Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

54 posts from December 2012

Oklahoma Bread Members to Congress: Protect Vital Programs

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Photo: A young girl enjoys breakfast. (Margie Nea)

By Dan Such

On Thursday, Dec.  6, members of the Peace and Justice Committee from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City met with Craig Smith, a field representative for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal programs that protect poor and hungry people. The discussion, which lasted an hour, was honest and direct and covered the many programs currently in place. Mr. Smith informed us that if no agreement is reached on the so-called fiscal cliff, the SNAP program will experience no cuts. Still, plenty of other important programs would be hit. "Going off" the cliff would result in significant cuts to a section of the budget called discretionary spending that houses programs such as WIC and poverty-focused development aid. 

SNAP is an important program to Oklahomans, with 272,189 households receiving this benefit in the year 2011 alone. WIC is also vital, as a preliminary report from the USDA shows that 123,095 women and young children utilized this program in Oklahoma in 2012. If either of these programs experience cuts then the impact on poor and hungry people in Oklahoma would be significant. We must continue to urge our members of Congress to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff that includes a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and hungry people.

During the meeting, our committee told Mr. Smith that hunger and poverty should not be political issues. Our Peace and Justice Committee includes both Republicans and Democrats, and everyone realizes that any division on this subject will only prove to harm those in the most vulnerable positions. This is unacceptable, especially at a time of such great need.

We have seen need increasing in our own congregation. Father Tim Luschen, of St. Charles, brought to Mr. Smith’s attention that our church’s food bank has grown from 327 users to over 900 in just over two years. And the free clinic that St. Charles runs has doubled in usage during the same time frame.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Smith promised to keep in touch, via email, regarding pending legislation or proposed bills concerning these issues so important to all of us. We are grateful for his time and continue to urge Sen. Coburn to help establish a circle of protection around vital programs such as WIC and SNAP that serve hungry Oklahomans.

Dan Such is a member of Bread for the World and the Peace and Justice Committee at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Action: Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

For more information on how the various budget proposals to address the fiscal cliff would affect poor and hungry people, see Bread for the World's fiscal cliff fact sheet

Boasting in Hope

'HOPE' photo (c) 2009, DieselDemon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Romans 5: 1-5. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]                   

By Rev. Dr. R. Scott Sullender

Most of us are avoiders—we avoid suffering. Some of us are survivors—we survive our sufferings. Paul is a boaster—he boasts (NRSV) in his afflictions, certain that his suffering will make him hope all the more, and hope will not disappoint him. An astounding claim! I suppose he has a point. The more we suffer, the more we rely on God, trust in God, hope in God. Our sufferings force us to our knees! Remember Luther's advice, "sin boldly so grace may abound?" Paul might say, "Suffer bravely, so hope may abound."

We cannot choose the path we walk in life. Some walk paths of great pain and hardship. Others seem to have easier paths. But sooner or later, into each life, "some rain must fall." We cannot choose otherwise. Paul implies that we can choose the attitude we shall take toward our sufferings. Will we whine and complain? Will we learn to be helpless? Will we learn bitterness? Or will we learn endurance, character and hope?

Hope is the end result of suffering. Suffering plus endurance, plus character, equals hope. Hope is born in suffering. Hope is strengthened in endurance. Hope is rooted in character. Hope is not fiction, a wish upon a star, a pipe dream or fantasy.

We hope because "God's love has been poured into our hearts ..."(v.5). Hope in a future is based on hope realized in the past. The hope of the future advent is based on the hope fulfilled in the first advent. We might say that hope has a history, as well as a future. What is your personal hope history? Has God been faithful to you in past times of trial? Can you allow that history to inform your hope now? Does that history even give you reason to boast?

Rev. Dr. R. Scott Sullender is associate professor of pastoral counseling at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Time Is Running Out: Congress Needs to Hear From You

Alli_and_andre_1We are at a critical moment in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The decisions made now will determine our country’s ability—over the next decade and beyond—to fund programs that effectively address hunger and poverty.

