Four pastors undertake unusual fast to support Stop Hunger Now


     Nathaniel Long began Lent with an Ash Wednesday service at Senoia United Methodist Church, where he is the pastor.
    The service was planned to follow "our weekly fellowship dinner," Long said. For Long — and three pastor friends — this Lent will involve much more than a schedule of services — and a lot less dinner. Long — along with David Blackwood, Dan Dixon and John Mattox — will be fasting during Lent.
     The four clerics hope to draw attention to the hunger that is a permanent condition for many people around the world. 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, while Blackwood is pastor of a church in Dalton, Trinity United Methodist.
     At the 2010 North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church the four pastors learned about Stop Hunger Now. "This is an organization that provides meals, primarily to children, for only 25 cents per serving," Long said.
     "Did you know there are about one billion people in the world living on less than $1 a day. Roughly 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 per day — which is 40 percent of the world's population," Long said.
     Almost half the world — more than three billion people — lives on less than $2.50 per day.
    The young are particularly hard hit. Malnutrition contributes to more than half the 9.7 million deaths of children under 5 each year in developing countries.
    During Lent, Blackwood, Dixon, Long and Mattox plan to eat the food that is provided by Stop Hunger Now to the people it helps. Long said the four will be under a doctor's supervision while they attempt their fast.
   "It is formulated for starving children, We are not starving nor are we children. We will be eating one package, or the equivalent of six servings per day," Long said. The package will provide about 1,200 calories.
    "We are seeking to use this experience as a journey toward understanding while we grow more and more aware of our position of privilege," the Senoia pastor reflected.
    Long and his friends are hoping people will contribute to help Stop Hunger Now in support of their fast. "We believe through our communities and churches that we can raise enough money in this effort to package enough meals to fill a shipping container ... 280,000 meals," Long said.
   People are asked to sponsor the four preachers for $1.50 per day. To sponsor one for the entire 40 days would be a donation of $60.
    Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to Senoia United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 98, Senoia, GA 30276. As his Lenten journey of fasting moves forward, Long will be chronicling his experiences on a blog —
     "Can we do it?" Long asked. "Can we stop people from starving to death? You bet we can — 25 cents at a time."