Christian, Muslim Effort Leads to Minnesota’s Largest Food Pack

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Nearly 5 million meals are being shipped to the famine and drought impacted land of Somalia, due to a joint-faith effort that was dreamed up eight short-weeks ago. The hard-working hands of more than 19,000 Muslim, Christian and volunteers with no religious-affiliation packed meals for four-days leading to the most meals ever packed at one time in the state of Minnesota.

[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]Even if we send money back home, there is no food to buy, because the famine is so strong…[/pullquote] The cry for help came from Somali-Americans in Minnesota a few months back, asking Feed My Starving Children and a cohort of Christian agencies to help battle the worst famine in recent history.

Together the joint-faith group created, “Love Somalia,” and tens of thousands of volunteers descended on the St. Paul River Centre from June 2-5, and packed 4.9 million meals to send to Somalia.

“The majority of my family is in Somalia,” said Shamsa Ahmed, a Love Somalia volunteer. “Even if we send money back home, there is no food to buy, because the famine is so strong, so it is really hard. I actually had one of my Aunts pass away from the famine.”

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]…it’s not just Somalis who care about Somalia.[/pullquote] Ahmed said she was inspired to see her Minnesota neighbors participate in the food packing event.

“This is beautiful seeing Somalis and non-Somalis participate. It shows that if a community comes together, than we can do so much together. To see non-Somalis partnering with us, shows our ally-ship, it’s not just Somalis who care about Somalia,” said Ahmed.

Meghan Talbot and her kids shared a food packing station with Shamsa Ahmed. Talbot and her kids drove from Duluth to participate in the food pack with a group from The River Church.

“I believe that we are called to help the needy, to love our neighbor, and to share our blessings. This is a way we can share Jesus’ love with people, by blessing them with this food,” said Talbot.

Talbot said even though her community of Duluth doesn’t have a large Somali population, she still considers them to be her neighbors.

“To know that this food is a blessing for the people in Somalia. We are happy to give our time and resources to others who are in need,” said Talbot.

That sense of kinship was felt by Marian Mohamed. After hearing how many Somalis are on the brink of starvation, she first felt a connection to the Somalis suffering in her home country.

“It struck something in me that I had to give back to my people. These are my people even if I don’t know them, we speak the same language, we have the same religion, it’s a deeper connection,” said Mohamed.

[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]This shows me that I belong…here.[/pullquote] But while packing food with her fellow Minnesotans, Mohamed said she felt a similar connection to her Minnesota neighbors.

“This shows me that I belong, even after Somalis were told by our President that we were a burden to Minnesota. This (event) completely changed my mind, and I know that I belong here,” said Mohamed.

The event aptly titled “Love Somalia,” also promoted a cross-cultural understanding of loving our Somali neighbors.

“When we come together over a common problem, like feeding, it’s opening doors to talk about people and how hearts can connect, and then who knows where God might take that conversation. I’m encouraged,” said Andy Carr, Director of Development and Communications, Feed My Starving Children. [pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]…we may have differences of our heritage, but we can come together to solve problems.[/pullquote]

“I really hope as we look a couple generations down the road, that we can look to a weekend like this to say this event was transformative, for the needs in Somalia, but also for the people who came alongside, who realized we may have differences of our heritage, but we can come together to solve problems,” said Carr.

“I’ve been really blessed to see Minnesota coming together. People are here from all over the state, from every different color and background and I feel the love. I feel grateful,” said Mike Neterer, Director of Somali Adult Literacy Training (SALT).

The original record to beat was to pack more than 5 million meals, with the help of 30,000 volunteers. The Love Somalia effort came up short of the meals and the volunteers, but other, more important goals were accomplished.

“The record that has been set here is the record of the communities that have come together in Minnesota. It has been such an amazing opportunity to work with our Somali friends who are here,” said Carr.

“This is so much more than beating a record. I am looking around and am amazed at how many people are here, and different churches. It really warms my heart, I am filled by this,” said Talbot.

And organizers of Love Somalia say they successfully accomplished their goals: GLOBALLY Fed a nation. LOCALLY Bridged religions, hearts and minds.

To donate to the Love Somalia MobilePack.

More photos of Love Somalia courtesy of Photography for Christ: