You give them something to eat


Jesus was sad. Word had come to him of the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist, a man he loved and admired. He wanted time alone to pray. But that seemed impossible; crowds of people were clamoring to hear him preach and heal the sick. Seeking to get away from the crowd, he crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Alas, awaiting Jesus on the shore was a huge crowd of people who had followed him on foot from the nearby towns. How did Jesus respond? He had compassion on the people and healed their sick. That is a beautiful example of how one may deal with sorrow — get busy doing what you can for people who need your help!
As day was dying, his disciples came to Jesus concerned that the crowd was hungry and had nothing to eat. They urged Jesus to send the crowds away so they could go into the villages and buy food.
They were stunned when Jesus ignored their advice and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” Frustrated, the disciples threw up their hands and said, “But, Lord, we have only five loaves of bread and two small fish.” Jesus may have smiled when he said to the disciples, “Bring the loaves and the fish to me.”
They did as Jesus asked and the touch of the Master’s hands transformed a little boy’s meal into enough food to feed five thousand men, plus many women and children. After “looking up to heaven, and giving thanks, he broke the loaves.” His disciples distributed the food as Jesus directed and “all ate and were satisfied.” There were even 12 basketfuls of broken pieces left over.
It all began with Jesus saying to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” His miracle enabled them to obey Jesus. That happened more than 2,000 years ago, but that was not the last time Jesus said to a man, “You give them something to eat.”
Early in the last decade of the 20th Century, a young man named Ken Austin returned to civilian life after serving 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Montgomery, Alabama. He opened a used car dealership in Montgomery but soon sold it to calm the spiritual restlessness in his soul. For several years he had nursed a growing concern for the poor around him; many were hungry and without adequate food. Then one day, he heard Jesus say to him, “Ken, you give them something to eat.”
Struggling to understand how to obey the Lord, Ken felt God calling him to do a strange thing: purchase an old, abandoned church on Council Street and begin a new life as a pastor. His mission, God told him, would be to preach the gospel and provide food and hope for the poor and needy surrounding the church in poverty-stricken west Montgomery. This would be the primary ministry of his new church, which he named the New Walk of Life Church and MAP (Ministry About People).
With the consent and support of his wife, Thomasina, Ken obeyed God and bought the deserted church building as well as a house nearby that he named the Mercy House; it would become a Community Resource Center and a Day House. There people could come for food, clothes and resources to help them through many of life’s challenges. He installed a shower for any who needed a bath, and a washer and dryer that were available to the public. His grand plan was in place, but one important thing was missing — the funds needed to operate and expand the ministry. The constant struggle to find adequate funding took its toll on Ken. After a few years, his hope for fulfilling his mission began to fade. Weary and discouraged, he was ready to quit when Jesus performed another miracle.
Jesus said to a pastor’s wife, “You need to help Ken Austin.” She said, “Yes, Lord,” and raised an army of people who secured enough money to renovate the old church and get the Mercy House on solid footing.
Now, the church is growing, reaching more and more people with the good news of Jesus. Mercy House is providing 500 meals a day to people in the neighborhood. Ken is guiding a multifaceted ministry that is providing not only food but hope for the future grounded in biblical principles and faith in Jesus Christ. His headquarters now is the MAP Center that is fast becoming a training facility, combining state of the art training with comprehensive support resources. MAP’s Summer Enrichment Program offers 150 children a daily opportunity for guided activities that promote social, emotional, mental and spiritual growth.
Near the church is a Pathway House, offering space for those who are ready to move forward through programs such as mentoring and tutoring, using the resources of a nice library and a computer lab.
Hope is being restored for youth and families through after school programs and Summer Programs for children. Youth are invited off the streets into a safe environment where they can catch a vision of life beyond poverty and hopelessness.
Ken credits his success to God having helped him build his ministry on a solid foundation of prayer and the power of community partnerships. Give him a chance and you will hear him praise God for helping him develop ministries that are meeting some of the needs of a broken city and leading it toward a better tomorrow.
All because Ken said, “Yes, Lord,” when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” Amazed at all God has done, Ken says, “I love helping Jesus feed the hungry as well as offering them the hope they need for a better life beyond poverty. Jesus is not only everything; He is also ready to help us do everything He asks us to do for others.”