As hundreds of Weber Institute of Religion students worked to package meals for Feed My Starving Children last month, they found out that one student among them had actually eaten those meals every day as a child in Africa.
Kofi Herrick, 22, decided to volunteer for the March 17-18 event after he saw the service project advertised on social media and around the institute and Weber State University campus in Ogden, Utah.
“Looking at the video, it just looked familiar, because that was something I survived on when I was in Ghana, in an orphanage,” said Herrick.
The meal packs, called Manna, can be made into different forms. “We ate it morning, noon and night,” he said. “That’s something we survived on.”
Over two days in March, the volunteers helped package 108,864 meals — enough to feed 298 kids for an entire year.
At the conclusion, Herrick shared his story and bore his testimony. That moment affected many of the volunteers and organizers, including Joesph Kraemer, 21, a freshman at Weber State from Ogden.
“That was probably one of the more touching moments of the project itself,” said Kraemer, explaining that several people began to cry, as they realized the impact of the meals and their service.
Weber Institute student council president Maggie Smith, 23, agreed: “The spirit was so strong and unifying throughout the event, but especially during this part where we could see the good we were doing.”
‘God was in the details’
Smith, a senior at Weber State from Kaysville, Utah, said a private donor gave the $25,000 for the project — but they needed a place to package the meals and enough volunteers to do it.
She created a team to work with Feed My Starving Children and plan the event, while working through some of the hoops to get everything approved for the institute building.
“From the beginning, I could tell that God was in the details of this project and really wanted it to take place at the institute,” said Smith. “Every time something would come up that would halt or make us question if the event would happen, we were always blessed with a solution.”
Kraemer serves with Smith on the institute council and helped organize logistics like floor layout, measuring, coordinating a forklift and moving things from the trailer into the Institute building, even while dealing with a recently broken arm.
Smith and Kraemer were both impressed by and grateful for all the volunteers who came.
Said Smith: “We ended up having over 400 volunteers, who consisted of Weber State students and individuals from the community. My favorite part of the event was seeing people from multiple faiths and backgrounds come together.”
Kraemer expressed gratitude for all who came from different faiths and from the public. His mother also came to volunteer for a shift alongside him.
“The biggest thing that showed me this was a worthwhile service was the change in the countenance of the people who came and did it. That’s scriptural as well — countenances change as we serve others and serve God,” he said.
“There was a visible difference in the room, and it was something I could see as well as feel.”
Joy in service
When Herrick went to the institute building to volunteer, he was excited to help prepare the meals for other kids — and he was touched by the excitement of the other volunteers around him.
“It was early in the morning, everyone had to wake up early, but there was not a bad spirit among anyone, everyone was smiling and happy to help,” said Herrick. “It made me super happy to see how people were involved.”
Kraemer said he saw joy and selflessness. “College-aged people are often taking care of themselves. It’s a time to focus on yourself, get your work done, have your own experiences — but accomplishing the service we did, it takes that all away. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ.”
He was surprised to see so many students show up. “They were willing to drop everything and come and love, and come and serve.”
Smith said she appreciated partnering with Feed My Starving Children and would love to host another event with the organization. “I also loved being able to witness the good that can be accomplished when we put our differences aside and come together to serve,” she said. “It was amazing to see so many people sacrificing their time out of love for others and love for God.”
Herrick spent time in two orphanages in Accra, Ghana, but his life changed when a family from West Haven, Utah, adopted him at 14 years old. After high school, he served in the Colorado Denver South Mission.
He played college soccer for Western Texas College for a while and now attends Weber State. A friend invited him to take classes at the institute of religion.
“The Lord has His hand in everything. It’s crazy how everything has come together to this point,” he said.
He hadn’t really planned on getting up to share his testimony or his story that day in March, but he knew he had to thank everyone for the joy and the time they put into the service — that they had put their needs aside to put others’ needs first.
And while the meal packs he ate as a child may have been the same thing over and over, he knew each night that he would have food the next day.
“I couldn’t believe how everything turned around, for something I survived on to come full circle — to help package it, to take it to other kids in Ghana or somewhere in the world so they would have food,” said Herrick. “It was a unique experience that only God could have planned for me, to have that opportunity to serve as someone served me when I was in need.”