By Melissa Nordell —
Few people know of a special YWAM (Youth With A Mission) base, called “Gleanings for the Hungry,” located in Central California, whose mission is to help feed the hungry of the world both spiritually and physically, by providing nutritious food.
In order to receive food, a mission agency must be distributing the food as part of a larger ministry, which always includes the presentation of the gospel of Christ.
Wally Wenge, founder of the base, noticed that fruit with minor blemishes was being thrown out by farmers in the Central Valley, which could be dried and used by missionaries in areas where people were starving.
Wenge felt led by God to develop the processing and distribution plant to fulfill this need, so he began to learn how to dry large amounts of fruit, and later to make dried soup mixes, drawing on the story of Ruth in the Bible where the poor were allowed to “glean” food that was left in the field after harvest.
Food is distributed to needy seniors, widows, orphans, victims of disaster, and refugees. Recent shiploads went to Greece to feed Syrian refugees fleeing the war zone.
Fruit season in the summer months at Gleanings is a very busy time. Since 1982, peaches and nectarines are processed and dried in the hot Central California sun to preserve them for transport to missions around the world.
The non-marketable fruit is donated by growers to feed the hungry. Processing consists of sorting, washing, pitting, sun drying and packing the fruit into buckets for shipment. Youth from homeschools, churches, youth groups and Christian schools from all over the US and Canada volunteer for a week at a time during the summer months, often with their pastors.
Soup season starts each Fall when volunteers work in the soup mix plant at Gleanings. The soup can include dehydrated vegetables, rice, lentils, pasta, dried potatoes and other ingredients. Volunteers package the soup in heat-sealed bags for easy distribution.
Staff member Lori Ragains states that adult volunteers come any time of the year and stay for two weeks to three months, as well as local volunteers coming for the day. “Snowbirds” from Canada and northern states come escaping the winter months. At any time of year, volunteers come with their RV’s and stay for weeks or a weekend to help where needed.
During the cooler months, quilts are handmade to be distributed to the poor and shared around the world with love as well. Recently, quilters sewed quilts for Holocaust survivors in Israel who are too old to work and do not receive assistance. The Lord opened the door for missionaries to bring food and prayer along with the quilts.
A man from Venezuela, who works two jobs in Los Angeles, knows too well how dire conditions are for people in his home country. He often drives his truck from LA to Gleanings, picks up crates of food and pays for it to be shipped himself.
The leader of Venezuela will not allow shipments of free food and supplies to enter the country and even burned food trucks attempting to cross the border.
So, God has allowed food to be shipped to this LA man’s sister who distributes it to churches, orphanages, and the elderly. Also, an office supply company in the U.S. has offices in Venezuela, so they ship food undetected along with the office supplies to their warehouses in Venezuela for distribution to the poor, along with sharing the gospel message.
A family from a Muslim country with very limited civil rights in Central Asia came to Gleanings to work since persecution was so great for them in their home country. Their neighbors would not let their children play with this family’s kids when they suspected they were not Muslim. The children were ostracized. The father of the family taught about Jesus very secretly in their home when people would trickle in to hear about the Lord; however, this was very dangerous.
The children went to school and could not let anyone know they are Christians, lest they be persecuted. One of the child’s teachers was teaching on religion in school and the child said that she knew about Christ. The teacher reacted and quickly wanted to know why she knew Jesus.
The child was very smart in answering that her grandmother had come from an area where Jesus was talked about, which protected the family’s safety.
As things got worse for the family, they were able to obtain exit visas to come to help at Gleanings for a time, which was an absolute miracle. The father is a strong pastor who says that he would like to return to his home country to pastor and evangelize as much as he can when it is God’s will and timing for them to do so.
Here the children have learned it is safe to talk about Jesus with their friends without the threat of death or imprisonment and are able to go to a Sunday school and worship with other children which they have never been able to do.
Gleanings also hosts a YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) which consists of a 12-week course of classroom lectures with an eight-week mercy ministry outreach to a foreign nation. This program provides a fast-paced, faith building challenge for anyone wanting to grow his or her faith and has the heart to reach the nations for the Lord. DTS is the entry level school for YWAM.
Gleanings receives millions of pounds of donated nutritious food. Generous companies have donated nutrition and energy bars, raisins, pasta, cereal, vitamins, flour, cooking oil, rice, beans, nuts, various fruits (dried and fresh), spices, various dried vegetables, and quilting supplies and fabric.
Also, donations of time and service, furniture, machinery, and equipment have allowed for a greater impact for desperate people in need all over the world. Many also give financially to help feed the world’s hungry.
As food shipments leave the facility, every part of the crop “gleanings” are prayed for as well as for the missions and missionaries serving in hard places.
Some of the countries that have received Gleanings food have been: Armenia, Fiji, Liberia, Romania, Belarus, Mexico, Ghana, Moldova, South Sudan, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Tanzania, Niger, Cambodia, Israel, Nigeria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Kenya, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and most recently to refugees exiting war-torn Syria – all coming from a small town called Dinuba in California.
Matt 25:40 “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
To learn more about Gleanings for the Hungry go here