We don't have much more time. It is imperative you call your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 today! Even if you've recently called your members of Congress, please call again. At this crucial moment, they cannot hear from you too often!

This fiscal cliff deal will have wide-reaching implications on so much of what we hold dear. The deal will determine our ability to provide assistance to babies here in the United States, such as eight-month-old Andre (pictured). It will also greatly impact our ability to provide assistance overseas. The future of these programs and the lives they touch are in jeopardy. If you don't raise them in the fiscal cliff discussions, who will?

This is more than a budget debate: it is a moral decision.

Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

Any deal must do the following:

  • Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people from harmful cuts and changes — programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit.
  • Include sufficient new tax revenue by raising rates and eliminating unnecessary tax loopholes — so that our country can reduce its deficit.
  • Prevent further cuts to discretionary programs, like poverty-focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Congress must reach a deal, but it must also adhere to our values. An imbalanced package will severely undermine our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. Call Congress today. We cannot let up now. Time is running out, and Congress needs to keep hearing from us.

Photo: Alex "Alli" Morris, from Bend, Ore., depends on SNAP, WIC, and other safety net programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)

From the Depths of Longing

'drop' photo (c) 2011, Anders Printz - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Psalm 42. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]  
By Rev. Leslie Veen
Thirst. Deep thirst. An existential thirst. Crying out from the very depth of the psalmist's body. A thirst brought about by separation from God.
 
Removed from the sacred places he once knew. Removed from the worshipping community that had sustained him. The psalmist is left flailing. Searching. Longing for God.
 
Those who surround him now are of no help. In fact, they only serve to make matters worse. They mockingly ask where this psalmist's God is as they point out the dire nature of his circumstances.
 
From the depths of his entire being the psalmist cries out. And the depths of creation call back. The awesomeness of God's good creation demonstrates God's love and presence and remind the psalmist of past times when God's love and presence were very real for him.
 
This gives the psalmist confidence to expect that things will be different, better, in the future. God has been a help in the past. God will be a help in the future. Then the psalmist will be able once again to praise God.
 
Then. But not yet. For now the psalmist must wait.
 
And so must we. In this season of Advent, what deep longing cries out from within us? How do the depths of God's creation call back? How are we being asked to wait for God as we cry, "Come Lord Jesus, come!"?
 
Prayer: Compassionate God, we find ourselves deep within this time of waiting, longing for you and for things to be different in our lives and in the world. Like the psalmist, embolden us to be confident that as you have been our help in the past so will you be our help in the future. Hear our longings and bless our waiting. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
 
Rev. Leslie Veen (SFTS Master of Divinity '05) is San Francisco Theological Seminary's director of field education and placement.

Preparing to Meet Jesus

'Giving Hands and Red Pushpin' photo (c) 2009, Artotem - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Luke 3:7-18. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]   

By Rev. Dr. Rick Snyder

In every church I've served, a ritual begins early in Advent—the Worship Committee begins fielding the question: "When are we going to start singing Christmas carols?" When we try to explain the significance of Advent—that Advent is about spiritual disciplines, self-examination, repentance, and most of all heartfelt preparation for the miracle of incarnation—eyes tend to glaze over. Such is our cultural context, even in central Illinois. As one congregant put it, "I'm not into this morbid introspection."

So we're not really prepared for John the Baptist stalking out of the wilderness, telling the curious crowds, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance ... the axe is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Have a nice day!
 
We can't hide behind our religious credentials, ethnic heritage or baptism. For John, what is needed is repentance, a radical turning from our sin and our sins. John knows each of us has our temptations—to hoard, to misuse power, to give into greed, to lord over, or to use others, especially those whose voices have long been silent. We're called to repent and to demonstrate that repentance by bearing visible fruit, clear evidence of God's love and justice.
 
