How I Became an Advocate for the Hungry

how I became an advocate

For about eighteen months I have been coming here every week to talk with you about hunger and poverty, and to provide knowledge and hope so we can make a difference. As time has passed, more and more of you have joined me on this journey. Thank you so much for that. Bringing hope to the hungry is going to take more than pastors and government programs; bringing hope and lasting change is going to take all of us working together. It is my promise that I will never use guilt and sad pictures on you, but will simply make you aware of hope and solutions. I have said this before and will say it over and over for the rest of my life: your guilt does not help anyone, nor does it trick God into thinking you’re humble. Guilt is a waste of time. If you recognize that you are not doing what you should, that’s conviction. If you act on that conviction to do better next time, it did it’s job. If that conviction just makes you feel bad, that’s shame, and shame helps no one, including you. If something I say hits a nerve with you, ask yourself if you need to do better next time.

So as we have been on this journey together, I have told you very little about myself and how I ended up creating Food Shelf Friday. So today, a little “get to know Karah” and “how did we get here?”

One Sunday morning in the spring of 1983, when I was 4, I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my best friend. I vividly remember looking to my left, out a second story window, and seeing the sun shining on a budding tree (this is how I know it was spring), then looking down to my feet, which were dressed Sunday-style in ruffly socks and dress shoes, and which did not reach the floor. I raised my hand with the other kids and prayed along with the children’s church teacher.

That’s the heart of my testimony as a Christian. It seems boring compared to the dramatic stories of healing and deliverance that you hear from public speakers, but I like to think  it saved me from a lot of trouble over the years. And as a parent, I know that is the testimony we all want our kids to have!

When I was 9, my dad became a pastor, so obviously my world was the church world growing up. I took part in lots of outreaches, and did lots of work for the church. I’m not saying this to talk about how great I am, quite honestly most of my childhood volunteering was less than voluntary (#pklife). My point is that I tried lots of stuff. I gained experiences even if I didn’t really appreciate it at the time.

Skip ahead a few years and I found myself somewhere very new and unfamiliar. I was married (met my husband at church), and we were attending a really big church. It was a good church, but for a small town pastor’s kid, it was a whole new world. I found it really easy to come and go without digging in. When someone would make an announcement that they really needed help in this ministry or that, I would look around at the auditorium of people and think, “someone else will do it.” I became lazy hiding in the anonymity of a crowd.

Outside of church I dabbled in a few service projects with the MOMS Club chapter, but I was really wandering aimlessly. I was restless. I wanted a mission.

One Sunday we were sitting in the balcony, and a pastor spoke on finding your place in kingdom work. I was in a blah place, wandering the proverbial wilderness. The pastor said, “Your role in the kingdom will not surprise you. The gifts, talents, and interests you have are clues to what you are supposed to be doing. God gave you those gifts, they’re part of your calling.” I was grumpy and cynical at that point, and I dropped my head and prayed bitterly, “God, I make good cookies; what are you going to do with that?”

Every time I tell this story, I laugh at myself, and I imagine God chuckled too, because that day marked a new path for me, one I didn’t even realize I was on. I started to notice the hungry. Food drives at church or in the schools caught my eye. People begging on the side of the road tugged at my heart. Funeral lunches and meals for friends with new babies took on deeper significance. I don’t remember exactly when I realized it, but hunger became my heartbeat.

I didn’t jump right in and start doing something about it. I was busy caring for my family and finishing school (insert laugh here – I’m STILL trying to finish school…). I did just enough to appease my guilt. I didn’t get it. I needed a lifestyle makeover, not a one-and-done service project.

In the fall of 2014, our church (a smaller church we fell in love with a few years ago) participated in Hope for Dinner for Venture Expeditions. That practice, giving up regular meals for rice and beans, inspired me. I decided to get serious about a life dedicated to hunger relief. I started this blog, and I began to read and study hunger and solutions instead of hiding my head in the sand.

So that’s how we got on this journey together. I’m a long way from perfect: I still waste resources and step on toes now and then, but I’m learning and growing. And as Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better.” We don’t have to have it all figured out today. We just have to keep learning and keep responding to what we learn. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

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