Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

62 posts from March 2013

Lenten Reflections: It’s All True


Women in white circle a church in Sudan. (Margie Nea)

Sunday, March 31, 2012
Easter Sunday

Lectionary reading:

John 20:1-18

By Miriam Dewhurst

In John’s account of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb first and when she sees that the stone has been rolled away, she runs to Peter and John and says to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and John run to the tomb, enter and see the empty burial cloths, and go home.

But Mary stands outside the tomb, crying.  When she looks into the tomb, she sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been.  The angels ask Mary why she is crying.  She says, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”  As Mary turns away, she sees Jesus, whom she mistakes for the gardener, and again voices her overriding concern.  “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  We can all identify with Mary.  We have all experienced a time when love mingled with grief or anxiety resulted in a single-mindedness that blotted out everything else.  Did Mary even realize she was speaking to angels?  And why did she see them when Peter and John did not? 

“Mary.”  That moment of recognition must always come as a shock.  Mary can only say, “Rabboni!”  And later, to the disciples, presumably now gathered to discuss what Peter and John had seen, “I have seen the Lord.”  These are the moments when the world changed. God had done something so big, so powerful, so real that those experiencing it could only wonder, and witness.

True story:  Many years ago, an Episcopal priest, rector of a church in Darien, Conn., learned from a young couple in his congregation that the husband had cancer. The cancer went into remission and some time later the couple moved to Lyon, France. A few years later, shortly before Christmas, the priest received a call from the wife, letting him know that the cancer had returned and her husband was dying. As he hung up the phone, the priest had a strong feeling that he should visit this man, but he was rector and it was Christmas and his daughters would be home from school for the holidays. He did check with the airlines for the cost of three round trip tickets to Paris. A day or two later, the priest received a check in the mail for the precise amount of the plane tickets, to the penny, with a note that he was to use the money for himself and not for the church. So the day after Christmas, the priest and his daughters boarded a flight for Paris. Near the end of the flight a problem occurred in Paris that caused the plane to be diverted to Lyon. The priest and his daughters were able to deplane in Lyon and they went immediately to the man’s house. The priest had not told the couple that he was coming and so when the wife opened the door, she was shocked. All day her husband had been telling her that the priest was coming, but she had thought he was delirious. When the priest walked into the man’s bedroom, the man looked up at him, smiled and said, “Now I know that it’s all true … and I am so happy!”

“I have seen the Lord!” says Mary. “Now I know that it’s all true,” says a man near death.  Most of us have not had experiences as powerful as these, but thanks to these witnesses, we, too, can believe.  Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!  Happy Easter!

Prayer:  Lord God, today and everyday, help us to remember that it’s all true.  Amen

Miriam Dewhurst is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

Lenten Reflections: The Circus and Holy Saturday

Woman_at_ntl_gatheringSaturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday

Lectionary reading:

Romans 6: 3-11

By Paul B. Dornan

When we drove to Buffalo early in January for my beloved sister’s memorial service, we found that Jean’s sons had set aside a room of her apartment with her toys, masks, artwork, all for distribution among her five brothers.  For many, many years Jean and I had given each other gifts for Christmas, and, since we both liked toys, I had given her many of the remembrances in that room.  I claimed many of those gifts for my inheritance and brought them home.  And, since both she and I had selected gifts for each other that we ourselves might otherwise have bought for ourselves—we were that close—Jean’s wind-up toys and mine meshed seamlessly into one collection.  Now we have displayed in our living room a circus scene, half of toys that I had given Jean and half of toys that she had given me.  Her ferris wheel and my merry-go-round, her clown on a scooter, my elephant with a ball.

It seems to me that most Protestant churches more or less forget Holy Saturday. Even those believers who commemorate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday spend the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter dying eggs and hiding them, baking, preparing for Easter dinner.  But, as Alan Lewis reminds us in his book, Between Cross and Resurrection:  A Theology of Holy Saturday, the glory of Easter is completely lost unless we first concentrate on the horror of the cross and the terrible certainty of the grave.  If we more or less arrive at the stark beauty of the empty tomb without first encountering the cross and grave, then the glory is pallid and cheap.  Moreover, we avoid the connection between the hope of the resurrection and the sufferings and death which is our own sure fate. James Cone, in the book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, makes a similar argument when he claims that 21st century Americans can’t begin to feel the triumph of Easter unless they sense the terror, unpredictability, and humiliation of the closest thing to crucifixion in American experience—the lynching tree. 

In the words of the Apostle Paul, “You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life.”

I can’t begin to claim that I know what happens after death.  It is the great unknowing.  But I do sense that there is and yearn for a drawing together of all the loose threads of love and affection with which we have already been blessed—a completion of that great divine act of crucifixion, death, and resurrection— a circus of grace.

“Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?  He is not here; he has risen”  (Luke 24:5b).

Paul B. Dornan is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.     

Photo: A woman praying during second day of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University in Washington, D.C. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

Lenten Reflections: The Missing Station


Bread for the World activists begin their Lobby Day at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Friday, March 29, 2013
Good Friday

Lectionary readings:
John 18:1-19:42
Hebrews 4:14-16

By Adlai J. Amor

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrew 4:14-16)

Growing up in the Philippines, Good Friday always meant Via Dolorosa or Via Crucis – the Stations of the Cross. My strict Anglo-Catholic aunts always made sure that we did not forget that. To avoid being called irihis (heretics), my siblings and I would piously accompany them to church. There they would join other women fervently praying while kneeling on the bare floor before each of the 14 stations.

I never fully understood the value of their ritual or what those images meant. All I knew was that they prayed the Lord’s Prayer, the full rosary, and the Hail Mary in each of the 14 stations. I have flashes of those images: Jesus bearing a cross; Jesus with his mother, Mary; Jesus crucified; and Jesus taken down from the cross.  After the first station, we would be fidgeting on our sore knees— and grumbling that it was cutting into time that we could have spent playing.

It was only when I matured as a Christian that I understood the meaning of Via Dolorosa. It is simply a recreation of Christ’s passion. It is Jesus' ancient journey walked today. The practice of Via Crucis originated in early pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

Franciscan monks were said to have first started erecting chapels depicting scenes from Jesus’ last days. For a long time, only Franciscans—who were given control over the holy sites in Jerusalem —were allowed to build such stations. The chapels eventually evolved into sculptures, plaques, or paintings housed inside the sanctuary—as it was in my aunts’ church. 

Originally, there was no set number of stations but by 1731 the norm was set at 14 stations.  Of this, only 8 have direct biblical references. The others are considered embellishments—Jesus falling three times; Jesus taken down from the cross and laid on his mother’s arms.

But whether based entirely on scripture or not, Via Dolorosa has become one the most popular  devotions for Catholics. Prayed in the spirit of atonement, it helps devotees go through their own Lenten pilgrimage by meditating on the scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.

To this day, I still have to find a good explanation of why the Roman Catholic Church settled on 14 stations in the early 1700s. But in the end, mathematical exactitude does not really matter. It is our faith that matters. Whether we experience this ancient devotion today or read Jesus’ passion in the Bible, it is worth remembering that without Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, we would never have been saved.

Three days later, Jesus’ journey will end. Then we can celebrate the 15th—and missing—station: Easter and His resurrection.

“God as we walk through this day may we remember: Beyond sin there is love inexhaustible;beyond death there is life unimaginable; beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible; beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally. May we remember and give thanks for the wonder of your love. Amen.”  (Christine Sine, Mustard Seed Associates)

Adlai J. Amor is Bread for the World's director of communications and a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change

Photo by flickr user Dyanna Hyde.

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Susan Herman

I’ve lost four pounds. It’s a good thing; I had them to lose.

Before I go any further I’ll assure you that the kids have not lost weight during our SNAP challenge. About the only thing they’re hurting for is Goldfish crackers. When I take one of them to the store and explain that I’m trying to get the best ratio of nutrients to dollars, thus skipping the snack aisle and the $7.49 carton of colored crackers, there’s usually a pause.

Followed by, “But we’re OUT. We need MORE.”

And as it turns out, I broke down Saturday and bought a small package of the Pepperidge Farm goodies anyway, in honor of a glorious sunny day and family ramble in the Sierra foothills. So our kids are not deprived.

I’ve lost weight by abandoning my habit of drinking a glass (or two) of wine at 9:45 every night. You can’t use SNAP benefits to buy alcohol, and because our simulation has us using only our dedicated food stamp-like budget for all the food and drink we consume, the Two Buck Chuck had to go. I have taken to substituting water or iced tea in a wine glass so I can still go through the ritual of shaping my hand just so and swirling.

Someone asked me recently whether we felt our Lenten discipline was producing permanent change. I told her I hope to say a permanent goodbye to those four pounds, and maybe give them a few more neighbors in Lost Pounds heaven. But I hope for more than that.

Continue reading "40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change" »

Lenten Reflections: Write It on Their Hearts

Photo by flickr user Mumu X

March 28, 2013
Maundy Thursday

Lectionary readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34                
Psalm 89             
Luke 22:7-20                 
Hebrews 10:16-25

 By Kathryn Sparks

Littered landscape
Tent home
Grieving mother
Lost child

Heart, write it on my

Worried earth
Hungry tenant
Furious father
Lonely babe

Heart, write it on

Defenseless greens
Overturned shelters
Cold caretakers
In between brothers

Heart, write it
Heart, write

And they shall be my people!

