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Showing posts from 2013

Food Pantry Paradigm Shift

Over the last couple of years, we have had the distinct pleasure of learning a great deal about the operations of food rescue programs and food pantries. And, we have been fortunate to work alongside some people with sincere hearts for ministry and yet are completely unconstrained by conventional wisdom for how a food pantry should be operated. Because of their heart for the families they serve, they have continued to ask the hard questions: Why has it always been done that way? How can we better serve these families? How do we need to change how we operate to better serve these families long-term? How can we equip these families to re-establish their independence?

Steve and Suellen Daniels at Meals by Grace identified a group of families that sincerely needed food assistance. They put together meals for the families and invited them to come by and pick them up. When several families did show up for the food, they asked why not. A social worker assisting them provided the answer. Thos…

Book Review: The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors Of My Home

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Book Review: The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors Of My Home by Andi Cumbo-Floyd 
They were the nameless and faceless people who served the General, built the plantation houses and barns, who tended to the horses and the fields, and who nursed the plantation owners children. They were the people who were enslaved at Bremo plantation in Virginia. When a white woman, Andi begins to study the history of Bremo, where she was raised, she begins to learn not only the names of the people buried in the graveyard on the land where she grew up, but she learns of their lives. Her research allows her to connect to the descendants of the former slaves and share with them about their ancestors.
I found this to be a very emotionally moving look at the history of slavery in the United States. I recommend it to anyone willing to take a look at the underbelly of the history of our country.

The Struggle

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We rise before the sun. I check the weather on my phone, its 24F outside. I shiver at the thought and dig out a thermal undershirt, fleece skull cap, gloves and jacket. Without much conversation, we crawl in the car and drive to a desolate parking lot. I crank the old diesel box van and it clatters to life. A few minutes of window scraping, and we are off.
After what seems an arduous journey that's actually a 15 minute drive, we pull into a dark parking lot where a couple people are setting out cones and erecting a finish line structure for the brave soles that will run in this cold. "Crazy people", I think to myself as we unload our tent, tables, and a pallet of cardboard boxes.

Volunteers arrive and begin assembling boxes in the cold darkness. As the sun begins to rise, I see more bodies begin to arrive and race registration begins to setup inside the warm building. I walk in and see that the early registration the day before has netted about 800 lbs of canned goods. …

Book Review: UNFINISHED

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Book Review: Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginningby  Richard Stearns


Richard Sterns throws down the gauntlet in Unfinished. Believing is not enough. It is not OK to become a believer and then live the rest of our lives focused on ourselves. If Jesus meant all that stuff He said that we see in red ink in the New Testament, then becoming a believer and then devising our early retirement in the Bahamas is probably not what He is calling us to do. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We were commanded to complete the work He started when He walked the earth. Did we somehow miss that part? Many believers wonder when He will return. Sterns suggests that He has not returned because He is waiting for us to complete the work we were tasked to do when He left. 
Over the last two years working in a nonprofit working to help eliminate hunger in our community, I regularly wonder why so many churches and so many believers seem so unconcerned with the suffering in their own commun…

My First Lesson at College

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In late August of 1982, I made the four hour drive from my rural hometown (population 5,000) to Statesboro, GA to begin my freshman year at what was then Georgia Southern College - now Georgia Southern University. This was an exciting time that I had anticipated for years - making my break from the watching eyes of a small town, the rule of my parents, and being on my own. I had managed to coast through high school tossing my books in my locker at the end of the day and going fishing on the Flint River or hunting in the woods of South Georgia instead of studying course materials. Being the first in my family, I did not have the advise of anyone in the family of what to expect in the college experience. And, even if I had, I am sure I would have blew it off. Looking back, I can remember my high school guidance counselor cautioning me that I would need to take my college classes more seriously than I had my high school coursework, but I had heard the same advise before going into high …

Scare the Hell Out of Them?

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Every year around Halloween, I start seeing the billboards and yard signs for Hell Houses, Hell' Gates, and other versions of a "Christian" haunted house experience. At some point, some churches decided an effective means of evangelism would be to literally scare the hell out of people. The whole approach reminds me of the travelling evangelist we used to encounter when I was growing up in the 1970's. He was a loud guy who turned red in the face, beating on the pulpit and his Bible, jumping and shouting "Turn or Burn!" and "REPENT!"

OK, so let me just ask you this simple question. Have you ever been scared or threatened into any relationship with anyone that you would want anything to do with in the first place? Yes, we need to understand our sinful nature and that the wages of sin is death. But my experience has been that most folks understand their personal failures. In fact, the majority of people that I have met do not need to be convinced ho…

Stuck Leaders and Navigating Hurdles

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OK, I admit it. I have had a cynical view of the millennial generation, the 20-somethings. But a couple of weeks ago, I got a glimpse of a couple hundred millennials that seriously restored my faith in this generation. I was invited to attend a Hive Gathering. In a nutshell, it is a group of a couple hundred people coming together to discuss what their dreams are, and to support them and help them move forward with their endeavor. When I began talking with some of the attendees, I quickly realized that there are a lot of people in this age range that are passionate about improving their communities and their world which was refreshing and encouraging. When I told them about Feed Forsyth, they all seemed to get excited about what we were doing and eager to find how they could help.

