I delivered this brief talk at the Society of Saint Andrew Celebration held at Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, on March 29, 2009.
I was asked to speak a bit today about how participating in Harvest of Hope helped me live out my faith.
It’s hard to believe, but my first time participating at Harvest was over ten years ago now. It really doesn’t seem like it’s been than long. It was the summer of 1998, between my 10th and 11th grade school years, and like most teenagers I was trying to figure out who I was going to be when I grew up. I was questioning everything.
I’m a very analytical and skeptical person, and I am the first to admit that I have a hard time believing in things that can’t be directly understood or examined. Thus, it was not a foregone conclusion that I would be a Christian at the end of my chaotic teen-aged examination of self. In some respects, believing in a God that can’t been seen, touched, or scientifically examined goes against my nature.
In 1998 though, somewhat unwillingly, I got roped into this Harvest of Hope thing by my dad. I ended up spending a week at an event on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and it changed my life.
Harvest starts by making hunger real. Through education, videos, discussion, and more you find out how widespread hunger is in the world and, perhaps most offensively, how widespread it is right here our neighborhoods in the United States. It follows that education up with a daring conclusion: Christians can end hunger, and Christians must end hunger.
But then, the part that really hits it home for me and most participants, Harvest of Hope shows you how—not on paper, but in reality. It’s not just an exercise in theory, it’s an event full of real-world service. It’s full of going to fields and seeing how much food goes to waste in this country. It’s full of collecting that food and getting it to hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people in need.
If one relatively small group of teenagers can feed thousands, Christians gathered together doing the same thing across the country and around the world can feed millions . . . or, dare I say, every single hungry person in the world.
That, I think, is what faith is about. It’s not about believing in your head, or going to worship services, or prayer. These things are, of course, very important. But at its core, Christian faith is about love—both for God, and for your neighbor. What better kind of love is there than to ease somebody’s suffering by feeding their hunger?
Harvest of Hope lays out for everyone to see what faith really is. It illustrates in a way that cannot be dismissed that Christianity is more than churches and doctrine, it’s a force for good in this world. Giving me the opportunity to see that at Harvest of Hope is how God worked in my life to overcome my skepticism and cement my faith.
If I hadn’t seen faith in action first hand in the summer of 1998—and again several times in the years that followed at various other Harvest of Hope events—I’m honestly not sure I’d have ended up being a faithful Christian at all.
Saying that Harvest of Hope helped me live out my faith—the topic I was supposed to talk about today—wouldn’t really have done it justice. In my case, Harvest of Hope is largely responsible for me even having faith. I certainly don’t want to diminish the moral foundation laid by my parents and others in my life who laid the groundwork, but Harvest of Hope—in a very real way—sealed the deal at a critical moment in my teen-aged years where I could easily have rejected my faith, instead of embracing it.