Former ambassador shares life of faith at annual business luncheon
By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — A just-ended snowstorm made things outside look very seasonal Dec. 15 at a big annual Christmas luncheon in the Rose City. Although the storm cut turnout significantly, hundreds still attended and heard the compelling testimony of a man who knows personally how much the world needs hope the year-round.
Former Ambassador Tony Hall, an internationally known advocate for the poor and hungry who was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke at the annual Christmas event sponsored by Portland Business Luncheons at the Oregon Convention Center. About 400 were present, down from the 527 who were expected.
Hall served under President George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, and currently is executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger. He earlier served 24 years in the U.S. Congress, representing an Ohio district. It was during his freshman year in Washington, D.C., that he came to a vibrant faith in Christ because he recognized the emptiness in his life despite his outward success. “I was tired of myself,” he said. “I found God through this most important person — Jesus.”
Hall said he was “on fire” for Jesus as a young Christian and wanted to tell everyone about his faith. One time, while addressing a group, he introduced himself as both a congressman and a Christian.
He recalled that someone in the audience that day yelled back, “Make up your mind, buddy! You can’t be both!”
It was as a congressman that Hall got a first-hand look at overseas need while on a trip to Ethiopia, where at the time 7,000 people were dying daily from starvation.
“I was not prepared for what I saw,” he said, recalling that people were handing dying — or even already deceased — children to Hall’s group hoping they could help.
At one point, Hall saw 25 children die within a matter of minutes.
“I could not get over that image,” he said.
Hall was a founding member of the House Select Committee on Hunger and served as its chairman from 1989 to 1993. In response to the abolishment of tthat committee in 1993, Hall fasted for 22 days to draw attention to the needs of hungry people both in the U.S. and worldwide. Over the years he has visited 130 nations, visiting poverty-stricken regions.
Hall said care for the needy is a natural outgrowth of one’s love for God. Paraphrasing Proverbs 19:17, he said, “If you are gracious to the poor, you honor (the Lord).”
Hall shared guiding principles in his life and work that he says have been fundamental to productive societies for thousands of years, and that are scripturally based. Among them are caring for the poor; praying for leaders and for one another; interacting with people of different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds; and loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
How can individuals do this? Through a “willingness to let God change you,” he said.
Hall alluded to the account in John 6 of Jesus calming the waters, and said it is a good example of how to make Christ one’s focus in life.
“We are going to face storms in life, and sometimes despair,” he said. “Our job is to bring Jesus into the boat with us.”
One such storm hit for Hall when his 15-year-old son died of leukemia.
“I screamed, cursed and yelled at God,” he recalled. “I wanted Him to come down so I could confront Him.”
Hall then gave a long pause in his talk, followed by a slight grin.
“I’m glad He didn’t come down.”
As time passed, though, God provided healing from the hurt of his loss and Hall says his love for Christ has actually grown stronger since his son’s passing.
With 21,000 people dying worldwide each day of hunger, and with tens of millions in the U.S. regularly facing hunger, the need for Christians to respond with loving concern is great, Hall said. In closing, he again listed the priorities he strives to follow in bringing hope to others.
“I wish I could say that I have always followed these principles,” Hall said. “But these principles do work.”