Feeding the Hungry: Paoli Mennonite Fellowship Responds to Worldwide Needs

Feeding the Hungry: Paoli Mennonite Fellowship Responds to Worldwide Needs

PAOLI, IN — While members of the Paoli Mennonite Fellowship are giving of their resources to help fight hunger in parts of the globe where food supplies are short, the congregation is finding the effort is reciprocal. The fellowship’s Lonnie Sears, who initiated the group’s involvement with a nonprofit organization called Foods Resource Bank, shared his view that the effort isn't just about giving, but also is about receiving.“PMF has made connections with people in other countries,” Sears wrote in an email. “FRB emphasizes working together with others and learning from others. While we in the U.S. are materially wealthy, other world regions without financial resources can have great social and spiritual wealth to share with us. We try to recognize ways that we can exchange these gifts rather than thinking we just give to others.”

Sears explained that FRB involves about 15 church denominations working together to support projects to help communities feed themselves in regions of the world with limited resources.“ We started in 2009 after I learned of FRB from my family who farms in northern Illinois,” Sears wrote. “That first year, we raised funds to help cover the input costs of 30 acres of soybeans. The goal of FRB projects often is to have churches raise money to cover the costs to produce a crop and the farmer often then donates the income from the crop to FRB as part of the growing project.” Ted Larrison, another PMF member, said, “What we do is we raise money to help farmers plant a crop.”

In 2010, PMF began partnering with Dave and Jan Mullet, who live in Paoli in the winter and farm in Montana during the growing season. Each year since then, PMF has worked to raise money to cover the input costs for a 30-acre wheat field and the Mullets have donated income to FRB. “PMF has raised money to cover the input costs for ‘our’ wheat field in several ways,” Sears said.

Through what’s called “Penny Power,” the church’s children and adults have brought spare change for a special offering each Sunday. Children in the congregation gather and count the coins. Under the leadership of Curtis Thill, church members gather on a Wednesday evening in late spring to plant a community garden. They continue to meet throughout the summer to weed the garden and to harvest the vegetables. Church members then make salsa and seek donations for FRB in return for the salsa. Another year, PMF had a garage sale to raise money.

Sears said FRB began with farmers in the United States addressing hunger and "it was realized that a more beneficial approach would be to help fund community projects in those regions so that local communities could develop farming strategies to feed families year round.” That has included such efforts as improving access to water and researching new crop production methods.

In the spirit of exchange, two PMF members have traveled to see the overseas projects they've helped to nurture. Logan Parsons went on a trip to Kenya and Larry Lehman traveled to Laos and Cambodia. “We are trying to support overseas travel of one church member each year and are especially encouraging youth to travel,” Sears said. Larrison would like to see more local churches get involved with FRB to help in the fight against hunger and to enjoy the same kinds of benefits the Mennonite congregation has experienced.

In addition, Sears said, “We are looking for local farmers who may want to have an FRB growing project in our community. I would also be glad to talk to local churches who may want to start their own FRB project.” Sears added, “We have developed a shared mission in addressing food issues from a global perspective. Many in our church have concerns about issues related to poverty. ... We see these efforts as following the teachings of Christ in how we should respond to others in need.”

BY ROGER MOON,Times-Mail News 

02/15/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment