Never Too Old…

“Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”- Anne Frank, Holocaust Victim 

 I must confess. I have had a bad attitude lately. Returning from a mission trip to the Philippines, Rev. Maria Bowers shared one experience with me. The local church in Manila gathered the children in the area once a month for a meal, to weigh the children, and to access their over-all health. In conversation with our District Superintendent, the local Bishop heard about how Stop Hunger Now might provide a relationship that would allow the children to have a meal daily instead of monthly. This could radically change their lives. The Bishop had not heard of Stop Hunger Now. And he was very interested.

 Maria and our DS mentioned my work with Stop Hunger Now and that I might be part of connecting the two groups. Imagine my surprise and excitement that I might play a role in this wonderful ministry connection.

 I made contact with Stop Hunger Now staff to learn who was the connection person for international efforts that should be involved in this conversation and then reached out for information. I scheduled a meeting with the DS and made the ride to the District Office to see what could be done.

 And then my world crashed. As Herzen, our DS, and I talked, I learned I was “late to the party” as it were. He had already had several conversations with Stop Hunger Now staff, the Bishop in Manila and others and 2 in country packing events had already been set up, funding had been provided from our Bishop and Annual Conference and everything was already in place for this relationship to get up and running. 

While this is all very exciting and a great thing to happen – I left that meeting crushed. I had hoped to be part of this process. I was hoping to participate in making things happen. I envisioned being a connecting part of this ministry.

And that is where my frustration began. I. Instead of just being grateful then children would eat, that the Bishop and Stop Hunger Now had made a connection and an ongoing relationship had been created; I was focused on how I had been left out of the process. And I let it create negative emotions in my spirit and in my attitude.

You know, sometimes we see a place of ministry, we dream of a new ministry effort, a new venture to share God with someone, some group, in some way – and then we find out someone has already to that, someone has “beat us to the punch,” someone else made the effort first and now we are left just standing there wondering what to do. 

The thing we need to focus on is not how WE got “left out” but rather we need to rejoice that God used someone else to make it happen. That God’s love and resources are already being made available to those in need, that needs are being met quickly and effectively. We should shout, “Glory, Hallelujah!!” rather than words of disappointment and frustration.

I am ashamed and embarrassed at my own reaction in this situation. I responded with frustration and ego – not joy and thanksgiving. And I should know better. And, that leads me to remember what we seek to learn in the season of Lent.

We take time during Lent to focus on our lives and where we have not been all God desires for us. And not just to acknowledge our shortcomings, but also to look at them, repent of them, seek God’s forgiveness, and then take intentional steps to change our lives to do better in the future. We are to turn our lives around and deliberately move in a new direction. A direction God will provide so that we can grow into a better person and walk more closely with God in the future.

My attitude has improved. I have repented of my self-centered attitude and I am truly glad so many things have already taken place to feed those who are hungry. Maybe I have taken a step towards improving the world by changing my attitude and focus.

I want to encourage you to keep putting aside your coins, your cash, and your gifts as we fill our red rice boxes during the remainder of the Lenten Season. Every penny helps. Every quarter feeds a hungry child. Make plans to be present in worship Easter Sunday so that you can place your gift on the altar as a Thanksgiving Gift in response to God’s great gift of his Son through the Resurrection. And plan to join us the next Sunday evening as we package the meals we fund to that those who are hungry may be fed. And the obscenity of a world that lets persons go hungry when there is enough food for all to eat will be brought closer to an end.

You can make your gift online or sign up to help package HERE. You need to register if you plan to help package so we can know how many to set up for that night.

May God bless you as you move through the last days of Lent this season.

Until the next time….

The Hog Father

 

 

Making a Difference v. 2.0

Making a Difference – version 2.0!

I am preparing to take a renewed journey in my life. I would like to invite you to join me as I travel. I have never been much for social media – just never felt “cool” enough. However, with the urging of a friend — and standing on the edge of a new life adventure — I’m going to see where this goes this time.

