Calvary Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the longest standing church partners of Food for the Hungry (FH), having worked with FH in Guatemala for the past 18 years. Recently their pastor, Ed Grant, discovered another facet to Calvary’s relationship with FH: advocating and partnering with governmental and business leaders, both in Guatemala and in the United States.
A Partnership Characterized by Faith
Calvary has seen two villages graduate from FH programs, and they are in the process of graduating their third community, Chioya, and beginning work in a new community, Chabul.
On a recent visit to Guatemala, Pastor Ed Grant and other team members taught children how to properly wash their hands.
Pastor Grant explained that their partnership goes much deeper than making occasional visits. “We recently returned from our eighth visit to Chioya and have begun the transition to the village of Chabul, where we spent three days this year,” he said. “In each community we serve, members of Calvary sponsor many of the children through monthly contributions. While in the country, we lead four to five days of vacation Bible school. More than 200 attended each day this year!. We visited the homes of many of our sponsored children, participated in a work project (such as water filtration, greenhouse, fuel-efficient stoves, a kitchen, etc.), visitd and prayed for all the children in a local hospital as we hand out coloring books, crayons, and Bibles, and spent time with the FH staff.”
One of the distinctive characteristics of working with FH is the distinct Christian witness embodied by FH representatives. “One of the important projects in Chabul is training the mothers to care for their infants and other family members properly,” Pastor Grant shared about his most recent visit. “The five women trained by FH each visited about 10 mothers twice a month. As I listened to the instructions given to the mothers, it was pointed out how important it was to pray and ask God for wisdom regarding how to present what they have learned because a number of the women are fearful and not open to new ideas.”
Third-Party Endorsement in Guatemala
On this year’s trip to Guatemala, Pastor Grant had the opportunity to meet representatives from a multinational corporation that invests in local communities through donations to projects led by organizations like FH. Pastor Grant spoke at length with a representative from the company. “I really wanted to ask how (the corporation) views FH, and how we measure up to the others… I think it’s important to know how secular agencies regard FH.”
Pastor Grant was delighted by the representative’s response. She noted that her company views FH “very favorably” as a trustworthy organization. She commented that FH staff are transparent, having “a willingness to answer hard questions, admit struggles and to ask for assistance when it is needed.” She noted that FH has quality leadership and stays accountable through good records and quality service delivery.
As for Pastor Grant’s own experience with FH staff, he commented, “In a number of conversations with FH staff I witnessed their passion for the work they believe God called them to at FH.”
Advocacy on the Hill
Pastor Ed Grant discusses international aid with Senator Tim Scott during a recent visit to Washington, DC.
After returning from this year’s trip to Guatemala, Pastor Grant FH invited him to visit Washington, DC to advocate for funding to aid the world’s poorest people.
“There was great concern that international aid, which our government provides primarily through non-governmental organizations, would be greatly reduced in the coming year,” he said.
Pastor Grant joined other leaders from South Carolina to meet with their state’s senators and congressmen. “We had the opportunity to speak with them about our concerns and about the profound impact our aid has on the developing world,” he said.
“These issues are important to me as a church leader because of the many expressions of deep concern for the poor recorded in Scripture. I believe these are expressions of God’s heart and should be the passion of his people as well. While individual congregations and denominations are able to marshal their resources to assist the poor, our government has many more resources and, along with the resources, the opportunity to build goodwill as we meet needs on a local level.”
Both a Privilege and a Responsibility
Pastor Grant pointed out that advocating to government officials is both a privilege and a responsibility. “We not only have the right but also the responsibility to engage the culture and to participate in our government,” he said. “While the church must always serve as the conscience for any government, we need to come alongside our government leaders and help them to recognize our opportunities to assist the poor around the world.”
While the realities of life in Guatemala and the United States differ vastly, Pastor Grant noted that the values and purpose he has experienced with FH in both countries have been identical. The FH staff who participated in his Washington, DC trip expressed the same ideas as the FH staff with whom he has interacted in Guatemala.
“What brought everything full-circle for me was the recognition that the values I witnessed in Washington, DC were the same values I observed in villages in Guatemala,” he said.