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Volunteers feed, minister to hungry

Cries of hunger erupted from the starving orphans. They crowded together staring at the bits of rice left in their hands. Anticipation filled the room as they hoped and waited for anything to fill their empty stomachs. It is the goal of Gleanings for the Hungry to provide for these unfortunate children.

“They had no food or money left, so they prayed,” Ron Wagner, director of procurement at Gleanings For The Hungry, said. “The next day food arrived and the kids got raisins. They were delighted.”

Those prayers were answered because of two people dedicated to feeding the starving nations of the world. Wally and Norma Wenge founded the organization after being in Thailand on an outreach with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). The Wenges saw a need for fruit in the country and thought about using the fruit from the San Joaquin Valley that is wasted.

Since 1982, when Gleanings For The Hungry was founded, food has been distributed to over 40 countries.

“We ship food all throughout the year,” Wagner said. “Last year [2003], we sent 3.8 million pounds of food to 39 countries.”

The food that is sent helps the starving by not only filling their stomachs.

“We partner with many Christian ministries to distribute the dried fruit, vegetable soup mix, raisins, power bars, baby food, beans, nutritious drinks, vitamins, and many other food products to the hungry of the world; meeting not only their physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well,” reports Lennard Nylin in the Gleanings For The Hungry brochure.

Wagner has seen food delivered to the starving. Travels to Moldova and Mongolia opened Wagner’s eyes to what many people in the world really endure.

“Children and the elderly are suffering the most,” Wagner said. “Christians in the countries have a passion to serve others.”

Witnessing suffering people stretched Wagner’s life in a positive way.

“It’s a challenging and rewarding experience,” Wagner said. “They [the recipients] are very thankful.”

According to Wagner, experiencing a missions trip broadens students’ world perspective.

“It’s helped me see a world beyond life in the U.S.,” April Fujihara, ’06 said. “And it’s reminded me that God commands us to go and make disciples of all the nations, not just America.”

Fujihara considers Gleanings For The Hungry a vital part in helping world hunger.

“I believe Gleanings has a great impact on different countries,” Fujihara said. “It fulfills the need of third world countries and shows them Christ’s love.”

Principal Gary Schultz thinks everyone needs to give something back by volunteering.

“All people are responsible to others besides themselves,” Schultz said. “God has called us all to serve mankind. We do so many things for ourselves, it’s a part of our calling to serve others.”

Schultz also believes that there are many personal benefits of volunteering.

“Well, number one, it makes us appreciate what we have,” Schultz said. “It helps us be thankful for what we have. We are responsible to love and support others.”

Volunteering shows students a world outside themselves.

“In some areas [of Fresno], you’ll think you’re in a different country,” Schultz said. “Lots of people don’t have enough food. They live in poverty. There’s a lot of street people. They don’t even have beds of clothes to wear. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to see life as some other people live.”

Gleanings For The Hungry cannot function without helpers. The company has volunteers in all ages come, wishing to lend a hand.

“In the summer, we have teens from 13 to 17,” Wagner said. “We get families, too. The youngest was under three; the oldest is 91 who still volunteers! They make soup and work in the fruit line.”

Volunteering requires an offering labor of money.

“You pay $65 and help produce food for the world,” Wagner said. “You have to be 18 or older, and if you’re under 18, you come with a parent. You come for a week at a time, work five-and-a-half days and live in the dorms and work in the plant. You are serving the Lord.”

Those desiring to volunteer during the summer should expect hard work.

“At 7:45 A.M. we have prayer and worship,” Wagner said. “At eight we get assignments. You work in the plant or in the field from eight to ten, then have a break. We end at 3:30 or 4:30. It’s a full day.”

Most volunteers receive a sense of fulfillment, despite the hard labor.

“There is an incredible opportunity to stay locally and do missions,” Wagner said. “Service can be a mission. You are never to young to serve the Lord!”

Volunteers help handle the foods that are sent around the world.

“The impact on the volunteer’s lives is incredible,” Wagner said. “Kids come back year after year because of the impact in their life. People are overwhelmed by God using them to minister love to the poor.”

All over the world, people are needed to serve. Whether serving in Sultana, California, or a third world country with starving orphans, people are already serving with Gleanings For The Hungry. Serving others can be trying, but the personal benefits that come from volunteering are life changing.

For more information on Gleanings for the Hungry, visit www.gleanings.org.

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