“Following Jesus is a way of life. When Jesus says, ‘Love God with everything you’ve got,’ that means all of your talent, all of your money, all of your time and all of the resources you have need to be focused on following Jesus, doing God’s will and living your life in such a way that you’re giving glory to God in every possible way.” With these words Bishop Scott Jones exhorted those who gathered for the 37th annual Bishop’s Round-up Against Hunger on Nov. 15, 2014, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Lawrence, Kansas. The Great Plains United Methodists listening to the bishop gripped cups of hot chocolate and nodded in agreement. They had been busy for months, collecting food, health kits, layettes, diapers, maternity clothes, bedding, HUGS (hats, underwear, gloves and socks) and school kits to bring to the Round-up.
Jones may have crafted his message with the youth in mind. More than 100 youth came to help with unloading, counting and organizing the donations, then later in the morning loading the items onto trucks for distribution. The youth lock-in the evening before the Round-up is a highlight of the event every year. First UMC in Lawrence, Kansas, hosted the event at their west campus with plenty of fellowship, fun, food and youth-led worship. They even squeezed in a few hours of sleep.
The temperature stayed below freezing all morning as vehicles filed into a barn, hauling their bounty packaged following specific directions which evolved over the years. Health kits were marked with yellow labels. School kits had purple labels. Food should be commercially prepared, not outdated or sample sizes, and should be foods our own families like to eat. As a car or truck entered the barn, youth swarmed around to put the bedding in the orange pile, the layettes in the white section and the food in the green corner.
After worship, fellowship and refreshments, workers loaded trucks from 17 agencies with amazing speed. Matt Johnson coordinated the crews. “We’re loading truck number seven. We need 50 food boxes for number seven.” Working like a bucket brigade, the line of youth would snake through the barn, each person handing the cargo on to the one next to them as the boxes made their way from the pile to the truck. These 17 agencies will deliver the donations to people in need across the Great Plains Conference, addressing the root causes of hunger. All cash donations are split 40 percent to Mexico, 40 percent to Haiti and 20 percent to local agencies within the Great Plains Conference.
Early estimates indicate more than $322,000 in combined money and donated supplies have been received so far. The final total will be announced later. One reason for the delay is the Bishop’s Round-up Against Hunger tracks what churches are doing locally to fight hunger in their communities. If you are unable to come to the celebration event in November in Lawrence, you can still participate by submitting a report form before the end of the calendar year. Click here for the 2014 form.
During the short worship time, Jones read Colossians 3:12 and then explained, “When Paul says, ‘Clothe yourselves with compassion,’ he’s not talking about the shirt you wear. He’s really talking about your heart, your character, who you are as a person. You want to grow up to be the kind of person who is full of compassion.”
Compassion prompts us to respond to the suffering of others because “we love God with everything we’ve got and the God we meet in the Bible is somebody who loves everybody,” said Jones. “If someone is a victim of racism that ought to be a problem for you and me. If someone is cold and doesn’t have a warm room to sleep in at night, that ought to be a problem for you and me. It’s all a way of explaining what Jesus said about loving your neighbor as yourself.”
We don’t have to look far to see there are a lot of hurting people out in the world. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to have compassion?
“Belonging to a church that’s connected like the United Methodists are means we have people in our communities who understand there are needs out there and there are hungry people,” said Jones. “Because we love God so much in our hearts, because we have put on compassion, we suffer with those people when we find out how much they’re hurting.”
Organizations that help those people allow everyone to be a part of the incredible, loving actions they are doing. When ways to support these ministries are found, when checks are written, when canned goods are brought and when labor is given to make sure the resources get to the right place, all are clothing themselves in compassion. All are being involved in what makes a difference.
Years ago when Jones was a pastor, a young family came to him asking for help. They were being evicted from their home a week before their second child was due and they had no money. They needed $250 to move into an apartment near the church. The church had a special fund for such situations, but it had only $50 left. Bishop Jones added his own money, but it wasn’t enough. So on Sunday morning he told his congregation about the opportunity to help a couple find a home. Since it was December, people were thinking about Jesus, Mary and Joseph finding no room in the inn. After the service, the chair of the congregational council came into Jones’ office, threw down a $50 bill and said, “Preacher! I want to buy part of that blessing.” That has stuck with Jones ever since.
Concluding his message to the faithful participants of the Bishop’s Round-up Against Hunger, Jones said, “God is doing amazing things out in the world. God is feeding the hungry. God is providing clothes to those in need. God is at work in Haiti, in Mexico and all over Kansas and Nebraska, making a difference in people’s lives. Do you want to be a part of that blessing? Do you want to clothe yourselves with compassion? Do you want to follow Jesus? That’s what we’re doing here today.”
Want to help with organizing next year's event? Contact Matt Johnson, Bishop's Round-up chairperson, at 316-250-1979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.