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© Trinity Lutheran Church/Tudy Fennern

USA: Nourishment for the Body and Soul

ELCA Congregation Volunteers Welcome Special Guests to Weekly Banquet

At around 5 p.m. every Thursday, rain or shine, the guests start arriving outside Trinity Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Bismarck, North Dakota, USA, for a banquet. Volunteers—the true cornerstone of the Trinity community—begin to greet the guests, visiting with them outside the doors that open promptly at 5:30 p.m.

Regulars fill each other in on their weeks. Smiles are contagious. When the doors open, more volunteers will be waiting to escort guests to a table for a hot and delicious meal, free of charge.

Unlike most of the meals they’ve had this year, this one will be enjoyed on a beautiful table setting, complete with fresh flowers, colorful decorations, menus, and real china and silverware.

Hosted by Pastors Steve A. Sathre and Nathan C. Keith, and with dozens of volunteers organized each week by Banquet Coordinator Tudy Fennern, Trinity’s banquet welcomes any and all homeless and hungry members of the community with open arms each and every week. Founded on the belief that “the needy should never be served poorly,” the banquet’s goal is simple: to nourish the body with food and the spirit with dignity and respect.

The tables, which seat eight, fill quickly with seven guests, escorted by yet another volunteer. The final seat remains open for one of the volunteers who has cooked and served the meal to join them in the family-style meal. The food is delicious—prepared with fine, fresh ingredients, and perfectly spiced with compassion. As freshly baked and donated bread is broken, stories are exchanged. Laughter is shared. And hope is restored.

Trinity banquet volunteers return, week after week. They come from churches and groups within the community, often hearing about it from a member of the Trinity congregation. They come from all walks of life. They get every bit as much—if not more—out of each Thursday’s meal. Camaraderie. Conversation. The joy of knowing that they’ve not only helped nourish their neighbors’ bodies with food—they’ve nourished their souls with dignity, respect, and love. Started with 103 guests, the weekly Trinity banquet serves up to 400 people.

Breaking the Cycle of Hunger

The Trinity banquet is one of several ways in which the ELCA through its World Hunger Appeal, encourages its congregations to take up initiatives to help eradicate hunger throughout the world. The solution to hunger goes way beyond getting a person to their next meal. Every day, in ELCA ministries and companion congregations spanning the globe, people help their brothers, sisters, and neighbors, providing the food, shelter, education and resources to help eradicate world hunger. Last year alone, the ELCA collected more than USD 20 million through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, a comprehensive and sustainable multi-strategy program designed to provide immediate relief, sustainable development, and to break the cycle of hunger through advocacy and education, responding to those in need at home and around the world.

According to ELCA’s World Hunger program, some 35.5 million people (including 12.6 million children), representing 10.9 percent of the total population, experience hunger or the risk of hunger in the USA. These numbers include four percent of the country’s households (11.1 million people, among who are 430,000 children), with some families skipping meals, eating too little, or going a whole day without food.

In 2007, an average of 26.5 million people participated in the Food Stamp Program each month. In 2006, requests for emergency food assistance increased seven percent. Of those requesting emergency food assistance, 48 percent were members of families with children, and 37 percent of adults requesting assistance were employed. America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest network of food banks, reported that an estimated 24 to 27 million people turned to its agencies in 2006.

The international work of ELCA World Hunger is carried out with the Lutheran World Federation, of which the ELCA is a member, and with Lutheran World Relief, the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod relief and development agency.

This feature is provided courtesy of the ELCA Communication Services unit.


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