A few years back, a charming, compassionate man named Bob Barnes got in touch with me.
Our small church had been helping the elementary school next door with school supplies and holiday dinners for a few years, and Bob wanted to know if we might also be able to help with a project he was putting together to help feed some students over the weekend. See, more than 80 percent of the students at the school were on the National School Lunch Program, which provides needed nutrition to kids in need on school days; but there was no such aid on weekends. Kids were going without adequate food two days of the week.
Bob's idea was that all of our community's children ought to have access to sufficient nutrition each day of the week, not just when they are at school. So Bob called, spearheading a fledgling community undertaking to help feed children in need on the weekends at the school near us. The undertaking was (and still is) called The Children's Hunger Project, and Bob wanted to know if our church community could help in any way.
We were moved by the situation, and Bob's compassion, graciousness and, well, his spunk. Honored by the request, we jumped at the opportunity to help. The plan was to put in each child-in-need's backpack, a weekend's worth of food. The supplies had to be light enough for children to carry, yet plentiful, healthy and nutritious enough to get them through the weekend.
Bob had figured all of this out. He had food types approved by the school. He obtained access to discounted prices and funding. He'd organized a way to begin feeding our local school children - with the hope of feeding more and more children countywide.
And with the help of the community, Bob's plan unfolded. It happened. Kids took their backpacks home on Friday, full of food and got them re-filled to take them home the next weekend, all school year long.
The plan was simple and brilliant in its design and execution, but the clincher to the deal was Bob Barnes.
The Book of Genesis refers to seeing the face of one performing compassionate acts to being "like seeing the face of God." Bob Barnes will be the first to admit he is human, but probably the last to admit that encountering him is like seeing the face of God. But it was and is.
This is God's work that he and three other local saints (David Cohen, Jean-Yves Clerc and Sam Jordan) started, and they have since been joined by dozens and dozens of others working to feed children throughout Brevard County.
The face of God is on each and every volunteer (like Phyllis Rhinehart, Tim Wakefield and many more), and the hands and feet of God are working through them and donors (like Jersey Mikes, FIT and many more).
Although many religious communities are involved, it is a secular undertaking, but God's there soaking it through-and-through and not just as the face and hands and feet of God in those who provide time, talent and resources.
See, Jesus taught that when we feed the hungry, we feed God. So there, in the faces of those children being fed, we also encounter the face of God. In other words, everywhere we look in this project, we can experience God. The Children's Hunger Project is a divine undertaking in every sense of the word.
If you or your organization would like to become a part of this incredible loving work, please contact The Children's Hunger Project, whose motto is "If you cannot help us feed a hundred, at least help us feed one."
A donation of $150 feeds one child on weekends for an entire school year! They also need volunteers.
As the children in our community go back to school, please consider helping Bob and The Children's Hunger Project - and God - with this awesome local undertaking.
For more information about the many ways in which you can help, check out The Children's Hunger Project website at www.thechildrenshungerproject.org and "like" their Facebook page.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org. and his vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/AGodVlog?feature=guide.