If you've driven S.E. 39th, you may have noticed the reader board in front of Trinity United Methodist Church at the corner of 39th and Steele Street. 'Feed the Hungry - Donate Food Here', it reads. There is more behind these six words than meets the eye.
Literally behind these six words are six other words, on the other side of the reader board, that invite you to 'Drop Off Food For Fish Here.'
'Our focus is on hunger ministries,' says Rev. Amy Overton-Harris, who has been pastor at the church for the past four years. She states with conviction, 'It is within our power in this country to eliminate hunger.'
Programs aimed at this goal are at the heart of the church's activities. And, no, the 'Fish' on the sign does not refer to fish that swim in the sea. Fish Emergency Service, Inc. is a Portland agency that helps distribute food to over 1,700 people each month.
In addition to collecting food the first Sunday of every month, the Trinity UMC congregation took up an extra '40 lbs. per person' challenge for the month of March and collected over two thousand pounds - a ton! - of non-perishable food items.
Many years ago, John F. Kennedy expressed his concern about hunger, when he said, 'The war against hunger is truly mankind's war of liberation.' And rock star Bono urges, 'If you want to eliminate hunger, everybody has to be involved.'
Trinity United Methodist Church, founded 52 years ago when the Clinton Kelly and Woodstock churches merged, shows it is involved and serious about making a dent in the hunger that is pervasive in pockets of this country.
In addition to collecting 'Food for Fish' each month, the church provides a monthly meal to Janus for homeless youth, has a year-round food pantry for those in need, and helps families in food crisis.
'Sam' Graham, church secretary, has worked there for eight years, along with her husband, Rod, who is the church custodian. 'I know it may sound strange, but pets aren't forgotten,' she says when commenting on the church's project - in coordination with Pet Samaritan - of also donating food, treats, toys, bowls and leashes for homeless and needy family pets.
Rev. Overton-Harris says the congregation frequently runs across homeless people for whom a dog is both protection and company. 'We have even been able to give a collapsible pet food bowl to some homeless people, because of the donations made to the church. Our parish is extremely generous,' she comments.
The church's focus on hunger is part of a proclamation made in 2006 by Bishop Robert Hoshibata, the bishop of the United Methodist Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. The proclamation urges all United Methodists in the western region to commit themselves to eliminating hunger in their communities.
Linda Sullivan, a member of Trinity UMC, and communications director of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, is part of the Task Force on the Bishop's Hunger Initiative. In December of 2007 the Task Force launched 'Recipe for Enough', a year-round means of ministering to the hungry through direct service and advocacy. The goal is to address not just hunger and poverty, but the systems that create and foster them.
To learn more about how to help eliminate local hunger, visit the Internet website: www.umoi.net -- and click on 'Recipe for Enough'. Or, call the church at 503/777-3901.