Planning the biennial Cal-Pac Clergy Convocation happens well in advance. Each time the Orders Executive Committee plans such an event we ask ourselves what kind of service component we want to include. The Rev. Greg Norton had experienced the organization Stop Hunger Now while serving at Westwood UMC and suggested we look into bringing them out to the clergy gathering to conduct a meal-packaging event with us.
So in mid-September on the first day of the Convocation after opening with worship nearly 150 Cal-Pac clergy moved to an adjacent ballroom in our Indian Wells hotel where two representatives of Stop Hunger Now instructed us in what we would be doing. Bishop Carcaño joined us. Everyone found a station and learned particular jobs – filling bins with raw ingredients, scooping the ingredients into meal bags, weighing and sealing the bags, or packing them in boxes and stacking them on pallets to be loaded on a truck. Everything was a team effort.
In two hours we packaged 50,000 meals, enough to feed 217 children a nutritious meal every day for an entire school year. We had a great time doing it too. We sang along to a variety of music selections. We got to know people we didn’t already know in our work areas. We cheered each announcement of our progress toward our goal. Overall, the afternoon of service was an upbeat hands-on experience of community and compassion. Participants expressed a sense of joy and thankfulness at being able to do this activity together, and learning about global hunger in the process. One colleague wrote, “One of the best things I’ve ever done with my colleagues and friends. Serving together while laughing, dancing, singing! Set the stage for one of the best Convocations I have ever attended.” Many clergy expressed a desire to bring a meal-packaging event to their local church or mission area.
Established in 1998, Stop Hunger Now has delivered aid and disaster relief supplies in the form of food, medical supplies, clothing, school supplies and more to thousands of disaster victims and other hungry and vulnerable people in 71 countries. Meal-packaging events are a great way to educate people about global hunger and inspire them to get more involved in fighting it.
By Rev. Mark Richardson, Santa Barbara First UMC