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The Power of Letter Writing: A Personal Story

120201-letterwritingI recently listened in on a conference call with David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and others who are knowledgeable about what is happening in Washington. They said that 2011 was a tumultuous year with many hunger programs in peril of major reductions. Millions of vulnerable people in the U.S. and abroad could have been put in great danger. But then David Beckmann said gratefully, “There have been no substantial cuts in the programs we support,” and expressed his gratitude for grassroots letters and phone calls that have bombarded the offices of members of Congress urging for a circle of protection around programs that help poor and hungry people.

I immediately thought of people I knew who had written some of those letters out of their conviction that cutting deficits and balancing budgets on the backs of poor people is unfair and immoral. I had seen the personal words of those letters, knew they were backed by deep concern and prayer, and now knew those words had been effective! I felt enormous gratitude to have had a small part in that impressive result.

Shortly after that conference call, during a coffee hour at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, I was standing near a young mother whom I had noticed before, when our church conducted our Offering of Letters. I remember she laid down a tiny infant on the table, got a toddler daughter busy doodling on a blank sheet of paper, and sat down to write a letter to Congress. That scene stuck with me, and now I got to talk to her again. She held her little boy, now 8 months old, and her daughter played nearby.

“Oh, hello, you remember us!” she said, and told me that she occasionally visited the Bread for the World website and was especially interested in materials for children. She told me she intended to teach her children about hunger. Then she said almost off-hand, “Oh, and I’ve been writing to Washington and calling, too.” I was stunned. I did not expect that the message had gotten so deep into her soul. I thought about how I’d love to introduce her to David Beckmann and say, “Here’s one very good reason those program cuts didn’t happen.”

David Beckmann and the others who led that conference call made very clear that the battles are far from over. The electoral politics of 2012 will keep poverty-focused foreign assistance and domestic hunger-relief programs in limbo. Sustaining a circle of protection must continue. Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters calls for four unique emphases during 2012, beginning with the upcoming farm bill, but continuously, in the background, the emphasis will be on the circle of protection.

Some of you reading this blog post may still be considering joining this effort. I assure you it continues to be vitally important—and it’s truly rewarding. I hope you will promote an Offering of Letters at your church or in any caring group you are part of.

+Find out how you can organize an Offering of Letters at your church. Find resources, stories, videos, and more at www.bread.org/OL.

Jim-andersonJim Anderson is a Bread activist in Portland, OR, and retired pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Soon, he will travel to Tanzania to see first-hand the benefits of a circle of protection around poverty-focused development assistance.

Photo caption: A member at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, CA, writes a letter to Congress as part of Bread for the World's Offering of Letters on Sunday, October 16, 2011. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

 

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