The other big discovery for me was that so many of them had great ideas and ambitions but were stuck somewhere in the process. And, for many the sticking point was something on the horizon. I found myself a…

Consuming Bad News

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Over the last couple of months, it seems no matter where I turn, there is a steady stream of sad news. During a routine visit to a physician, a high school friend of mine discovered she has a tumor on her lung. She has been a trooper enduring test after test and finally surgery to remove part of her lung. I took a day of vacation to make preparations for the big canned good drive our nonprofit was holding at the local fair. At the end of the day, we drove up to where my SUV was parked to discover someone had run into the passenger door. They did not feel obligated to leave a note and assume responsibility for the damage. The next day, I had my hand squashed between a pallet jack and a slab of concrete.



Later that afternoon while loading supplies in my SUV, we kept hearing sirens. I turned around to discover a neighbor's house was on fire. Fortunately, the family escaped without injury, and the Fire Department got it extinguished before it spread to other homes, but sadly, the fam…

Reducing SNAP Food Assistance

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There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about Congress and State legislatures cutting the funding of the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). For those of you that might have missed this bit of news, SNAP benefits are scheduled to be reduced $11 a month for a family of one to a reduction of $36 a month for a family of four. All told, SNAP benefits will average under $1.40 a meal. (source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

(Image Credit: Cbpp.org)

This discussion soon turns to the abuses of the system, people needing to work to qualify for assistance, and more. I have been stopped a couple of times over the last few weeks for my thoughts on the situation. While I know there are those who abuse the program, much like I know many people abuse many government programs, I also know that there are a lot of elderly and struggling families that need food assistance. I  also know that when the government reduces SNAP benefits, it sends those who need assistan…

Epoch 2013 Nomination

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A few weeks I go, I learned that I had been nominated for an Epoch award. If you have not heard of the Epoch awards, they seek to honor the unsung heroes that are quietly working to overcome poverty, drought, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, homelessness, and fear. There will be six winners chosen from a plethora of nominees and $50,000 will be awarded among the six winners. I had several reactions to learning of the nomination. First, I was humbled and honored to be in the nominations among the throngs of individuals and ministries. Every time I read the listing of the nominees and the work they are doing, I cannot help but feel like one guy trying to bail the ocean with a spoon. But I also am reminded that when an army of individuals do their part, a great deal of good can be accomplished. I keep getting hung up on the "unsung hero" part of their description, because I do not consider myself to be a hero with what we are doing. The real heroes to me are the volunteers that use …

Picking up Sea Shells

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I have loved the beach as long as I can remember. One of my fondest memories as a small child was
going to Ft. Myers, Florida where my Grandfather retreated in the annual pilgrimage known as the flight of the blue hairs. Grandpa had a boat and loved to fish. I fondly remember the boat had a closed bow where he stored all of the life jackets, and this was where I would crawl up and sleep while the boat was in motion.

In high school, the local Baptist Church youth group held a retreat every Summer at Panama City, and I made sure that my parents signed me up for it. I could not have given two shakes about the roll-a-coaster rides and amusement parks. I just wanted to be on the beach. When I was old enough to drive, I convinced my parents to let me go to the beach with a couple high school friends for Spring Break. While the some of the other kids were trying fake IDs to get into the Red Rooster bar, I was walking the beach - multiple trips a day. During college, I was 60 miles away fro…

Twitter: Do Not Throw Out The Baby With The Bath Water

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(image source: http://www.spring.org.uk/)
Earlier this week,  I was a part of a conversation regarding Twitter and how it seemed to be getting saturated with promotion and advertising while quality conversations were diminishing. I had been thinking this for a few months, but had been so busy finishing all of the work for graduate school and dealing with the needs of our nonprofit, I had not give it much attention. But the conversation gave me pause to consider that over the last several months I had begun to scroll through what was in my Twitter conversation stream trying to glean out anything of value and skipping the rest. It had gotten to where I was just scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and finding it quite annoying. What had changed? Was Twitter simply not of value anymore? As I began to consider the situation, I began to consider why I had originally begun to use Twitter and what value I had found in it.

As I considered this, I started recalling conversations from Twitte…

When You Least Expect it

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9 years ago, this woman came walking into my life. After two failed marriages and a failed engagement, I was done with marriage or the thought of it. I had lost almost everything emotionally and the two divorces had cleaned me out financially. I was living hand to mouth working a fulltime job, performing computer consulting on the side, and performing electronics recycling to make ends meet. I was drowning in credit card debt, struggling to make child support, driving a car that the A/C had died on and I could not afford to have repaired, and worried I was going to lose the mobile home where I lived. The light of hope at the end of the tunnel was extinguished. I was simply surviving as best as I knew how.

