Westmont Magazine One Child at a Time
Dave Phillips ’84 wants churches to think differently about how they reach the poor. “What is their strategy for evangelizing the community and discipling believers?” he asks. “What can they do to lift people out of poverty?”
Children’s Hunger Fund, the organization he founded in 1991, takes a unique approach to relief projects. “We train pastors throughout the world to deliver a box of food as a ministry tool,” Dave says. Going into people’s homes builds relationships — it’s a way to get people into church, where they can grow in faith and get ongoing aid. “When people see how the church has helped them, they take the same approach with their neighbors,” he says.
In 15 years, CHF has distributed $600 million in food and aid, assisting 10 million children in 30 states and more than 70 countries. Most of the food is donated, as is the medicine, clothing, blankets and toys they also deliver.
“We live in a world with unlimited need and limited resources,” Dave says. “How can we help as many children as possible? We can’t reach them all. The only way to do this kind of work is to approach it one child at a time.”
Dave played three years of baseball at Westmont and majored in economics and business. “I had no idea what I would do with my life,” he says. A trip to Honduras after graduation shifted his interest from international banking to ministry. “I walked into a cancer treatment center for children, and it broke my heart” he says. “Ninety kids under 6 years of age went to die in a room with a dirt floor — and with no pain medication. It overwhelmed me.”
At first, Dave wanted to focus just on helping this center, but his pastor and others convinced him to broaden his vision. He got a job with World Opportunities and did relief and development work until he started CHF.
Several months later, Dave got a call from the center in Honduras requesting a certain cancer drug. As soon as he hung up the phone, it rang again; the caller offered to donate a large quantity of the same drug. Dave then knew he was doing the right thing. “Children are close to the heart of God,” he says.
The father of four sons, Dave sometimes brings one of them when he travels overseas. “I take boys and return with young men,” he says. In El Salvador, he met a single mother with five children who lived in a cardboard shack at the dump. She had just given birth to twins, but Dave saw only one baby. When he asked about the other child, the mother said she had sold him for food. “My son just looked at me,” Dave recalls. “He couldn’t believe it.”
After the tsunami, CHF delivered food packs to victims in Indonesian refugee camps. Dave spent three weeks there with a local driver who had lost his wife and four children in the disaster. “I am Moslem,” he told Dave, “but the Moslem community has not met my needs. First the U.S. military came and dropped food, and then a wave of Christians came to embrace us. I was taught to hate the United States and Christians, but you have come and loved us, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Forbes rates CHF as the top charity in America for program efficiency. The ministry is based in Pacoima, Calif. (www.childrenshungerfund.org)