
During this Summit, we advocated for an extension of the Child Nutrition Waver, which will provide free meals for school-aged kids year-round, and the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act which, if passed, will help combat malnutrition around the world and save countless lives.
For me, this Summit was an incredible experience that revitalized not only my faith, but my commitment to seek justice and love others. I was blessed to break bread and drink with amazing people from around the nation and across the rainbow of Christian denominations. I was blessed to hear their stories, their passion to end hunger, and their hope to one day hear the words, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.”
The people of God, when united in one heart, one spirit, one mind and one voice, can achieve wonders for the glory of the Lord and for the benefit of all people. Amen.
P.S.: Last week, Congress passed the extension of the Child Nutrition Waver, and President Biden signed it into effect. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!