The biblical prophet Elisha was visiting 100 prophets on a ministerial trip to Gilgal, a region gripped by famine (2 Kings 4:38). Hunger haunted the people’s eyes. Fathers feared for their families, and mothers mourned their children’s misery.
When a man came with armloads of bread and some heads of grain, Elisha knew what to do. He gave the food to the people and trusted that God would multiply it.
Hunger still preys on families. During the past two decades, great gains have been made in reducing world hunger. However, in recent years we’ve regressed to the brink of an unprecedented hunger crisis. The World Food Programme estimates that 345 million people will suffer hunger in 2022.1 These people face painful decisions in their struggle for food.
Peter knows these struggles. He lives in Turkana County in northern Kenya, an arid region where people are primarily herders. Peter relied on his animals to provide for his family. At 52, Peter must support 17 children and three wives. The life of a herder is never easy. Recent years of successive droughts have diminished herds and wasted the surviving animals, reducing their milk production and value on the market.
Catastrophe struck Peter’s family in 2012. A group of bandits drove his cattle away. He migrated in search of an alternate livelihood. However, the options were few and insufficient. For years, Peter survived on neighbors’ goodwill and government support. Even so, his family went to sleep hungry, uncertain of their next meal.
Relying on others’ goodwill and turning to government support are a few ways families cope with hunger. They also reduce the number of meals per day. This can have devastating, lifelong effects on children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Families risk the stressors and predations of debt. Children drop out of school to work. Girls become child brides to secure financial assistance through their dowries. Families break apart as members migrate in search of pasture or work. Most distressing, human dignity and rights are abused as families do what they must to survive.
What drives this alarming hunger crisis? The reasons are multiple and entangled. However, the main drivers can be summarized as climate change, conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant rising inflation.
The hunger crisis is here now, and it will only grow worse if we do nothing.
What can we possibly do to bring relief while trying to reduce the causes of the problem? It’s tempting to adopt a grim resignation that the poor will always be with us and that suffering will only increase as the world draws to an end.
But Elisha the Bible prophet didn’t doubt that he could make a difference. After receiving the food, he commanded his servant, “Give it to the people to eat.”
His servant was aghast. There wasn’t enough food for all the people.
“How can I set this before a hundred men?” he protested.
“Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’ ”
The servant obeyed. “They ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord” (2 Kings 4:42–44, NIV).
God tells us to “give to the people to eat.” Like Elisha’s servant, we may look doubtfully at the meager offering in our hands. God’s command seems impossible to obey. But that’s because we’re focusing on the size of the problem. Elisha teaches us to focus on the size of God. Yes, it’s impossible for our scant resources to solve this problem. But we serve the God of wonders who repeatedly does the impossible. He asks us to do all we can and watch Him do the rest.
“It is the grace of God on the small portion that makes it all-sufficient,” Ellen White writes. “God’s hand can multiply it a hundredfold.”2
No, it doesn’t make sense. The impossible never does. But we serve an incredible God. He asks us to obey and trust.
Too often, we content ourselves with saying, “I should obey and trust more.” Rather than opening the door to the “shoulds,” let’s instead entertain the “imagines.” For example, “Imagine what God will do with my gift! Maybe He will stretch it like the loaves of Elisha.”
In fact, ADRA Canada sees this miracle happening through its partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB). At CFGB, our dollars are multiplied, sometimes as many as 10 times. For example, a new project funded by CFGB was launched in Ukraine to reduce hunger caused by the conflict. ADRA Canada contributed CA$250,000 (about US$190,000) to the project. Through contributions from CFGB and its members, the project is funded with more than CA$2.5 million (US$1.9 million)!
With CFGB, we’re tackling world hunger. Through 14 projects in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America, we’re reaching 110,000 people and their families.
In northern Kenya, our projects are providing immediate humanitarian relief through cash assistance. We also have an eye for the future by building families’ resilience to changing weather patterns and economic shocks. Herders are learning to reclaim overgrazed and drought-scorched land. Once useless fields are now feeding herds, providing fodder for dry seasons, and increasing families’ income.
People are also learning to grow their own food through kitchen gardens using sustainable technologies that conserve water, nourish the soil, and provide ample harvests from drought-resistant seeds.
Peter participated in these projects. He met his family’s immediate needs such as food and medicine with the humanitarian cash assistance. Though he hasn’t received a formal education, Peter believes in its importance. Therefore, he used some of the cash to put his children in school.
His kitchen garden now feeds his large family, and he earns an income from selling the excess. Peter is confident that he can still support his family with his kitchen garden even after the cash assistance stops.
Through our partnership with CFGB and you, those facing hunger can eat while they work with us to build a stronger, food-secure future.
World hunger is a dire problem. But let’s not focus only on the size of the problem. Let’s focus on the size of our God! Let’s do all we can and trust God for the rest. Let’s imagine how God is going to work wonders with our gifts to Him.
“The gift brought to Him with thanksgiving and with prayer for His blessing, He will multiply as He multiplied the food given to the sons of the prophets and to the weary multitude.”3
1. World Food Programme, “A Global Food Crisis: 2022, a Year of Unprecedented Hunger,” n.d., https://www.wfp.org/global-hunger-crisis.
2. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1917), 241.
3. White, Prophets and Kings, 243.