How the Scripture Collections Came to Be

This origin story to the Words of Faith section of our site comes to us from John Arnold.

Once the Waste Not Want Not research began developing its findings about what was and was not working well in the charity food distribution system, and what things really needed to change, I and the other staff of the Food Bank in our conversations with agencies that the Food Bank serves began making the case for those changes being made.  To say that our entreaties on these matters were severely rebuffed would be something of an understatement.

Many agencies became openly hostile as we gently suggested that they make changes in their operations such as letting needy people draw food as food aid was needed and not just once every 30 days or three times a year, or whatever other sort of arbitrary limit had been placed on their getting help, or that clients be permitted to make their own food selections instead of being given an arbitrary selection of product, or that clients be permitted to take as much food as they needed instead of being given a quantity of food totally without regard to the amount of help they needed, etc.  Many agencies found these sorts of suggestions to be very offensive and threatening, and in rebuffing our pleas, they frequently disparaged the people that they served in ways that I had never heard before.

I had always assumed that everyone who worked in a charity food agency, particularly people who worked there as volunteers, were there because of a love of the poor and a desire to serve them.  It turns out that instead many of those who gravitate to working in such agencies are there apparently more as a result of their dislike and distrust of the needy and a desire to “protect” their church from “being taken advantage of” by “those people.”  It was brutal, what I heard.

I had never considered the possibility that agencies operating almost entirely out of churches or other faith based organizations could have such a negative attitude toward the poor and could be so callous in dismissing the importance of needy people being served in a way that the needy found comforting and welcoming.  The general sense that I got from many of the agencies I visited was that how needy people felt about how they were treated simply did not matter.  That was a shock.

I am not an overtly religious person, but I did go to church just enough as a child to be somewhat familiar with what the Bible and similar texts have to say about dealing with the needy and the poor, and I was pretty sure that it had a much more positive attitude toward the poor and about how the poor were supposed to be treated than I was hearing expressed in my meetings with churches and other agencies about these matters.  So one day just to see if my recollections were correct, I got out a Bible I had been given when I was doing some work for The Salvation Army and started thumbing through it to see what sorts of things it did say about dealing with the needy.  Continue reading “How the Scripture Collections Came to Be”

Bible Study in Charlotte, North Carolina

In 1998 or 1999, John Arnold was invited by the Food Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina to fly down and do a presentation on the Waste Not Want Not research and approach as the keynote address of their annual agency relations conference. The director of that Food Bank seemed concerned that an inappropriate word might slip out of John’s ex-Marine mouth, so she warned him to keep the presentation appropriate for the audience: most of the 400 or so attendees were from churches, specifically Southern Baptist churches. The composition of that audience proved to be the most important factor in their understanding of the message that we should distribute as much food aid as needed, whenever it’s needed.

The Food Bank had flown me down because they were very frustrated. Their distribution had see-sawed between five and six million pounds a year for seven years, when both the supply of food available to them and the need in the area they serve were considerably greater than that, so they really needed agencies to change.

I paid attention to the body language of my audience as I did my presentation, and as the conclusion neared, it seemed to me that I had not made too many converts. People had listened quite respectfully, they had chuckled at the appropriate places in my presentation and occasionally had nodded or gave other reasonably positive reactions, but it didn’t seem like we had gotten them to the point that very much was going to change as a result of this effort.

As I wrapped up the last little bit of the formal normal presentation, I decided to try something new. I said, “Ok folks, we’ll be wrapping up here in just a couple of minutes, probably in a slightly different way than you are used to having keynote addresses end. We’re going to have a quiz!” Then I laughed and said, “I hope you’ve all been paying attention.”

Continue reading “Bible Study in Charlotte, North Carolina”