With all of the causes in the world the attempts to feed the poor is probably one that most people can agree with. When it comes to the civilized world the United States alone produces enough food that the rest of the world could probably eat and deal with the same problems of obesity that we deal with. Still, it seems like an impossible task to feed the world. Plus, there are plenty of starving people right here in this country. There are people out there who are trying to make a difference, however. There are dedicated people trying to gather money and supplies to try and make even the smallest dent.
Pastor Bruce Rudolf is a tall man with graying hair and a beard. When he speaks to a congregation about the organization he works with, Food for the Poor (FFP), he doesn’t stand up on some high pulpit and scream and thunder about God and the devil and evil. He stands in the middle aisle and between the rows of pews. He doesn’t even use a microphone. He smiles a lot and he tells jokes. He even teases that when he starts to throw out statistics he sees the eyes of the people in the congregation glaze over.
“I’m a retired Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor,” he said, “and I served in Connecticut for five and a half years. I also served for thirteen years in New Jersey and nearly twenty years on Long Island.”
These days, tough, the pastor and his wife, Dottie, live in Florida, surrounded by children and trying to do what he can for the missionaries around the world who are trying to feed the poor in 16 third world countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The organization of Food for the Poor has been doing this for twenty-five years as of February, 2007. Unlike a lot of places, though, their goals are more than just food and their members stretch across more than just Lutherans.
“We’re interdenominational,” said Rudolf. “Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church Missouri Synod all participate. We even have a few Methodists now and we help ministries across all Christian denominations. For example we supply much of the food that the Salvation Army distributes in Jamaica.”
Pastor Rudolf is a busy man these days. He’s been speaking for FFP since 2005. In 2006 alone he spoke to 33 LCMS churches. He spoke five times to churches in Illinois, five in Wisconsin, four in Michigan and around 7 in states like California and Washington. To say the least, he gets around. How he finds time is something even he cannot explain especially when you consider how busy things are at his own house.
“I’ve been married to Dottie for forty-three and a half years,” he said, “and we are the parents of four children. We also adopted an African American daughter and a Vietnamese foster son. We now have four really terrific grandchildren.”
Pastor Rudolf turns very serious when the discussion turns to FFP and the work the ministry is trying to accomplish. The organization serves only the poorest of the poor in those 16 nations and they work with local clergy, missionaries, and other church-based social programs. In addition to providing food for poor families the organization builds shelter with real walls in areas prone to hurricanes. It also provides health care to people who would otherwise not have access to it. Food for the Poor also digs wells for entire communities.
The brochure Pastor Rudolf hands out has some startling information. $21 can provide a meal for 560 children, it says. $36 can feed entire families for months. $2,600 will help a family build a home that has real solid walls, a solid roof and a concrete floor. $50 provides medical and nutritional needs for children who are starving and sick. $135 provides a pump that will provide clean water for an entire village.
“In 2006 we shipped 4,064 large containers of aid,” said Pastor Rudolf. “We built 7,003 homes and started 20 Tilapia fish ponds. We drilled and installed 73 wells for communities as well as 9 cisterns and 10 water distribution systems. All of that brought water to more than 450,000 people who before 2006 were having to walk miles just to carry water. We sponsored 2,806 children in orphanages.”
Yes, you might be saying, but you’ve heard that some of these charities only send a small portion of whatever you donate to the people who actually need them. You remember stories after September 11 of the Red Cross not getting aide where it was needed. Who’s to say that Food for the Poor isn’t the same way? Well, Pastor Rudolf has the answer for that.
“We are monitored by four financial watchdog agencies and they have given us their highest rating,” he said. “With Food for the Poor this means 96.4% of everything we give actually goes directly to the people we are helping. You can compare that to the average of 86 – 88% among other charitable agencies.”
Of course whatever success the organization achieved last year only raises the bar for the following year. The goal for 2007 is to raise an astounding $1 billion. Considering it took nearly twenty years for the organization to raise its first billion that is a pretty ambitious goal. Food for the Poor is now the third largest international Christian charity.
If you would like to know more about Food for the Poor you can visit their website at www.foodforthepoor.org. Whether you are a Christian or not, it’s hard to argue with a place that is just trying to build a house, dig a well, dispense a little medication or bring some food to people who need it. As Pastor Rudolf likes to point out every time one of those large hurricanes hits the United States it probably also hit a country where much of the population lives in homes that are barely able to stand while the weather is good.
As for Pastor Rudolf he still travels. He likes to get to his home in Florida when he can but he still tries to get the message of Food for the Poor across whenever he can. Maybe you’ll see him speaking at a church near your home one of these days. If you do, stop and listen to at least one of his stories. It’s good to know that there are still people out there trying to do good things. It’s nice to know that there are some people who still think of others.