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Ministry's prayers answered

November 14, 2000

Ministry's prayers answered


Rick Wilson calls them "awesome coincidences."

When the Hagerstown resident in 1997 founded a grassroots ministry to feed the hungry with surplus venison donated by farmers and hunters, he didn't know how he would pay the meat processing fees for 2 tons of deer meat.


But he had faith that somehow his fledgling organization would be able to do God's work in feeding those in need with what Wilson calls "manna from heaven."

And the donations came.

Wilson wouldn't have believed that in just three years Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) would provide more than 4 million meals - 500 tons of venison - for churches and soup kitchens throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.


The Maryland Department of Natural Resources backed the program, area sportsman shops carried flyers and took donations, meat processors offered discounts, and hunters showed their support by pledging a portion of their hunting license fees to FHFH.

Wilson said he would have laughed at the idea that his ministry would go national, with FHFH affiliates established in 17 states and pending in 16 others.

He never thought FHFH would draw the interest, imagination and dedication of thousands of people across the country, he said.

Then national hunting supply manufacturers jumped aboard as corporate sponsors.

Suzuki offered all-terrain vehicles for giveaway incentives at less than half the dealer cost to raise awareness about the program.

A professional Web site designer donated his services, worth $20,000, the day after Wilson wondered how he would find the financial resources and expertise needed to get FHFH's message out to a wider audience.

After so many "awesome coincidences," he's stopped being surprised.

Now he's just humbled by the Lord's power to make miracles happen, Wilson said.

"There's no doubt in my mind that God has his hand in this," he said. "Every direction we turn, there's somebody there with what we need."

The retired Washington County art teacher devotes up to 60 hours a week to running the national program from an office at Christ Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.

His son, Josh, directs the Maryland FHFH chapter. An office manager and part-time national promotions director provide services needed to handle the program's phenomenal growth, Wilson said.

He hopes the national program will support fledgling state affiliates by providing the funding and direction it takes to make the program successful, he said.

He wants to contribute $5,000 in start-up funds, $10,000 in matching funds, provide guidance about establishing partnerships with state natural resources departments, and help new programs develop incentive programs, Wilson said.

The Maryland FHFH chapter is encouraging area churches to participate in "Buck for the Hungry Sunday" by picking one Sunday to collect an extra dollar from parishioners.

That money will help pay meat processing and full-time program administrative fees - the biggest obstacles to feeding the hungry with an abundance of donated venison, Josh Wilson said.

It's just one of the fund-raising ideas that could be adopted by state affiliates.

"The first year or two they're just stumbling around like we were," Wilson said. "We still work right under the gun."

But if God wants it to happen, it will, said Wilson, who quotes Matthew 21:21-22: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

"The first thing I do each day is thank God," he said.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the Wildlife Advisory Commission awarded Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry its Conservationist of the Year Award in 1999.

For more information, call 301-739-3000.

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