I continue to be passionate about a few of things in life — my motorcycle & world hunger are 2 of them. Quite a disparate group, right?

I am privileged to own (make payments on) a 2009 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Motorcycle (Pastor + Harley = The HOG Father). Since December 29, 2008 I have ridden 84,595 miles. The longest ride was 2,450 miles in 65 hours going from Rydal, Georgia to Canada to Ocracoke Island, NC to Rydal, Georgia in 3 days — just because I wanted to. And that is part of my motivation for this blog and my concern for the next two things. My longest single day ride was 1, 096 miles from Santa Fe, NM to Roswell, NM across Texas to Texarkana, LA down to Alexandria, LA only stopping for food, gas, and, well – you know.

At the 2010 North GA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church I learned about an organization called Stop Hunger Now. This is an organization that provides meals, primarily to children, for only 25 cents per serving. A team of 40-50 persons can package 10,000 meals in around 2 hours. I can wrap my head around that — 25 cents feeds a child.

March 5, 2014 marks the beginning Lent, Ash Wednesday – the 40 days before Easter. Lent is a time where Fasting is encouraged as a spiritual discipline. It is not the abstinence from the food that is the purpose. It is using time typically spent preparing, eating and cleaning up from a meal to meditate on God’s word, God’s purpose, God’s will for one’s life; reading the Scriptures; or otherwise growing in one’s faith.

It is my intention, for a second time, to live on the same food that I seek to offer to those in need. If it is good enough for them — it ought to be good enough for me. It is formulated for starving children — I am not starving nor am I a child (childish but not a child). I expect eating the equivalent of 6 servings per day (about 1,500+ calories). However, if I am successful in this effort at the same level I was the first time, I will live on 1-2 servings amounting to 220-440 calories per day. Once again, I am seeking to use this experience as a journey towards understanding while I grow more and more aware of my place of privilege. Forty days to grow deeper in my understanding of the scarcity of food.

This blog will once again be a place to share my experience. It will be a place to work out what it means to be part of the privileged class in the world. It will be a place to see how I can combine my love of riding with rasing awareness about the plight of the majority of the citizens of the world A place to share facts and information about hunger (and just maybe some riding tips and experiences) and how everyone can be part of the solution.

In short: the solution already exists to solve world hunger — only we, the world community refuse to deploy them. (More on that in the days ahead.)

I ask for your prayers, your support (donations can be made to Chatsworth First UMC, P O Box 152, Chatsworth, GA 30705) and that you join me on this journey.

Until the next time….The HOG Father

 

Change

I know I have written before about changes. Changes in my life, the world, people, etc. But today I am thinking about change again.

Partly because I am sitting in a new office, in a new town, at a new church, serving a new congregation — but more because I saw a change yesterday that demands my attention.

I was honored to stand by the bed of one of the matriarchs of Chatsworth First UMC as the decision to remove life support was made and carried out. This saint of the church had grown older, frail and had suffered a broken hip as is common. Having been cleared for surgery, she was given a small dose of medication to put her to sleep and in an unusual response, she had a very significant reaction to the medication.

For some 6 minutes, she had no heartbeat. This lead, as it commonly does, to a series of major organ failures and eventually to the place where her body could no longer successfully sustain life. The family in love and concern gave the consent to remove mechanical help and allowed nature to take its course.

We had gathered around her bed, surrounded by medical equipment, medical staff, and a very real presence of the Holy Spirit. We offered a prayer for God to touch her, the family, and the medical community. And then we turned it over to the hospital staff & God.

Medication that was keeping her blood pressure artificially raised and the ventilator were removed and nature began to once again move in its own way. And we watched, and we waited, and we prayed, and tears were shed…….

AND WE WATCHED AS GOD SHOWED UP IN A VERY REAL WAY TO RECEIVE HIS DAUGHTER BACK INTO A PLACE WHERE ILLNESS, HEARTACHE, LONELINESS, PAIN, AND DISEASE DO NOT HAVE A PLACE AND WHERE TIME IS MEANINGLESS.

