logo, Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale

Fasting And Feasting To Raise A Half Million $$$ For The Hungry This Year

June 12, 2024
by Harvey Yoder
Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale
October 4-5 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds

Fasting And Feasting To Raise A Half Million $$$ For The Hungry This Year

by Harvey Yoder

I have long been in awe of all the dedicated volunteers who make the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale a success each year. The money raised for Mennonite Central Committee at this annual event may seem negligible in light of the unprecedented needs of millions of our hungry and homeless neighbors around the world, but every half million dollars helps, and I believe the Sale might actually be able to raise that amount this year (last year’s total was well over $400,000).

I occasionally hear people question whether indulging in so much food and purchasing so many unneeded items at the Sale is the best way to raise money for the hungry and destitute, but I can’t believe Jesus would object to an occasional feast or festive occasion for a good cause as long as everyone’s invited. After all, he frequently enjoyed a good meal, and with some unsavory characters at that, so much so that some even brought accusations like, “Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine, and he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34, CEV)

So let’s just assume an occasional feast or festivity is a good thing.

But what Jesus clearly does object to is “faring sumptuously every day,” like the rich man Jesus warns us about in Luke 16:19. As an observant Jew, Jesus observed both feast days and fast days, and in fact fasted for 40 whole days in preparation for his public ministry.

All major religions I know of commend fasting as a spiritual practice, accompanied by prayer, repentance, reflection on our dependence on God, and being in solidarity with millions who suffer from want. In both Catholic and (most) Protestant traditions there are regular times designated for doing without–or doing with less–as in the observance of 40 days of Lent, as an act of self-denial versus self-indulgence.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting_in_religion
So here’s a modest proposal for a fast in preparation for the Relief Sale’s efforts this year:
  1. Encourage your congregation to designate a day between now and the Relief Sale for some kind of fast for world hunger. This could mean abstaining from food from sunset on a Saturday to a Sunday noon, for example.
  2. Encourage your congregation to have a have a simple meal to help identify with those not blessed with the food abundance we are (rice and beans or some similar fare) and to host it as a fundraiser for the Relief Sale on some Sunday noon, especially for those not able to attend the Sale in person.
  3. Have your church encourage those who can attend to not only assist in raising money by buying food and other items but to match or exceed that amount with a cash, check or credit card gift at the Everence giving table.
  4. Encourage people to give online https://vareliefsale.com/donate/ or send a check to VMRS, 601 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, with SOS on the memo line.
If enough followers of Jesus in our community were to do that we could easily raise a record amount of funds to bless those in need.