14 Oct Manna for Many
By: Phil Barkman
What is it like to be out of money? Not the, “Hey, we’re getting low on the checking account and I don’t want to tap into the savings or retirement,” kind of low, but, “The children are hungry, and there’s no money to buy any food!” kind. It takes a lot of food to fill eleven (soon to be twelve) mouths, and making $150.00 a month isn’t nearly enough to cover all the costs of raising a growing family. That’s the situation that Oleskandr and Svitlana Shumskaya found themselves in, and the prospect of a hearty meal seemed rather bleak. Living in the small village of Turya in the north of Ukraine, jobs are hard to come by, and providing for the family is a daily struggle.
At first glance, the beauty of the countryside is breath taking. Quaint villages, nestled in winding valleys with the towering mountains hovering over them, speak of a life at one with nature. A closer view, however, reveals the abject poverty that makes everyday life a struggle for survival, and the on-going war with Russian-backed separatists only makes the situation more grim. There are few full-time jobs, and most of the population lives off of the meager amount they can make by doing odd jobs or scavenging.
Oleskandr and Svitlana knew that even though their situation was dismal, there was a resource they could turn to that was always available. They are followers of Christ, and He has promised never to leave those who trust in Him. So in faith they prayed, and shortly after that, heard the rumble of a truck grinding to a stop beside the road in front of their house. There was a knock on the door, and standing on the step was a volunteer from CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) holding a large cardboard box. It was a food parcel; the family could ease their pangs of hunger with the contents of that much-needed package. One of the items in that box was a bag of dehydrated soup mix, prepared by Manna For Many.
* * * * *
While working with the MCC meat-canning endeavor, John Wengerd noticed that between the sessions of cutting meat, there were periods of 45 minutes or so when the volunteers had very little to do. Believing that this down time could be utilized more productively, John spoke with a few other like-minded members of the community, and the idea of bagging soup was born. After a lot of research and some helpful advice from an organization in northern Ohio that had been bagging and distributing soup for many years, MFM was created in July of 2015. Overseen by five board members, the goal of the organization is two-fold; to provide nourishment to those in need, and to provide a way for local people to serve others.
After careful consideration, they chose to provide one kind of soup, Vegetable/Barley. There are nine ingredients, all dehydrated – mixed vegetables, split peas, carrots, potato flakes, rice, barley, TVP (Total Vegetable Protein), chicken base, and garlic salt. Each of those 8-ounce bags, cooked with seven cups of water, provides a hearty meal for five people. At a cost of only $.87 per bag, those that contribute can know that their dollars go a long way in feeding the hungry.
Those who wish to do a bagging find it easy to do so. Participants don’t have to travel far – all they have to do is choose a location in their area, call MFM and schedule a time, and they will come there with all the necessary items. It’s a great activity for schools, families, and youth groups, and it’s also an ideal way for the church to sponsor that activity. Everything that is needed to do a bagging is on a trailer which is designed for maximum efficiency; not only is every item numbered, there is also a diagram showing the placement of all the items so that they can be placed swiftly when it’s time to set up.
The normal routine for a bagging begins when the trailer arrives and the tables are set up. They are lined up in 2 parallel rows and all the soup ingredients are placed in the correct spot on the tables, along with the scales and tapers. Standing length-wise at the end of these two rows is another table on which are the pre-labeled bags and PVC funnels. Each member of the bagging team picks up a funnel and places the end in a bag, then heads down the row of tables, putting a level scoop of each ingredient into the bag. Care is taken to keep the weight of the bags between 7.8 – 8.2 ounces, in order to facilitate passage when going through customs. After the bags are weighed, they are closed with a taper and packed 60 per box for shipping.
The bagging usually begins at 6:00 and under normal circumstances, is completed by 8:00 – 8:30. The suggested minimum number of people to do a bagging is 25, although the ideal number is 40 – 45; approximately 2000 bags can be filled in an evening. If the bagging is done in a carpeted room, a tarp is placed on the floor to make cleanup a bit easier.
For the friends and neighbors that showed up recently to bag soup at Daniel Wengerds home, it was anything but a chore. All ages showed up; Grandpa and Grandma, Dad, Mom, and the children. The adults shared the day’s news, as the younger ones tried on the required hairnets. To the side of the room was an additional table, with three young ladies swiftly putting the three labels on the bags so that they would be ready when the action started. And then it began; grab a bag and a funnel, get in line and move down the row of tables, scooping in the colorful soup ingredients, even as the chatter continued unabated. As the ingredients in the tubs ran low, two young boys hustled out to the trailer to get more supplies and keep the line moving.
This way of serving not only benefits those less fortunate, but can also be an evening of fellowship and camaraderie for those doing the serving. Spending time together in an environment of selflessness and giving can be a boost to those who sometimes wonder how they, in their ordinary, busy lives, can be an encouragement to others. Most groups, after the work and the cleanup are done, spend time in sharing a snack and some fellowship.
So far, the farthest distance that MFM has traveled is to the Chapel of Akron. A 6th grade class at the school did a bagging, and the children filled almost 600 bags of soup. A church group in Baltic set the record for most bags in an evening. 60 people showed up, and in 1-1/2 hours, almost 2500 bags were filled.
As a board member, John Wengerd is encouraged by the enthusiasm he sees in the volunteers:
“I really enjoy doing a bagging and seeing how people chip in and help. That is satisfaction to me, that people can help in a relief effort and go home feeling good about what they have done. It’s giving local people the opportunity to do relief efforts, and all of us, when we go to help someone, feel good after we have done it.”
* * * * *
Manna For Many chose to have their soup distributed primarily through Christian Aid Ministries, which has a decades-long record of excellence and integrity. 3000+ bags of soup per month are distributed to Ukraine and Moldova. CAM has three programs through which the soup reaches hungry people; Adopt-A-Family, Support-A-Widow, and Help-For-The-Elderly.
The Adopt-A-Family program in Ukraine and Moldova has been a tremendous help to families such as the Shumskayas. Even after almost 30 years of freedom from communism, jobs are scarce and the cost of living continues to rise. The food in the parcels, along with health care items, enables the recipients to use the money they do have to purchase other much-needed items.
As the parcels arrive in their destination country, they are stored in CAM warehouses until the delivery day arrives. Each week the trucks are loaded and sent out on their routes, stopping at designated churches along the way to drop off the parcels. The roads in some locations can be too rough for the trucks to travel, so at times the pastors of the local churches will meet them and distribute the parcels to their parishioners. Due to war or unrest in some areas, meetings can be arranged in places that are more secure. As believers in Christ, those who serve in these dangerous areas are truly putting their lives on the line to show the love of Christ.
Mihail Micanu and his family are grateful for the food parcel they receive from CAM. A pastor in Moldova, Mihail’s job doesn’t pay well enough to feed his wife and nine children. The excitement mounts as the day for the delivery approaches;
the children eagerly watch for the truck, and finally, there it comes! The box is opened immediately, and the children excitedly pull out the various articles. With both food and healthcare items in the parcel, it goes a long way towards meeting the family’s daily needs.
Another member of the Manna For Many board, Andrew Yoder, says, “For me, the knowledge that someone somewhere in the world is being helped by our efforts is the primary thing. It’s doing two things – it’s feeding hungry people, but we can’t feed hungry people without the help of the local people.”
In many of the poorer countries of the world, the elderly are especially at risk. Unable to work and with little or no pension, many still end up having to take care of grandchildren and extended family members. The Help-For-The-Elderly program provides a 25-lb parcel of food to those who are struggling, and again, the MFM bag of soup is a part of that contribution. One recipient expresses her appreciation;
“Let there be glory to our Lord! I, Mariya Yakymivna Titova, express my sincere appreciation to Christian Aid Ministries for the support of fellow believers in Jesus Christ. He saved us in this sinful world by His blood which He shed on the Calvary cross. May God reward you in hundredfold, multiply your fruits, add spiritual growth, and give peace and joy to you! I am happy that I have such friends as you. You care about my needs. I am 91 years old. I thank God for extending the years of my life and decent health. I am still able to attend the church services and listen to the Word of God. May grace and mercy follow you in all the days of your life. I wish you to bring more and more glory to our Savior. I wish you the blessings. Amen.”
Among the most needy are the widows and abandoned wives. Having lost the primary provider of the family, life for many of them seems balanced on a knifes-edge. CAM has a Support-A-Widow program that provides food and other necessities for these who are in such dire need, and MFM is happy to be a part of that blessing. A note from a widow, one of the recipients of a food parcel, says,
“Peace to you, dear brothers and sisters! This is sister Aida from the village of Akmechetskiye Stavki in Mykolayivska oblast greeting you. In this letter I want to express my sincere appreciation for the material aid and magazines “The Seeds of Truth”. May God bless you for your care and attention about me. It has been five years since I became a widow. Your aid is very important for me because I do not work and I am not retired yet. I am able to help my sons. They take care of me. I thank God for you in my prayers. Briefly about myself; I was born in Dagestan Republic and professed to be a Muslim. After I got married I moved to Ukraine. There I heard words from the Bible and accepted Jesus into my heart as my own Savior. I was in doubts for a long time because I was afraid to change my old faith. Due to the prayers of my brothers and sisters, I finally received salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. Lots of people told me that I betrayed my old faith. When I let Jesus in my heart He gave me peace. I have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and one grandson. My sons do not hinder me to go to the church. Sometimes they come with me too. Thank you again, dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, for your attention to me. Send greetings to your churches. May God bless you all.”
Manna For Many is currently providing the bagged Vegetable/Barley Soup Mix for CAMs monthly food parcel programs in the amounts listed below.
- 1,250 Ukraine Adopt-A-Family
- 280 Ukraine Support-A-Widow
- 275 Ukraine Help-for-the-Elderly
- 700 Moldova Adopt-A-Family
- 126 Moldova Support-A-Widow
- 460 Moldova Help-for-the-Elderly
As MFM continues its mission to provide food for those in far-away places, it also brings a blessing to those here at home. Those who cannot travel to foreign countries can still serve and show the love of Christ, and the bonds of church and community are strengthened as they come together to do so.
Manna For Many is a 501©(3) organization funded entirely through donations. All donations are tax deductible, and receipts will be provided upon request. Anyone interested in more information or scheduling a bagging can call any of the board members to do so.
Make check payable to:
Manna For Many
2400 Zuercher Rd. • Dalton, OH. 44618
Ph. 330 857-1510 • Fax 330 857-1520
John Wengerd • 330 857-1510
Andrew Yoder • 330 857-0341
Reuben Wengerd • 330 698-1222
Phil Horrisberger • 330 701-0889
Jesse Hamman • 330 464-3725