Photo: United Methodist Men provide food for neighboring food banks by bagging potatoes provided by the Society of St. Andrew
A Sept. 16 report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 14.3% of the population in 2009 lived in poverty, up from 13.2% the previous year.
According to the census, 43.6 million people lived below the federal poverty level in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008. The report set the threshold of poverty at an annual income of $21,954 for a family of four last year.
This is the third consecutive year the poverty rate has increased.
The number of people in poverty is the largest in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available, according to the report. Families of all kinds have lost in this economy.
UM Men feed the hungry and aid the underserved
Individual groups of UM Men are repairing homes, sponsoring food drives, and helping families meet expenses.
According to reports submitted by local churches, UM Men gave $14 million to various mission causes in 2008.
UM Men also host Society of St. Andrew potato drops, glean fields for wasted fruit, and provide financial support for the Big Island, Va.-based agency. During the last 12 years, UM Men have contributed $2.3 million to Meals for Millions to provide 176.8 million meal servings.
On Saturday, Oct. 30 men will gather at Brentwood (Tenn.) United Methodist Church to bag a tractor-trailer of potatoes for local food banks. Previously, men of Jerrettown (Pa.) bagged 45,000 pounds of potatoes for local food banks.
On the third Saturday of every month, men of La Vernia (Texas) United Methodist Church serve a meal and distribute clothing to people living under the Commerce Street Bridge.
In San Antonio, men of St. Paul United Methodist Church helped purchase a trailer to transport food to the “Feed my Lamb” community food bank.
Men of Sparta (Mich.) United Methodist Church provide monthly free breakfasts for anyone in the area.
Men of Camp Ground United Methodist Church in Paragould, Ark., plowed the ground of an abandoned softball field behind the church in order to plant vegetable for underserved people in Greene County.
For seven years, members of the “Virginia Muslim Coalition have come to Bon Air United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va., to spend the night and feed the homeless.
More work to be done
Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, says these few examples of people who take Matthew 25 seriously continue a tradition begun by John Wesley. However, he notes that many churches have done little in the face of increasing numbers of people living below the federal poverty level.
“The revival that we now refer to as the Wesleyan Movement began when Methodist Societies were intentional in their ministry with the poor,” said Hanke. “Today, we look like a church that Wesley would want to reform . . . again. My prayer is that we rediscover this vital part of our mission and intentionally and joyfully serve with the least, last and lost.”
Hanke says churches must step up their ministries with the poor and, at the same time, work to reform structures and systems that limit the poor from receiving proper health care, education, training, and employment opportunities.