We watched as her earthly tent was taken down and she clothed herself in glory as scripture promises. We listened trying to hear God speak words of welcome as she made the change, the transition, the move from time-bound, temporal living to life abundant and eternal. Unlike our family moving to Chatsworth, she carried nothing from this life to the next. For there she has everything and more.

Change is not always bad, Change can be good. Change can bring new opportunities, new relationships, new skills, new joys and newness of life. Change can be the answer to prayer.

May God have mercy on us as we often resist changes, and may we find in those changes of life the very presence of a loving, merciful, gracious God.

Rest in the arms of your loving Heavenly Father, Miss Ann Hemphill.

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Why it matters

Screen shot 2011-02-17 at 12.20.07 AMSometimes it seems impossible to explain why working with Stop Hunger Now matters so much to me, why I am so passionate about raising awareness of the issue of hunger in the world today, why it is maddening to consider that it is not a shortage of food that causes persons to suffer from hunger, why I try so hard to get folks to see how easy it is to give these meals for only a quarter per meal.

Back in March of this year I had the opportunity to return to Nicaragua with Stop Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 1.19.15 AMHunger Now to see again and in new ways how these meals are used through ORPHANetwork to feed those in need. While on that trip I got to meet and get to know the band Willet. These guys have used their musical abilities, and speaking abilities to change the world. They have developed a passion for feeding the hunger among other charitable efforts. 

Today, Jeremy Willet posted a comment on Facebook that really touched my heart. Broke it actually. And I want to share his word with you. It puts into words many things I have tried to say, and that I feel. I hope they touch you as well. For more about this group, visit their website at http://www.willetmission.com.

“I’m going to need [ ] the next few days.

I need it because I’m angry.

There’s no other way to describe how I feel.

Without [ ] from others , my feelings might offend.

I try to have [ ] with others when they hurt me, but tonight, its hard.

During my last trip to Ghana just a few weeks ago, my wife, Kat and I traveled to the community where our son, Evans, was born. It is a community called Bolgatanga. While there, we saw the extreme poverty that our son was born into. We witnessed the generational poverty that has plagued his family, and many other families in the area for years. We heard countless stories of children suffering from malnutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and special needs. We learned about the aggressive movement of hinduism throughout the community, and met Christian missionaries from the U.S. that are working daily to advance the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prior to traveling to this community, we learned of a young girl that was extremely sick. While in the village for several days, we were able to go and meet her. She was so frail and underweight due to malnutrition that we carefully held her in our laps and tried to comfort her as she looked up at us with her big, beautiful eyes. I know it sounds weird, and potentially cliche, but you could see the face of God when you looked at her.

When we left Bolgatanga, we were filled with joy because we passed court for our adoption…but we left with mixed emotions knowing the many children that would still struggle to survive in this area… boys and girls just like the one we held.

Today we learned that this little girl died.

God, please give me [ ]. I really don’t want to offend anyone, but this hurts.

Do you know why she died?

She died because of starvation…from not having enough food for her little body to operate.

She died because we closed our eyes. She died because the “system” of orphan care is broken. She died because her story was never told. She died because while you and I went for “seconds”, she had none. She died because somewhere along the line, we made “missions” a line item in our Church budgets, and felt it only deserved a small % of our income. She died because we blamed our complacency on the false-truth that, “we have starvation here in America…we should help our own first”. She died because we forgot why we exist.

As followers of Jesus, we were created to worship.

We love to boil “worship” down to our Sunday-morning-U2-sounding-praise-teams jamming out to 3 songs and a offertory…but God says “away with the noise of your worship!” In Amos Chapter 5, He continues by saying “what I want is JUSTICE to roll down like a river, RIGHTEOUSNESS like a never failing stream”.

I’m angry.

God, please give me [ ] .

There is no justice in the death of a child due to something we could have prevented.

