International (MNN) — April 22 has been celebrated globally as Earth Day since 1970. But the day is more than a time of celebration: it’s a reminder of the impact of stewardship of the planet. For Food for the Hungry, that stewardship has impact on life now and life eternally in the countries where they serve.
Luis Noda, the ministry’s Chief International Operations Officer, provides oversight to the worldwide operations in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He also watches over security components for Food for the Hungry operations worldwide. Luis sees daily what food security means to a community.
“I first learned about Food for the Hungry in my home country of Bolivia, and joined the ministry after I completed my university studies.” Luis first focused on issues of malnutrition, income generation, and sustainable farming in Bolivia; he then become Regional Director for Latin America before moving to the United States to take on his current role.
Stewardship goes beyond Earth Day
Luis says food insecurity is another way of defining poverty, and Food for the Hungry approaches that poverty in a number of ways.
First. they determine if a community has the mechanisms in place to produce food. Then, they evaluate if that community has the means to access the food it needs to survive.
Luis says, “You can have food available in one place, but the price [may] be so much that the poorest of the poor will not be able to get it.”Finally, FH focuses on education, to ensure the community knows how to produce and use food wisely. The ministry consistently monitors food security, since it wraps itself around so many areas of a community’s survival–production, consumption, value, nutrition, education, and power.
But, at the heart of food insecurity is the Gospel: God’s creation story, the stewardship it mandates, and what happens when there is a break in the relationship between God and His creation. “It goes back to our understanding as people who work in a Christian relief development organization, and our understanding of the nature of poverty,” Luis shares. “We define poverty not only as a lack of…physical things, but if we go back to…the Biblical roots of our own poverty, it’s a deeper thing.
“We define poverty as broken relationships, and we have to go to the Biblical matter, or God’s story of redemption, to have a deep story of that.
“Poverty emerges because we have broken relationship with God, we have a broken relationship with ourselves and our own identity, we have a broken relationship with our neighbors, and most importantly, we have a broken relationship with His creation. That’s what sin has done to humanity.” Food for the Hungry’s mandate is that of reconciliation–of people to God and people to what God has created for them. Beginning with Biblical perspective, the ministry then begins to tackle things from a very practical point of view. “For example, we can focus on restoring the soil’s fertility, or on helping farmers understand the importance of crop rotation. We can help teach about land reclamation, reforestation, and watershed management.”
The Church’s role
Luis says working with local churches in the countries they serve is a key component for Food for the Hungry, because “churches are normally not exposed to this type of teaching. It’s awesome to see the genuine and sincere response.”
For example, a number of churches, once understanding God’s mandate for creation, create their own mandate to keep their communities clean. “Even though they have dirt roads and so on, they’re beautiful because they’re clean, and that’s a testimony to the rest of the people who are living in those communities because they come out and say, ‘Why are you church guys doing this?’ And the response is: ‘Because we have to take care of our environment. It’s part of our Christian mandate,’ and that speaks tons to the people who live there.”
Prayer is essential to Food for the Hungry’s efforts in the ministry of both physical and spiritual reconciliation. Beyond prayer, Luis says, “It’s always important that we remember that the Church is global, the Church is the body of Christ in this world. We have a tendency to localize things, to put the perspective on ourselves. But we need to see the Church as a whole and support the Church as a whole. We’d love for more people to go to our website to see what projects are being done around the world.”
“We have a very close relationship to creation because we are part of creation and we’ve been sent by God to be good stewards of His creation. It’s part of our Christian mandate to care.”