Nowhere but in the full and final forgiveness could I hope to understand:
“This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God…

we are made


Kathryn Sparks is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

The First Step Toward Justice? 'Come and See'

Jeanette_Mott_Oxford_blogBy Zach Schmidt

Bread for the World member Jeanette Mott Oxford is a former Missouri state representative who now directs the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. Jeanette played a leading role in Bread’s recent actions in Missouri. She recently sat down with me to talk about her time as an elected official and her years of faith-based advocacy.

Tell us about your faith journey. Were there any significant shifts or defining moments?

I grew up in the Christian fundamentalist tradition in rural southern Illinois. My parents were in a gospel quartet, and my uncle was a tent evangelist. As a child, I attended a lot of revivals! We were encouraged to personally witness to others, and I have carried with me the belief that there should be unity between what you say you believe and what your actions demonstrate.

I left the church for a while and then came back through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA]. Eventually, I settled on a United Church of Christ [UCC] congregation and have stayed with the denomination ever since. I found that these denominations had a focus on “corporate sin.” This was a significant shift for me, from a focus primarily on individual practices and a pious life to thinking about who we are as a part of systems and nations, and thinking corporately about questions like, “Are people being fed? How are we treating the least of these?”

How did you come to see advocacy as an important part of helping people in need?

Bread for the World played an integral role. When I first discovered Bread in the 1980s, I thought it was about sending money to care for someone in a famine-torn corner of the world. All I had known about responding to hunger was through charity-type actions. Then I started getting letters from Bread encouraging me to write to my members of Congress, and I quickly became an advocate and tried to learn as much as I could about how domestic and international policy affect hunger.

I also worked with Bread as an intern while studying at Eden Theological Seminary in the St. Louis metro area. At the time, Bread was working on a campaign to increase funding for WIC, and it was an eye-opening experience for me to learn that we could save four dollars in health costs with one dollar of healthy food!

Continue reading "The First Step Toward Justice? 'Come and See'" »

Strength and Precision Lead to Strong Week of Advocacy in the Show-Me State

'Telephone' photo (c) 2010, Sh4rp_i - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Zach Schmidt

Last week was a successful one for Bread for the World’s advocacy in Missouri, as a blitz of phone calls at the beginning of the week paved the way for one crucial, targeted phone call at the end of the week. Here’s how it happened:

On Monday, March 18, Missourians delivered a record 145 phone calls to the offices of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)! With support from pastors, directors, and lay leaders across the state, advocates called on their elected officials to replace the sequester with a balanced plan of smart spending cuts combined with additional revenuea plan that, most importantly, protects hungry and poor people. Thanks to all who made phone calls and especially to those who encouraged others to call as well. Well done!

Four days later, on Friday, March 22, the Senate debated the budget resolution and considered various amendments, some of which caused Bread for the World concern. Sen. McCaskill was again a priority for advocacy, especially on an amendment to cut categorical eligibility for SNAP, which would result in 1 million program participants losing access to benefits. Bread for the World wanted to make sure Sen. McCaskill voted “no” if that amendment came up for a vote. Given the need to deliver a rapid, precise message to the senator’s staff in Washington, Bread’s regional organizer for Missouri called on a respected and informed state leader, Jeanette Mott Oxford.

Bread provided analysis of how this amendment would impact SNAP at both the national and state level. Jeanette shared the information with key staff members in Sen. McCaskill’s office and promptly heard back from Gary Gorski, the senator’s legislative assistant for agricultural policy, who asked for more information on how Missourians would be affected. Thanks to a team effort between Jeanette and Bread’s organizing and government relations staff, the information was delivered, leaving no doubt that this amendment would be disastrous for Missouri.

Thankfully, the harmful amendment ended up being withdrawn, and an important dialogue has now been initiated with Sen. McCaskill’s office—a dialogue that can be built upon during the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Lenten Reflections: Answering the Church Door

Isaac_eating_fruitWednesday, March 27

By Amanda Bornfree

Her eyes held a weariness that I hadn't seen before. She was tired. She sat quietly, with her shoulders slouched, as she held her young boy in her arms. He was restless; hands scratching his head, eyes wandering up toward the ceiling. I could tell he was not eating well. Neither was she. 

I was working late at the church and was the only person to hear the buzz that came from the side door. I had immediately welcomed in the young woman and child. Now, we were in the church’s kitchen. My head was dizzy, from work and the surprise of the unexpected visitors.

It was an early autumn day. No one was yet used to the sky darkening shortly after 5 o’clock. The heat of the summer days was dwindling and the idea of colder days approaching made bodies crave sustenance.

