Among the many hunger relief organizations Harvest Time networks with are LeSEA Global Feed the Hungry, Food for the Poor and Storehouse Ministry. Through their relationship with Storehouse Ministry, located in the small town of Christmas, Florida, the first duty-free, national food bank was established last year in Honduras. The networking extended throughout Honduras, with some 600 churches--among the poorest in that country--coming together in the cooperative effort.
Domestically, Harvest Time's Community Assistance Program (CAP) helps about 2,000 central Florida families each week. Free food is distributed through 500 area ministries that feed the poor and hungry. In addition, Harvest Time operates a small store where shoppers--all of whom must be referred by churches or ministries and must show HTI identification cards--may buy groceries at a substantial discount.
That kind of networking is key to operating a food distribution program that will have maximum effect, John Murphy says, enabling a small ministry to operate as if it's a large one.
"The slogan I like to use is this: If those who gather much increase would share with those who gather little, there would be no lack."
As big as the current operation is, the Murphys' vision by no means ends with what their physical eyes see now. With eyes of faith they see the International Mission Center--a 100-acre campus featuring a 100,000-square-foot warehouse, a training center and dormitories for students who will be trained in relief ministry, a publishing house and recording studio, and much more. They also see additional trucks that will complement the 53-foot semi and 23-foot box truck HTI now owns.
Already, plans are in the works for the establishment of an air cargo company that will be used for free missions flights, a joint venture of relief organizations in the United States, Australia, England and Canada. The initial fleet of 32 planes will fly cargo for profit in order to fund the free flights, John Murphy says.
"We are compelled to do what we do," Mary Murphy told Ministry Today. "The energy we need to do all this comes from God. The work has to be done, and He enables us to do it."
Late last year, a report issued by the AD2000 & Beyond Movement criticized Christian relief ministries--including medical missions and disaster relief organizations--for failing to give the gospel along with physical assistance. But John Murphy sees relief work as a means toward successful evangelism.
"As we go out and love people--not just by telling them, but also by demonstrating the love and care of the Father--it destroys their defenses against the church," Murphy believes.
Murphy and others at HTI take the evangelistic nature of their work seriously, praying over every pallet of food that leaves the warehouse. With each shipment, they believe they are releasing the power of the Holy Spirit to "convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgment." And while Murphy agrees that the church can do plenty of good works and never touch people for eternity, that's not how he views the operation of HTI, which has seen its share of hardened hearts turn soft.
"A kind deed done in the name of Jesus causes that hard crust to be broken and cast down," he says. "What we're doing in this ministry is breaking up the fallow ground so the seed of God can be planted in the hearts of the people we serve."
STARTING A HUNGER RELIEF MINISTRY
So what can your church or organization learn from Harvest Time International? Here are the principles John Murphy suggests you follow as you establish a hunger relief program for your organization, assuming the group already has 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit.
Step 1. Become affiliated with a church to which you may direct the poor and hungry people you serve. "Networking with churches is one of the first things you should do, so you can direct people who are in need into pastoral care," he says.