News Release:

Apr. 5,  2011

Real Change: Pastors Fast to Feed the Hungry

Stop Hunger Now feeds children around the world. Since 2005, they’ve served 34 million meals in 72 countries.You’ve heard of Five Guys Burgers, right? Well, how about Four Pastors Rations? Candler alumni Nathaniel Long (95T), John Mattox (06T), Dan Dixon (10T) and fellow UMC pastor David Blackwell are eating only soy, dehydrated vegetables, and rice for the 40 days of Lent to raise money to feed hungry children. The “4 for 40 Project,” as they’ve dubbed it, hopes to raise $10,000 to fund 40,000 such meals for the children of Humble United Methodist School in Uganda.

“We miss fries, but we’re not hungry. That’s the thing that has amazed us,” said Long, pastor of Senoia United Methodist Church, who conceived the idea after learning about international relief agency Stop Hunger Now at the 2010 North Georgia Annual Conference. “We’re doing this for our own spiritual growth and to witness as we call upon other people to fast with us.”

Here’s how it works: the pastors have vowed to eat a maximum of six Stop Hunger Now packaged rations -- a maximum of about 1,300 calories -- per day. In return, congregants are to choose something from their own lives to give up during Lent and then donate the cost of that item to the 4 for 40 Project. Another option is for congregants to each donate $60, or $1.50 a day for 40 days.

“We’re about halfway to raising $2,500 each, but we’re hoping to ‘cash in’ on Easter Sunday,” Long said.

The 4 for 40 Project Team and their rations (from left): David Blackwood, John Mattox (06T), Dan Dixon (10T), Nathaniel Long (95T)They’ve already accomplished the project’s primary goal — to raise awareness about world hunger and help people see that a solution already exists in part through Stop Hunger Now, which has provided 34 million meals, for just 25 cents each, to 72 countries worldwide since 2005. Thanks to Long’s blog (www.thehogfather.wordpress.com) and word of mouth, the 4 for 40 Project is receiving great media attention — from Atlanta television station 11 Alive News, 92.5FM The Bear radio, North Georgia Advocate, and several others. Community support is strong, too. Local restaurants, including Maguire’s in Senoia, are hosting special 4 for 40 Project nights, donating a percentage of their earnings to the effort.

“If you are like me and watch the news and see all the conflict, violence and death in the world, you wish you could change this in the world. We feel overwhelmed. We feel under-equipped. And yet, we have the power to make a difference. We have the resources to stop disease, hunger, and death from stalking the world’s children. We have 25 cents,” Long writes in his blog.

The project not only has empowered  Long and his pastor friends to put faith and love into action to make a real difference, it has changed their perspective, too.

“I couldn’t help but be reminded of my position of privilege. We never wonder IF we will eat — just WHAT will we eat,” writes Long. “Every time we sit down to a table, we are exercising our privilege. We need to be aware of this, and we need to give thanks for our blessings. With these blessings comes the responsibility, and actually honor, to share those blessings with those that do not share them in the world.”

The pastors are reaping another benefit: each has lost about 20 pounds, and Long is 34 pounds lighter. He’s thrilled but doesn’t want his personal achievement to take away from the project’s greater purpose. “My fast during Lent is not about weight loss and neither is my choosing to eat the Stop Hunger Now Meals. My intent for those things is to have a deeper personal understanding of those who are hungry and my role in doing something about it. As I and others have said: We can make a difference — One Meal. One Child. One Quarter at a Time.

Donate here: www.stophungernow.org/4for40

Dixon is pastor of Mt. Gilead United Methodist Church in the Raymond community near Sharpsburg. Mattox pastors Pleasant Grove United Methodist and Whitesville United Methodist, and Blackwood is pastor of Trinity United Methodist in Dalton.