I found three cold apples in the refrigerator, a quarter block of sharp cheddar cheese, half a loaf of bread and some caramel dipping sauce. There was a can of French onion soup in the cupboard. I made her a bowl of soup with shaved cheese on top. She dipped the bread in the broth and fed it to the boy. When he was through, she ate. They were quiet, as most of us are when we eat. I sat across from them at the wobbly coffee-stained kitchen table. Once she had enough, she thanked me and told me about her situation.

40-for-1000_logo_blogHer mother had kicked her out of the house three days earlier. She didn’t share the reason. She was 17 years old and her son was almost 2. She used to come to our summer youth programs when she was 10 and 11. She was trying to reach a teacher that was a member of the church. She mentioned the teacher’s name—I knew her. I had actually spoken to her earlier that day on the phone. So we called her up. After all of the caramel sauce and two of the apples were gone, the teacher arrived. The young woman thanked me again. The little boy had stopped scratching his head and gave me a smile before he rested his cheek on his mother’s shoulder.

I exhaled as the teacher thanked me. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was receiving so many thanks, but now I thank God for blessing me with the stamina to work late that evening. Now, I’ve realized the importance of that simple act of feeding a mother and a child. And, once again, I thank God for blessing me with the ability to do that, and much more, for women and children.

Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in Bread for the World's church relations department.

Photo: Isaac, enjoying fresh fruit. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

The Journey from Federal Safety Net to Trapeze Artist

'IMGP3215' photo (c) 2007, Mark Setchell - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

By Sarah Godfrey

Marketplace has a great story today about a woman who once accessed the federal safety net, specifically SNAP, to stay afloat during a lean period and is now using a safety net of a different sort—she is a trapeze artist.

Mercedes Gallup, a public health nurse at a state college in Southern California, told her story to Marketplace as part of its "Show Us Your Safety Net" series. Gallup talked about using SNAP, then called food stamps, to feed her child, and the stigma attached to pulling them out at the grocery store.

“Back then you held up the line when you were using food stamps,” she remembers.  “They had to check everything and they were paper — it was like a little book of Disneyland cards.

Sometimes, Gallup says she would feel judged. “But I had to feed my kid,” she says. “So I'll hold up the line all day. I was a single mom, I was in nursing school, and had a job. And it just was not enough to cover food.”

Gallup, who used food stamps for three years, said the assistance allowed her to  realize her dream of becoming a nurse. Now, years later, after finishing school and securing a well-paying job, she spends some of her free time flying through the air with the greatest of ease. And, as the piece points out, there is always a net there to catch her, just as there was back when she was a struggling student.

We already know that federal nutrition programs allow people to lift themselves out of poverty and feed their families. Gallup's story may have a particularly cool twist, but it isn't uncommon:  SNAP and other federal nutrition programs offer a lifeline—and a stepping stone—for millions of people.

Contact your member of Congress and tell them to ensure a place at the table for all people by providing adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

Meaningful Conversations About Justice

Bread staff at the 2013 Justice Conference: (l-r) Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant. (Robin Stephenson)

By Sarah Miller

Several weeks have passed since I traveled to Philadelphia for the 2013 Justice Conference, but my mind is still filled with thoughts about the event. This year, I joined the team representing Bread for the World at this two-day event that aims to "promote dialogue around justice-related issues such as human trafficking, slavery, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and human rights." Six Bread staff members, two Bread advocates, and I heard prominent speakers from all over the world, talked to representatives from some of the hundreds of humanitarian organizations in attendance, participated in workshops, and engaged in deep conversations about justice.

I have several friends who attended the biblical and social justice conference last year and raved about the experience. I knew the conference would have an effect on me, but I greatly underestimated its power.

More than 6,000 people gathered in Philadelphia’s downtown convention center, all of them with the same desire—to have meaningful conversations about justice. Flocks of people came by Bread’s exhibition booth to hear about our mission to end hunger and poverty through advocacy. We collected 160 signatures on our petition to the president, which asks President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. 

We also offered conference-goers an opportunity to send powerful anti-hunger messages to members of Congress. We asked people to pose for photos while holding a whiteboard that read: “I want our leaders to make ending hunger a national priority because….” Each person wrote down their thoughts on the importance of ending hunger, along with their name and zip code. After we snapped each person's photo, we tweeted the picture to their U.S. representative. In the end, roughly 40 people used this unique method to contact their representative and engage in dialogue around the issue of hunger.

Bread also held a workshop, "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God," in partnership with Asbury Seminary and Eastern University. The session focused on the process of being changed through advocacy actions and introduced attendees to the website evangelicaladvocacy.org.

We made many new contacts and strengthened existing relationships. We heard powerful, visionary speakers asking attendees to listen to the call of God and make meaningful changes in their communities and around the world. It was truly a time of giving and receiving for all involved.

Sarah Miller is a church relations intern at Bread for the World.

All slideshow photos taken by the Bread for the World Justice Conference team.

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