A UMNS feature by Rich Peck
The Rev. Nathaniel Long, a North Georgia pastor who calls himself The Hog Father, celebrated his 49th birthday by riding his motorcycle 451 miles to the Tennessee and Alabama borders.
He describes himself as an out-of-shape and over-fed pastor of a rural church. However, on this trip, he was feeling a good deal healthier and lighter.
Long, along with three other United Methodist clergymen in Georgia, had been living only on Stop Hunger Now packages during the 40 days of Lent. The international organization provides prepackaged food for hungry people for 25 cents a day.
4 for 40
“We call ourselves the ‘4 for 40,’” Long said.
The clergymen’s unusual fast drew attention and funding to the Raleigh, N.C., an organization has already distributed 43 million meals to hungry people around the world.
Members of the clergymen’s four United Methodist congregations pledged $1.50 a day during Lent to fund four packaging events where dry ingredients was poured into plastic packages.
The events provided a total of 40,000 meals to be distributed by Stop Hunger Now.
Helping to relieve hunger was not the only benefit of the Lenten effort, Long discovered.
Daily 25-cent diet
After living almost all of Lent on a daily diet of 13-ounce Stop Hunger Now packets of rice soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins and minerals, Long weighed some 40 fewer pounds on his 49th birthday ride than he did on his 48th birthday.
The fast is just one of the many ways members of United Methodist Men are contributing to the work of Stop Hunger Now.
The Rev. Ray Buchanan, a Marine Corps veteran and a United Methodist clergyman, founded the international hunger-relief group in 1998. He was also the founder and co-director of the Society of St. Andrew, a Virginia-based food-relief organization for the United States. Both hunger-relief agencies are partner organizations with the Commission on United Methodist Men.
Stop Hunger Now packets are easily transported, and they have a shelf life of five years. Contents are boiled in water for 20 minutes. The rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and 21 vitamins and minerals in each plastic packet provide six nutritious meals at 25 cents per serving.
“During my birthday ride, I stopped at a store to look at my map when the owner of a red Harley with a trailer in tow approached me,” Long said. “The fellow cyclist asked about the Stop Hunger Now logos on my bike.”
Long told his fellow motorcyclist all about the organization and his fast.
The man, a firefighter, asked Long for his card and the address of the Stop Hunger Now website.
“I had a wonderful time,” Long said upon his 11 p.m. arrival back at his home in Senoia, Ga.
In a blog about his experience living only on the Stop Hunger Now food, Long wrote that his only failure came during a trip to Disney World where he had no way to heat the contents.
“Trust me, this Stop Hunger Now food is pretty good hot,” Long said, “but I just can’t do it cold.”
With financial gifts hovering around $5,000, Senoia United Methodist Church — Long’s congregation —packaged 10,000 meals on June 1. Another event was held at a nearby middle school where two groups of 100 sixth-graders each worked for 90 minutes pouring ingredients into plastic packages, sealing the packs and placing them in shipping boxes for an additional 10,000 meals.
Long, the father of five children ranging from 7 to 24, says that his birthday ride gave him time to reflect on why people have failed to do anything about the 925 million hungry people in the world.
“Most of the time our lack of effort in ending the plight of world hunger is not indifference, selfishness, hard-heartedness, hate or any other negative action,” Long said. “It is usually due simply to the fact that we live our lives with blinders on. We live, sleep, work, play (and) relate in a place where we are usually untouched by the realities of others around the world.
“One of the things I love about Stop Hunger Now is that the solution to the hunger in the world already exists; we just have to decide to make it a reality,” he added. “And you and I can do that one child, one meal and one-quarter at a time.”
A UMNS feature by Rich Peck