By Joe Conway
PHILADELPHIA – Some ideas are too good not to share. That’s what Chuck Kieffer discovered about Garden Camp.
Kieffer, a church planter and pastor of Philadelphia’s The Foundry Church, led his congregation to reach their urban neighbors with a rural concept—growing fresh produce. Their urban garden naturally provided teachable moments, along with a 500-pound annual yield of fresh produce. Garden Camp, an urban gardening-based Vacation Bible School, was the next step.
“We teach gardening techniques and nutrition, which are easy to bridge to biblical concepts of our Creator,” says Kieffer of the weeklong VBS. “Doesn’t every church have some piece of ground they are not using? Every church can do this.”
The Foundry Church uses World Hunger Funds, now also known as Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, to help operate a food pantry, deliver food to shut-ins and distribute bread on the streets. All done to help open doors to share the gospel.
Global Hunger Relief seeks to expand the World Hunger Fund (WHF) “dollar in, dollar out” concept to wider audiences. Global Hunger Relief (GHR), a re-branding of WHF, is aimed at challenging a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus’ love to starving souls, in both word and deed. GHR is a joint initiative of multiple SBC entities.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said NAMB’s close work with Southern Baptist state partners “has given us many opportunities to be sure underserved communities in North America are receiving food for the hungry and a chance to experience the hope found in Christ.”
GHR is one of the avenues NAMB is using for churches to discover how to help their neglected neighbors, neglected communities and neglected children through LoveLoud. The desire behind the LoveLoud aspect of GHR is to ultimately see people led to faith in Christ, people like Amjad*.
Last year on Oct. 5, Canadian Thanksgiving, Rendezvous Church in Toronto hosted a meal for immigrants, including, Amjad, a new arrival from Iran. The night before, Amjad’s mother, who lives in Iran, called him to say she had dreamed a group of Americans were coming to share Jesus with him the next day.
The next day a North Carolina mission team arrived to help prepare and serve the Thanksgiving meal for 60 residents at Rendezvous. Amjad could not believe his mother’s dream had come true. He sat for hours listening to the gospel shared by his new American friends.
Hunger funds do more than provide meals. They open doors to the gospel.
“We live in an area in Philadelphia that is a true paradox,” says Kieffer. “We are just a few blocks from some of the wealthiest residents of the city, but within our immediate area 1 out of 3 children go to bed hungry each night. We have to do something to help feed them and reach them for Christ.”
Look for The Foundry Church, a Send North America: Philadelphia multiplying partner, to release an e-book on how churches can incorporate LoveLoud outreaches like urban gardens and Camp Garden VBS into their ministries.
Learn more about GHR/WHF at worldhungerfund.com. Discover more about LoveLoud at namb.net/loveloud. For more on Send North America: Philadelphia, visit namb.net/philadelphia and Send North America: Toronto, namb.net/toronto. See a related column at namb.net/whatever-it-takes.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. This article appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of On Mission.
Published September 23, 2013