Do you know that this little girl had the most beautiful name?

I couldn’t believe it when we found out her name was [ ].

I’ll never forget that girl. Jesus please give her a special place at the table tonight.

It’s weird you know? Life just doesn’t make sense without [ Grace ] .”

Visit their site, visit Stop Hunger Now. Share the word. Share the passion. Share the effort. Share your time, talents, and treasure in changing the world and saving lives. Every 3 seconds a person dies of hunger related causes and every 6 seconds it is a child. And it’s NOT from a lack of resources — it is because of a distribution problem and because we let it happen. Let’s change that, NOW.
Until the next time….The Hog Father,
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Along the way I took a bit to visit Manatee Springs State Park.

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On the road

The Hog Father is on the road today. I’m taking the scenic route down Highway 19 towards Florida. My ultimate destination today will be Auburndale, FL. After a pleasant day riding down, a good night’s sleep in a beautiful home (thanks Al & Dee), I will pay a visit to the Orlando Stop Hunger Now facility.

I will have an opportunity to meet the team, see their base of operations, maybe treat them to lunch (don’t tell them it will be SHN rice). Then a dreaming and planning time about a major PR Fund Raising event for next summer.

After that, a great ride home in time to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from GA Highlands College.

Be on the lookout fur the Stop Hunger Now Harley and the Hog Father. Honk and wave if you see me.

Until the next time….The Hog Father

Winds of Change

I don’t know if you have noticed lately, but around here, the winds have blown often and strong. My mother once said it was God sweeping the sky and the tree tops to clean things up. And if you looked around the next day, the ground would be covered with dead branches and leaves and such as if God had truly cleaned up the tree tops.

In my world, the winds of change have blown. Change in my work with Stop Hunger Now, change in my personal sphere of life, and change in my place of ministry.

I have dreamed of a GREAT RIDE. A motorcycle ride to every SHN site in the US. And at various times that ride seems like it will happen, and not happen — depending on how the wind was blowing at the time. As part of this, I will be looking at a ride to the Orlando, FL site this week. I had the opportunity to ride to the Jackson, MS warehouse in April and had a great visit with Matt Casteel and Pat Ware. They had just moved into a larger space.

I look forward to meeting the folks in Orlando and seeing their place of operations and learn how God is using them to change the world.

Winds of change are blowing in my sphere of life in several ways. My daughter is moving from Middle School to High School. We are seeing her close the chapter of her life in middle school as the last concerts for All State Chorus, District Honor Chorus, County Honor Chorus/Band and such take place. And we see change in looking forward to High School and marching band. My BABY is no longer a baby and is getting bigger and smarter with each day.

I had to replace the family van last week. Meridy and I have begun conversations on how we would replace her car — given it is the older vehicle. However, it turns our the van had terminal issues. After putting $1,500 in the car, we had to put $500 in the van and after evaluation learned it needed nearly $2,000-$3,000 in repairs — to maybe get 40-50,000 more miles out of it. Not a good investment. SO, we now have a new vehicle and a new, larger monthly payment.

Other changes in my sphere include trying to raise the funds to do our 3rd year of meal packing at East Coweta Middle School with the 6th Grade. After it looking like it would NOT happen, it now looks promising. With several people making gifts, we now are sure to package at least 10,000 meals and if everything comes together the projected project of 20,000 meals. Praise the Lord!

Changes in my place of ministry include some interesting opportunities to have deep spiritual conversations lately in unusual places and unexpected times. The biggest change will be a move to a new pastorate. For those not familiar, United Methodist pastors are assigned to their place of ministry each year. I have been with the people of Senoia UMC for the last 3 years. Due to financial issues, it is necessary to take a new place of ministry to allow SUMC to lower their salary to a level that allows for funding ministry — which is the purpose of the local church.

I am not ready to leave Senoia, but it seems to be the time — so we begin to pack and dream. If we HAVE TO LEAVE Senoia, then the idea of serving the people of Murray County, GA — namely those who worship and engage in ministry at Chatsworth First UMC breeds excitement.

