Feeding the World

Most of us have never heard the name, Norman Borlaug.

Then again, most of us have never saved a billion lives either. While recognized in many parts of the world as a leading person of his generation, he is not as well-known at home. Through advances in agriculture, he is credited with saving a billion people who would have otherwise starved to death.

As is often the case, no one expected such great legacy from such humble beginnings. Norman Borlaug grew up on a small farm in Cresco, Iowa during the Great Depression. When he applied to the University of Minnesota in 1933, he failed the entrance exam. Not to be deterred, he enrolled in the university’s two-year program, continuing his education there until receiving a PhD in plant pathology at the age of 27.

Known for his tireless work ethic, Borlaug spent the following decades improving agriculture, nutrition, and the food system for people around the globe. Beginning in Mexico, he developed a new type of dwarf wheat, later bringing the innovations to Pakistan, India, and around the world. As a result, the global rate of deaths due to famine decreased fivefold from the 1960s to ‘70s. Soon, he became known as the Father of the Green Revolution. His achievements earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian honor.

In all history, only two other Americans have won that trifecta: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel.

Borlaug was driven by a singular vision that access to food is a human right. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he proclaimed, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” Holding a professorship at Texas A&M well into his 80’s, he never quit on his vision to feed the world.

When I hear this story, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ claim as the Bread of Life.

In John 6:35, 40, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again…For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Borlaug had a singular focus to feed the world. As Christians, our vision should be no less. We are called to feed the world with the bread that causes us to never hunger again. The right and privilege to hear the Gospel of Jesus is the greatest human right of all time.

Until his death in 2009, Borlaug always claimed it was a team effort. Indeed, how can we know the value of his parents that nurtured him, his friends that encouraged him, his teachers that challenged him, or his wrestling coach that believed in him?

Every great effort takes great teamwork. Whether it’s across the street or across the world, what part are you playing in reaching and feeding the world with the Bread of Life?

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