In Luke’s gospel, Jesus meets a lawyer who, though he knows he is to love his neighbor as himself, doesn’t know what constitutes “neighbor.” Jesus demonstrates the concept of neighbor through the parable of the Good Samaritan, and says, Go and do likewise. No doubt the man left surprised to hear that, to a follower of Christ, a neighbor is anyone we encounter who is in need.
According to Chaplain Cristina Grys, lead chaplain, Spiritual Care Services, AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Bolingbrook’s mission of extending the healing ministry of Jesus means more than providing exceptional health care to the sick and injured. It means joining with the community to serve people in need, wherever they may be, in Jesus’ name.
On April 7, more than 100 associates, their family members, friends and 35 members of the Bolingbrook Church gathered at the hospital to package 20,000 meals to help eradicate hunger around the world. The event was a partnership with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit organization which works with volunteers to bundle nutritious, inexpensive meals for student nourishment programs in developing countries.
Rise Against Hunger delivered bulk ingredients to the hospital, then groups worked in assembly line fashion to create individual packets that were boxed for shipment overseas. The packets of rice, soy, vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and minerals prepared by the group will feed 120,000 individuals.
Grys reports that this year’s gathering packed almost twice as many meals as last year. Participants were encouraged to bring a food item to contribute to a local food pantry as well. “It’s a great experience for the whole family, and helps raise awareness of world hunger,” said Grys. “As we gather items for a local food pantry, we’re reminded of the needs in our own backyard.”
Jose St. Phard, pastor of the Bolingbrook Church, believes partnering with the hospital in community outreach has tremendous impact for the Kingdom and says, “Together we help reveal who Jesus is as we serve the least of these. Rise Against Hunger is a call to arms for each of us to take a stand against hunger, one of the world’s greatest enemies. It’s a phenomenal event.”
Last year, Grys was pleased to learn meals packed by the hospital were sent to Mozambique and distributed through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). “That was a nice God-orchestrated coincidence,” she said.
Just as amazing, St. Phard reports that one of his congregants was in tears as she packed food at the event. “She realized that, as a child, she had received such meals while growing up in an underprivileged community,” he said. “She cried, ‘Look where God has brought me — I’m packing food for others. I received and now I am giving.’”