I am fortunate to have just seen such fruit in the ministry of our sister church in Havana, Cuba, located in a gritty, working-class neighborhood. The church offers clean drinking water, exercise and tai chi classes, a feeding program for the elderly, medicinal herbs and spices, a clothing distribution, monthly classical concerts, Al-Anon classes for their youth, and neighborhood dances—all of this from a congregation of 135 members.
 
Strange that "the least" seem to have the least difficulty being generous. And I think they understand the true meaning of Advent!
 
Rev. Dr. Rick Snyder (SFTS Master of Divinity/Master of Arts '74 and SFTS Doctor of Ministry '79) is a San Francisco Theological Seminary trustee.

Let Us Rejoice and Pay Tribute

'Earthen Vessels' photo (c) 2008, Eric Chan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Philippians 4:4-7 . Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]          

By Rochelle Rawls Shaw

The "Hope of All the Earth" has been given to and received by Christians around the world. All we had to do was know it and receive it. It is a free gift accessible to all believers. We don't have to worry about anything—nothing at all, but just be thankful.

During this time of year, we retell the story and sing songs of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But today, today I wish to rejoice and pay tribute through song, to Our Creator for all the things He has done. I want to pay tribute to God, Our Father, for giving us such a precious gift.

To God Be The Glory (by Andrae Crouch)

How can I say thanks
for the things you have done for me
Things so undeserved
Yet you give to prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Cannot express my gratitude
All that I am or ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee

To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things He has done
With His blood, He has saved me
By His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

Just let me live my life
And let it be pleasing, Lord to Thee.
   

Rochelle Rawls Shaw is a San Francisco Theological Seminary student and intern.

Act Now! Congress Needs to Hear Your Voice

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Suzanne Lefreniere of Portland, Maine talks about hunger and poverty issues with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Time is running out for Congress and the president to come to a deal before we reach the fiscal cliff in January.

Negotiations are underway and moving fast. This is the moment for you to act. Call your senators and representative today and tell them to push for a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the budget agreement.

Ask them to:

  1. Include explicit protections for effective programs that serve hungry and poor people — programs such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit;
  2. Balance responsible spending cuts with new tax revenue; and
  3. Prevent further disproportionate cuts to portions of the budget that fund poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).

For a side-by-side look at the budget proposals from President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner, and how those proposals would affect programs that help poor and hungry people, take a look at Bread's new fiscal cliff fact sheet.

Even if you’ve called before, your members of Congress can’t hear from you often enough on this important issue. Call the Capitol switchboard to be connected to your member of Congress: 202-224-3121, or use our toll-free number: 1-800-826-3688.

The Deep Well of Salvation

Church_in_wales_ Lavernock
Photo of church in Beddgelert, Wales, by flickr user Jim Linwood

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Isaiah 12:2-6. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.] 

By Rev. Dr. Rebecca Button Prichard 

My family roots are in Wales. On my first visit to Wales, while searching for those roots, I came upon an ancient well in a deep, green grove. The well was near an old, old church with a Yew tree in its yard. I doubt this is my family's parish, but my imagination led me to hope that my forebears had visited such a well for healing, for spiritual renewal, for prayer or guidance.

Over the years, I have visited deep wells, holy wells throughout Wales and Ireland and Scotland. In these places, clear water springs forth from within the earth. This is the water of salvation, of healing, of cleansing, of baptism, of memory, of hope. These Celtic wells are green and mossy, places of pilgrimage and prayer. The Bible's wells were streams in the desert, water for thirsty travelers, places of meeting, rest and renewal, oases.

Just so, the prophet Isaiah promises that in times of footsore fear, of weary wandering, of watchful waiting, the tired traveler, the advent pilgrim will drink from the wells of salvation - we will draw joy and gratitude from those deep springs beneath the earth. In deserts and in wild woods, the weary will stop and imbibe the clear water of healing and wholeness, of saving grace.