We are excited about that which is new, that which we believe God calls us to, that which will be our new world. The winds blow strong sometimes. The winds blow in seemingly uncontrolled ways sometimes. But even if we do not know where they come from, where they are going, or why they even blow — we know that they are in God’s control and if we will simply trim our sails properly — we will travel safely and securely to our destination.

I hope you will continue to follow this blog. I don’t really know where it will go, but I will try to be more faithful to post regularly. I will continue to be honest in my thoughts. and I hope you will take a minute to comment, share with a friend or two, and if you can spare a few quarters — feed a child.

The place to give for our ECMS event is: http://www.events.stophungernow.org/ecms. All donations are helpful and will make sure we have a great event for these students. 

The place to give or sign up as a sponsor for THE GREAT RIDE is to drop my a note (and check if you can) to P.O. Box 98, Senoia, GA 30276. 

Thanks for your time, your prayers, your support, and your donations. I will share about my latest trip to Nicaragua in a bit……

Until the next time…..The Hog Father

A New Beginning

I can’t sleep. It is the early morning hours on New Year’s Eve, 2012. My spirit is troubled — not a negative type of trouble, but a restless kind of troubled.

A new year is about to break forth in the world, in my life — and I can’t help but feel like 2012 is incomplete and 2013 is already slipping from my grasp. There is so much I wanted to carry out that remains a dream — and so much I dream to carry out that remains beyond my grasp.

A former District Superintendent of mine, Dr. Mike Cavin, once challenged us as pastors and church leaders to ask a very telling question. It has remained with me to this day. “What are you willing to attempt in the coming year, that without God’s intervention, will fail.” You see, if we only attempt things we can carry out ourselves, without God, we show no faith. We live within the bounds of our own strength. But if we will risk, if we will trust, if we will dream big — and if we do so listening to God’s leading, looking for where God is already working and joining in the effort — we will not only succeed, the Kingdom of God will move closer to completion — and souls will be saved. The hungry will be fed, the naked clothed, the homeless will find a home, the thirsty will have their thirst quenched, those that are sick and in prison will be visited and restored. All kinds of marvelous, redemptive, just, merciful, gracious, kind, loving things will happen — if we only reach…..

ImageAnd that brings me back to my troubled spirit. As I traveled to Nicaragua in March, 2012, a dream came to my mind. One that couples my passion for the work of Stop Hunger Now and my personal passion and pleasure of long distance rides on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. At that time I dreamed of riding to each Stop Hunger Now site in the lower 48 states. At that time there were 9 locations, mostly along the eastern United States.

Since that time, I have had many conversations with friends, family, church members, community leaders, Stop Hunger Now staff, about what that ride might look like, cost, and carry out. Much of this discussion has excited and encouraged. Some of it has disappointed, and discouraging. After all, I am really no body. I don’t mean that in a self-defeating, depressing way. But I am no celebrity, sports star, famous preacher, or anything like that. I am not someone who will draw a crowd, generate media excitement, or even a ripple in the pond of the world. I am just a person who loves God, wants to make a difference in the world and who has a passion for the work of Stop Hunger Now. There is no reason for the news media to care about what I will or will not do. No reason for people to get excited that I have ridden a motorcycle to town or that I care about feeding the hungry.

And yet….this has been on my mind and in my heart for over a year — it feels incomplete. And time is running out. In the over 1 1/2 years I have had this dream, the number of Stop Hunger Now locations has grown. And not slowly! In one of the conversations I had with staff from Stop Hunger Now, looking at a possibility of making this ride in July, 2013; I discovered that would now mean a trip to 20 locations! Reaching from Orlando, FL up the eastern seaboard to Boston, MA, and west all the way to Santa Ana, CA and the San Francisco Bay area. With the rate of growth, and the rapidly expanding work of Stop Hunger Now, it will soon be almost impossible to make such a ride.

