Who's hungry?

I took my oldest to the library a couple months ago. While she browsed the children’s aisles, my eyes were drawn to “Seeking Light: Portraits of Humanitarian Action in War” — featuring amazing photographs from war-torn parts of the world in the early 1990’s. There is one photo in particular that struck me immediately — a child smiling, with scars and scabs on his stomach from trying to scratch away his hunger pains. 

“Now this is hunger,” I thought. 

At VRM, the conversation of “hand-ups versus hand-outs” is an ongoing one. Are we helping or hurting? Are we part of the solution or part of the problem? A few months ago, a homeless man named David was addressing the shortcomings in our services. Our temporary warming center and shelter this past winter — not comfortable enough. Our food — not filling enough. “I had to dumpster dive yesterday because the three meals I received at the Mission weren’t enough,” he tells me. 

Think about that statement and compare it to the African boy’s condition.

Now decide — who’s hungry?

Now, consider another man who has utilized our services since December 2014 — Juan Gonzalez. After being evicted from his apartment, he found himself staying in our shelter and eating in our community kitchen for several months. What’s the difference between David and Juan?


“The Mission was the only place that offered me shelter and food, which allowed me to still pursue my goals,” Juan told me during our interview at the COS library, where he has been a student since Fall 2011. This upcoming Fall, Juan will live on campus at Fresno State University, where he will pursue his Bachelor’s in Construction Management.

“I’d probably be in prison right now if I didn’t have this support to live life on life’s terms. My experiences have brought me close in my relationship with Jesus Christ.” (You can read his full story on our website: vrmhope.org/stories).

Every July, Grocery Outlet, one of our many generous community partners, hosts its “Independence from Hunger” drive benefitting VRM both financially and with food donations. This is incredibly important for men and woman just like David and Juan. While the Juan’s of the world need less motivation, our community kitchen serves as a welcome mat to attract people like David. Once inside our doors, VRM staff and volunteers can be a friend and begin to speak life, hope and restoration to the “least of these” who really need it. 

While “hunger” carries a very broad meaning, we define it by the emptiness we see daily in those we serve — a deep pain that can only be filled by Jesus Christ, and at Visalia Rescue Mission, that process usually starts with a meal. 


Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.