Annie Dillard said, "We catch grace ... as water from a waterfall." The waters of salvation are deep and plentiful. So is grace. Catch it if you can. Lower your bucket. Hold out your empty hands. Let your vessel overflow.

So, stop. Rest. Pray. Drink. Draw grace from the sacred depths of the Word, draw comfort from the Spirit's presence, draw healing from the overflowing love that is God. And then share it, with joy and thanksgiving.

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Button Prichard is a visiting professor of theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Looking Back on the Creation of "Hunger for the Word"

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Bread for the World's Hunger for the Word series is a three-volume set of lectionary reflections authored by pastors, professors, and other hunger advocates who are part of the Bread movement.

The books include weekly sermon/homily reflections, suggestions for worship music, and ideas for children’s sermons to help spread God’s word of activism, compassion, and integrity. The volumes, available both in print and online, were first published between 2004 and 2006 and continue to be among Bread's most popular, beloved resources.

Bread senior regional organizer Larry Hollar, who edited and compiled the series, offers these words on its creation.

Ten years ago this fall I was at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., on my four-month time away from Bread for the World, editing the Hunger for the Word trilogy. Sometimes I’m reminded why I did that and what a blessing it has been.

Recently, Rev. Alan Brown, senior pastor of Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church in Fremont, Ohio, wrote to me on Facebook:

“Thank you for your work in Hunger for the Word (Year C). Your sharing of [contributor] Noelle Damico's thoughts in relationship to Luke 1:39-45 [….]will be extremely useful as I guide my parishioners to a deeper place of understanding and insight as we partner with our local family homeless shelter during the seasons of this Advent and Christmas this year.”

Alan was my student in a Mission and Evangelism class that I taught at United Theological Seminary in Dayton about six years ago. Needless to say, he came by his copy of HFTW because I assigned it in class, but more significant to me is that he still uses it. And I hear from others as well that the stories and insights the nearly four dozen writers shared in HFTW still resonate profoundly today. How amazing what the Spirit can do!

I’m truly grateful to [former Bread director of organizing] Kathy Pomroy and [former Bread managing director] Jim McDonald for giving me the encouragement and time over a decade ago to conceive and create these books; to the great writers, and to all of you for continuing to make these Spirited writings available to a world hungering for a word of hope, joy, love, and peace.

In the News: David Beckmann on Faith and the Fiscal Cliff

Beckmann_and _bread_mosaic
Photo: David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

While the economic consequences associated with falling off of the so-called fiscal cliff are being debated, the morality of budget decisions has not been widely discussed, says Bread for the World president David Beckmann in an op-ed piece in The Hill:

At the core of the budget debate is a deeply moral issue. We must prioritize those in need, especially during the season of Advent. If Congress and the president can reach a deal that meets these criteria, they will have our full support.

Beckmann also recently spoke to MSNBC about faith and the fiscal cliff, and the lack of conversation about poor and hungry people in current negotiations, in a Dec. 11 piece.

“It’s really extraordinary that the two political parties don’t talk much about poor people,” Beckmann told MSNBC.  “The Republican Party generally doesn’t. They have other priorities, certainly other than protecting programs for poor people.”

And President Obama, Beckmann said, has done a good job protecting certain programs, “but he doesn’t like to use the word poverty, so he calls them, ‘people who want to be middle-class.”

But the Good Book, Beckmann noted, is clear: “God does talk about poor people… The New Testament says a nation will be judged by whether or not we take care of poor people and how we treat people in prison.”

Bread for the World views the federal budget as a moral document prioritizing our national values. The respective budget proposals from President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner fail to include the principle that deficit reduction should not increase poverty.

For a side-by-side look at the proposals from President Obama and Speaker Boehner, and how those proposals would affect programs that help poor and hungry people, take a look at Bread's new fiscal cliff fact sheet. We also ask that you contact your members of Congress and tell them that any budget deal must include a circle of protection around programs that address hunger and poverty, in the United States and abroad.

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