Right now I am honored and flattered that so many persons have followed my blog and have still kept up with my and my ramblings. I am honored that I have been part of meal packaging events that resulted in nearly 100,000 meals. I have been honored to be invited to meet with staff members at the Raleigh, NC office. Thanks for generous friends and church members I am looking forward to taking my 14 year-old daughter with me as I return to Nicaragua in March, 2013. My children are just a passionate as I am about doing all we can for this effort to end world hunger.

I guess I am rambling about this for these reasons:

1) Would you pray for my daughter and I as we prepare to visit with those who benefit from the Stop Hunger now meals and get to know them as people?

2) Would you consider a financial gift to aid us in the cost of the trip?

3) Looking forward, would you consider a financial gift towards our annual packing event at East Coweta Middle School with the 6th grade on the last day of school (we strive to package 20,000 meals which cost $5,000)?

4) Would you pray that God will speak more clearly to me about this “grand ride” to the Stop Hunger Now locations? It is my intention that riding to the locations will garner attention/publicity, raise funds, and increase the awareness of Stop Hunger Now and its efforts to end world hunger.

5) Would you help spread the word by sharing this blog, talking to others about Stop Hunger Now, dreaming with me (and actually the vision of founder, Ray Buchannon) that we can truly stop hunger in our lifetime. It is possible! Every day the world produces enough food for every living person to eat 4.3 pounds. It is not a supply problem. It is a distribution problem. It is a matter of choice that the people of the world make that keeps people hungry.

Well, I guess this will not help me go to sleep. But it does give me a place to share my mind, my heart, my passion. My spirit is still troubled. 2012 will end in a matter of a few hours. 2013 will begin…..and my spirit is still crying out for answers. Why didn’t it get done in 2012? Will it get done in 2013? What is my role? What can I do? What should I do? Oh, God — where is your will and how can I find my place in it??

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

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Anticipation

Well, it’s 11;29pm on Wednesday night. Had a church dinner tonight: Pinto beans, mashed potatoes, black-eye peas, and slaw with corn bread muffins. It was very tasty and good. It was reminiscent of the kind of meals the “poor” had in years past. Low cost, high nutrition, and filling.

I sat at the table with the knowledge that in the morning, I will be speaking at LaGrange College about my involvement with Stop Hunger Now. I have spent 2 weeks trying to capture that story in a slide show and in my thoughts. Technology has not been my friend — but thanks to a friend (and church member) it has been brought under control. My thoughts are not so together.

How do you sum up the last 2 years, 47 days of eating the meals, a trip to feeding centers in Nicaragua, untold conversations with people, blogs, and photos, packaging events (80,000+ meals) and many other wonderful opportunities to share this humanitarian effort? It suggests the song, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, from The Sound of Music.

I am anxious about tomorrow. Will I capture the imaginations of the students? Will it matter? Will they hear my passion for Stop Hunger Now or will they see an overweight, old, grey-headed preacher they need to endure?

I am anxious about the possibility to return to Nicaragua in March and maybe take my daughter and a member of the church with me. (Contributions are welcome for this trip which will run around $3,500 for the 2 of us.)

And I am already anxious about a possible “grand event” for next summer.

Anxiety is not always bad. It can drive us to do our best, to reach for more than we would normally try for, and to give us energy we need. I hope that is the case in the morning…..

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Technology

Well, technology can be your friend, OR it can get in the way.

I had to buy a new computer, learn new programs and recreate many projects. So I have not done much blogging.

I have thought about what I will share next week when I get the honor of addressing students at LaGrange College. They are preparing to package 25,000 meals as part of their Day of Service.

As part of what I will share, I wanted to share some images from my time working with Stop Hunger Now and my trip to the feeding centers in Nicaragua. Again, technology and I are not BFFs, but we are good friends. This is something new for me.

If you follow this link, you will find a short video I created about this trip. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome. Please be nice…..

Until the next time….The Hog Father

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