I have the special privilege of sharing a handbook written by my mentor Mike Firmin. Mike founded Golden Harvest Food Bank in 1982 and devoted the next 30 years to building an institution that provided more than 250 million meals to the hungry. A lifelong servant of the poor and master fundraiser, he wrote the handbook, “Wisdom in Serving the Poor,” to help teach the Food Bank’s partners to treat their clients with love and prudence.
The handbook will be published in separate chapters as blog posts with the hopes of broadcasting Mike’s wisdom as broadly as possible. Mike is a man who deeply loves to serve people who are in crisis. He doesn’t so much see the need or the crisis… he sees the person and is moved by God to love.
I hope this handbook is useful in all that you do in ministry to the poor. It is addressed to the churches because Christians are especially equipped to minister to the poor. Not that a hot meal isn’t good in itself. But often, it isn’t enough. Poverty of Spirit, a poverty of love, cuts deeper and has far greater consequences than material poverty.
The Christian is called to go beyond meeting the physical needs of the poor. We are called to love them as we love ourselves. Mike’s wisdom will help you to go this extra mile.
This handbook is designed to help Christian church volunteers in the art of interviewing and of evangelization within the context of outreach ministry with those in need of material assistance. It is based on several preconceived notions.
First, those we serve share a common need rather than a particular religious or non-religious background. The bottom line is that they are hungry. Hunger cuts across all facets of our society. Anyone at nutritional risk in our Community deserves our assistance.
Second, the church is the only institution which has both the spiritual and material gifts necessary to help the whole person: spirit, mind and body. It can even be said that where the church is not involved in helping the poor, the cycle of poverty is doomed to continue.
A holistic approach to ministry consisting of material aid, counseling, evangelization/prayer, and incorporation into a church community is the ministry approach which stands the best chance of truly helping people rather than perpetuating dependency.
This handbook is written to and for the Christian volunteer. The “us” and “we” in the text refer to the church volunteers at a food pantry. The style is direct and may be uncomfortable because it will name many of the prejudices that we may harbor within ourselves. The handbook will illustrate stereotypes that we often unknowingly use to prejudge.
The handbook is written with the assumption that the reader truly wants to grow as a person loved by God and believes he or she is called to a special ministry. I pray that as you step out in faith to serve the poor, you will experience your own poverty of spirit and your own need for God’s grace.
Next up… Chapter One – The Interview
Written by Mike Firmin, founding Executive Director of Golden Harvest Food Bank.