The only real love I knew in life was the relationship I had with my daughter who visited two weekends a month. I remember lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling listening to the words replay in my mind from the exs in my life. It was a grocery list of all my failures. I wond…

Headache! - A Father's Day Story

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Growing up, my Dad worked construction. One of the jobs he performed was erecting a three-story fertilizer blending plant. This structure would arrive on three semi's with each level lifted into place by a hydraulic crane. Having gone on-site with Pop over the years during any school holiday, I knew that on his work site, one did not holler "Look Out!", because the natural reaction would be to look up. Looking up would expose your unprotected face to a falling object and present an open invitation for an injury. Instead, if you saw something falling, you were to holler "Headache!" which indicated something was falling. Without looking up, you should then run away from the general area around the structure being lifted.

One Thursday afternoon, we received a phone call at the house. From my Mom's general face expressions during the conversation, I knew something bad had happened. Pop's crew had been erecting a blend plant. While lifting the third and fin…

Sometimes It Requires Some Heartbreak

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Growing up with idols like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, you get the image that a man is rough and tough and does not show weakness. And that worked great for me for years. But when I turned 30, my wife delivered a beautiful little girl. Little did I know that night as I held that small shrieking little bundle of flesh, that this little girl would completely change my heart and my overall disposition.

One night she was sitting in her high chair and her mother was feeding her when she became choked and stopped breathing. To this day, I cannot tell you how I got past her mom to get her out of the high chair. But before I knew what had happened, I had her across my knee and was applying the infant airway maneuver that I had been taught in EMT school. She coughed, her airway cleared, and she began to cry. I held her in a delicate hug and cried like a school child.

Soon she was walking, then running. I cherished the time each evening when the backdoor of our farm house would swing open.…

Who Are These Hungry Folks?

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Image source: Operation Blessing International

I continually get questions about the people we serve in our efforts to eliminate hunger in our community. These conversations typically follow the lines of "Do y'all give out food to anyone that wants it or do you check them out to make sure they really need it?" I understand where these folks are coming from, honest I do. Growing up in rural South Georgia, I have seen the abuse of governmental programs first hand.

So when I answer this question, I first describe what our organization does. It collects and transports food to food pantries and shelters. The food pantries are operated by local churches and other nonprofit organizations. These groups work very hard to get to know the families they serve and their individual situations. Not because they are trying to stop people from receiving help, but because they want to ensure they are helping them in the most appropriate and effective manner.

A couple of stories to illus…

Review: When Mockingbirds Sing - Billy Coffey

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(image source: Amazon.com)
What would happen in a small rural town if God chose to speak through a shy little girl with a stuttering problem? How would the local preacher accept the fact that God chose this odd little girl instead of a professional minister? How would the local gossip society accept this turn of events? How would the church elders react? How would it affect her family? Especially her Dad the professional psychologist struggling with his inability to help his daughter and failing to salvage his own marriage?

Didn't God select Moses in the Old Testament, a guy with a stuttering problem and insecurity issues? Maybe God likes to select the least capable to display His power. Maybe He could use anyone. Maybe he could speak through anyone.

Billy Coffey goes to the heart of out piety. He makes us look at our self-righteousness and our judgemental attitudes. This book will make the reader take a painful look at their penchant to snap judgements and check their heart.

I …

It Ain't Always Easy

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When you think about embarking on an endeavour like clothing the poor or feeding the hungry, you do not begin thinking about the naysayers or any road blocks. Who would be against doing good right? The whole world ought to get right behind you, and it should be easy right? And aren't we supposed to be doing that kind of stuff? Didn't a carpenter turned prophet talk about doing that kind of thing?

Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Yeah, that's it. So since we are supposed to do it, everyone will jump in and be supportive right? Shake yourself awake. Welcome back to pl…

Ever Wished Your Insurance Agent Would Just Freaking Listen to You?

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Ever wished your insurance agent would just freaking listen to you? I sat and had a conversation with Van Baird at Van Baird State Farm Agency several weeks ago after having applied for insurance for our nonprofit. It was an enjoyable conversation and I could tell that he was genuinely interested in supporting our cause.
Van Baird (photo: Van Baird)
Van Baird State Farm Agency
Little did I know how well he was paying attention. The underwriters contacted him and said they were not going to be able to write the policy. When he inquired why, the explained that Feed the Hungry Forsyth, Inc. transported food and they were concerned about the liabilities if someone got sick from eating some of the food. Because Van had paid attention during our conversation, he knew that the Bill Emerson federal Good Samaritan Food Donation law and State of Georgia Good Samaritan Food Donation laws protect us from these kinds of liabilities (as they also protect restaurants donating food). Without even calli…

Kids Keep You Humble

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Several years ago while living on 11 acres on a dirt road in rural South Georgia, I served on a volunteer Fire Department. We received the gamut of calls ranging from house fires, car fires, automobile accidents, attempted suicides, and flooding to name a few. One rainy night, our department was dispatched to assist a neighbor whose home was being threatened with flooding by a large highway drainage ditch which was rapidly overflowing. I walked into the utility room of our farm house and began pulling on my bright yellow rain gear complete with jacket and hood with a built-in bill like a baseball cap.

Sterns raincoat image courtesy of stage.sportsmansguide.com 
I began thinking how miserable it was going to be out working in this torrential downpour. I pulled up the hood on the rain jacket and walked out of the utility room towards the backdoor of the house where I met our 3 yr old daughter. I could feel some pride rise in my chest that my young daughter was seeing her father prep…