I was blessed to be part of a pilgrim group in the Holy Land a few years back.
We stayed at a lovely hotel on the shore of the Galilee for an entire week, spending time each day at holy sites such as Capernaum, Tabgha, where thousands were fed by a few fish and small loaves of bread, as well as the beach where Jesus fed his disciples bread and fish after his resurrection.
A second week in Jerusalem brought us to the place remembered as the upper room and the site of Jesus' last meal with his followers and friends.
In many of these sacred sites, we shared communion remembering -- in bread and cup -- the body and blood of our Lord. Meals are the center of so many of the pivotal stories of our faith from scripture and in our own lives. In the Lord's Prayer, we pray for daily bread and the reassurance there will be sufficient food for tomorrow. Food nourishes our bodies, and also builds up community.
Since coming to Hays, I have learned food insecurity and hunger might be less visible than beggars in the streets of the Holy Land, and yet it is certainly present. Each week, First Call For Help is contacted by residents with no food in the home. St. Joseph Pantry and Community Assistance Center help fill the gap, and yet needs are far greater than resources.
Approximately 11 percent of Kansans, or approximately317,000 residents, are affected by the national change in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that went into effect Nov. 1. In 2014, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person, per meal. Imagine feeding yourself or your children healthy food on less than $4.25 per day. The vast majority of recipients are seniors, children and people with disabilities.
With Veterans Day close in our memories, it was noted between 2009 and 2011, there were 12,400 veterans in Kansas households receiving SNAP benefits. As the cold weather approaches and seasonal construction jobs end, families again must balance food budgets against rent, winter clothing and rising utility bills.
Right now, the Community Assistance Center is in need of all kinds of non-perishable food items, particularly peanut butter and powdered milk. Local families also need blankets and kids' coats, pots, pans and towels. You also can sponsor a family for a Christmas holiday meal for $40.
Cash and other donations can be dropped off at the center, located at 208 E. 12th from 7:30 a.m. to noon Monday to Friday. Those wanting to contribute can call (785) 625-9110 to arrange a donation time outside those hours.
St. Joseph Pantry also needs donations of cash and non-perishable food. Donations can be brought to St. Joseph Church, 215 W. 13th, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon Friday.
Ellis County Ministerial Alliance also will sponsor a food collection from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at all Hays grocery stores. All food collected will be distributed at the free community Thanksgiving feast Nov. 28.
We are called by God to be in the world and to seek to make it a better place. The central stories of our faith remind us all things come to us as a gift from God and challenge us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
In Hays, neighbors are struggling and need our help. As we pray for daily bread, may God use us to show the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Celeste Lasich is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Hays.