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The distressing sound of hunger

October 14, 2013

Waaahhhh … pause … repeat … waaahhh …. Wimper wimper …. Waaaahhhhh!!

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A newborn’s hunger cry is piercing, plaintive, pathetic. He looks at you between wails with “Well, aren’t you going to do something for crying out loud? Waaah!! Did I say I wanted a bath right now??! Waah!”

I heard plenty of this the last few days as I returned to help out the new parents of Sam, our first grandchild, a few days. Soon Sam, after announcing his sharp hunger pains, is happily nursing from his mother.

Sam’s cries hit home for me when we were able to go to worship at my daughter’s church on Sunday morning and it was Walk for CROP day. The youth of her church were collecting donations for their participation in the annual walk, raising funds especially for hungry children around the world.

The reason this particular walk is so near to my heart is my father’s own deep involvement—not in CROP walks, but in a forerunner activity for CROP and Church World Service which eventually led to the walks and perhaps (not sure here) the advent of “walks” as a powerful community way to raise money for myriad causes. (Does anyone know or remember having a walk to raise money before 1969? The history of one of, if not the biggest CROP walk in the U.S., in Charlotte, NC gives the beginning date of any CROP walks as 1969 in Bismarck, ND.)

As a Mennonite farmer in Indiana, Dad always preached to us about the “hungry children of the world.” He was far from alone in that. Isn’t that what dads and moms everywhere remind their kids when they don’t want to eat what’s on their plate? Early on Dad became one of Elkhart County, Indiana’s “Friendship Acre” organizers going farmer to farmer to sign them up to contribute each year, either a portion of their actual crop, or the money one acre grew, for Christian Rural Overseas Program.

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Dad (Vernon U. Miller) in front of our garage displaying a “Friendship Acres” sign.

Then one year, circa 1962 or 63, he discussed with others the idea of “couldn’t we do a much bigger thing if we got together a planted a whole farm for CROP?” They got local grain and fertilizer companies to donate grain and fertilizer for the effort, and Dad also talked banks into helping rent an entire farm for charity “to feed hungry people,” in my dad’s parlance.

The media were invited and sent reporters out to the farm on “planting day.”

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This is the picture of my father (middle) and sister,  Pert, and Marvin Mishler, far left (and some of the most crooked rows in the whole project, my dad groaned) that made it onto the cover of Indiana Farmer magazine. My mom helped organize a wonderful potluck dinner that day, like at an old fashioned barn raising. When the plowing and planting ceased long enough for a few speeches as the TV cameras rolled, and then all the men removed their hats for the blessing before the meal, I was probably never prouder (in a humble Mennonite way) of my Dad than in that moment.

So that’s why I’m a sucker for church youth who are walking for CROP.

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Can you imagine how sad and difficult it would be to have an infant and not be able to really ever satisfy its hunger cry? To put it to nurse and perhaps have a few drops come out but not really fill the child because you are so hungry yourself and your food or milk has gone to feed other children? I can hardly imagine it but such images are what motivate me to write out another check in hopes of helping at least a few folks, either locally or around the world (CROP walks typically divide their funds between local and international efforts).

I know some international relief programs come under scrutiny from time to time for waste and squandering funds. One of the things my Dad also did was sell a few pigs one year and invest in a trip for he and mom to visit many sites overseas where the CROP monies had gone, to see whether the program was reaching the people they intended to reach. Dad came back very satisfied that the program was indeed, for the most part, reaching hungry people. One of his stories involved watching a man come and sweep up the remaining grain spilled from a loading platform and sack up a small bag of the “waste” to be used by his family. Mom and Dad came back from their trip and shared that story and many others all around northern Indiana.

Most of us have forgotten what it feels like to truly experience hunger’s sharp pains. An infant doesn’t know what is attacking his or her insides, he just feels pain. Her tummy doesn’t hold very much food. The pain returns. “Waaahhhh! Aren’t you going to do something, for crying out loud?”

***

For more, or to donate to CROP, go here.

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From → Faith, Family Life, Food

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