Wineskins Archive

January 9, 2014

Hunger: Up Close and Childlike (Sept – Oct 1996)

Filed under: — @ 4:40 pm and

by Larry James
September – October, 1996

My wife and I teach a first and second grade Sunday School class in our inner city church. Our church enjoys the benefits and the challenges of a multi-cultural, multi-racial group. Every Sunday turns into a learning experience for all of us.

On a recent Sunday we welcomed two out-of-town guests to our class. The brother and sister duo lived in East Texas and were visiting relatives with their parents. As the other children welcomed them eagerly, they fit right in.

The refreshments Brenda brings each week provide one of the highlights of our class time. We try to keep things simple. Typically, we serve donuts or kolaches and orange juice. As usual, when the children discovered we had a snack prepared, they began circling our bags and asking what we had to eat. While serving the snacks that Sunday, I observed something that really touched and concerned me. When we invited our guests to join us for something to eat, they casually told us they were not hungry. Eventually they decided to drink some juice and nibble on a kolache. By contrast, our children eagerly received the food we served and asked if seconds would be available.

It should have come as no surprise. The children who regularly attend our Sunday School class often arrive hungry. Little children, residents of Dallas, Texas, know hunger as a regular part of daily life.

But, there is more. When class ended, several older elementary school children came to our room. They knew we brought snacks. I had to turn them away because we did not have enough for everyone.

“All our kids are hungry!” I told Brenda on our way home after church.

The faces of hungry children tend to put many things in perspective. A child’s hunger shifts my financial goals. Childhood hunger tends to refocus the ongoing welfare reform debate. It forces me to recognize the complex challenges associated with providing public education to these same kids. (My hunch is that learning and a growling stomach don’t work very well together.) The image of a six-year-old little boy with powdered sugar on his face asking for another donut deflates my crazy excitement about material trinkets, gadgets, and “toys.”

Hungry children in Dallas, Texas? They are here by the thousands. And it just shouldn’t be this way.

Questions flood through my mind as I replay this familiar, but tragic scene. Where are the people of God in times like these, in places like this? What are our churches doing? Can it be possible that Christians do not see these very real and pressing needs? Have we lost touch with reality? How can we so easily, casually dismiss the powerful witness of so much of Scripture?

The presence of the church in any urban area should guarantee the existence of a compassionate, committed, continuing outreach to hungry kids.

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalms 82:3-4).

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…” (Matthew 25:35a).Wineskins Magazine

Larry James

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