Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

World Prayers for Aug. 31-Sept. 6: Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia

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Święconka is a  Polish tradition of blessing food on Holy Saturday. Ołtarzew, Poland, 2007 (photo by Paterm from Wikimedia Commons)

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give. In this blog series, we will be providing a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
 
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
 
We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of August 31 through September 6, we will be praying for the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia:

Lord, God of all people, we offer our thanks for the nations and people of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia.

We give you thanks especially for the rich traditions of these people and for their strength and fortitude during tumultuous moments in their nations’ histories. Despite persecution, war, and repression under Nazi and Soviet domination, the people of theses countries remained hopeful, steadfast to their faiths that offered strength in demanding times. We offer our thanks especially for pastors and priests who remained faithful to their calling even when they were persecuted.

Today, we pray for continued economic stability in these places, and we especially remember the poor, the elderly, and the unemployed who bear the brunt of economic reforms and the loss of state social services.

We also remember the victims of anti-semitism, and ethnic, gender, and social intolerance in the midst of rising nationalism and pray for a renewal of the church in the midst of both growing freedom and growing secularization.

We offer our gratitude for the people of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, and pray in a special way that they and all of us will continue to grow with one another in faith and trust in God. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2012 figures):

  • Czech Republic: 8.6
  • Poland:17.1
  • Slovakia: 13.2

Source: World Bank

Justice Work is Hard. Poverty is Harder.

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(Bread for the World)

By Donna Pususta Neste

Justice work is hard. Those who desire their government to work for all its citizens are up against some mighty forces that seek to maintain the status quo. There are those who benefit from others’ poverty, vulnerability, and voicelessness. These people are few in number in a society, but their power runs deep and wide, because they have the funds and know-how to spread misinformation and buy influence. There is a general attitude of indifference among many who are comfortable and refuse to see the root causes of the suffering of people who are poor. 

Justice workers are also up against fear. People are often afraid to use their power. They are afraid of retribution by those who want everything to remain the same, a fear not always unfounded. They are also up against a certain kind of powerlessness that comes with poverty.

Their most natural allies—people who struggle to support themselves and their families—have little time for the actions necessary to alleviate the state of their existence: to go to city hall to protest a law that infringes on their rights, to visit their representatives in Washington to advocate for a law that would benefit them, or to study policies that hold them back. Most of their time is used on actions necessary to survive. To walk their children to day care before hopping a bus to a job that barely sustains them. To spend most of their free time visiting clothes closets, food pantries, and community meals in order to make ends meet and feed their children. To keep seemingly endless appointments with government bureaucrats in order to turn in applications, proofs, and justifications of their needs.

Poverty is stressful. When a person is losing sleep over how to come up with the rent, there is little to no extra energy left over to organize around the issue of a living wage. That’s why I do my best to raise my voice with our nation’s leaders, to make the lives of people who struggle a little bit easier.

Donna Pususta Neste is a Bread for the World board member and former coordinator of Neighborhood Ministries in Minneapolis.  

Reflection: Babies Seek and Remember

Baby 500
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).


By Kierra Jackson

 “And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)

My interest in maternal and child nutrition brought me to my full-time job at Bread for the World where I work as the major gifts coordinator/development officer. On the side, I help deliver babies as a trained doula. Something I’ve learned in this work is that, as humans, we remember—even in our very first minutes and hours of life.

If you’ve ever seen a baby pass from life in the body to life out in the world, you may have noticed a couple of things. First, in the moments before birth, there’s this rush—a mighty wind of hands, instructions, encouraging words, heightened speech, and amplified energy—all to prepare for and to welcome this fresh human being into the world. If possible, the newborn is brought close to the mother, skin to skin, to regulate her body temperature and to encourage bonding, which helps in breastfeeding.

This is my body.

Keep watching and you’ll see that mother and baby coo at each other, cry tears of joy and relief at each other. They touch and start getting to know one another.

It takes a couple minutes before a newborn begins to use language. She’ll begin by licking the air, stick her little pink tongue out and pull it back in, open her mouth and then look for her hands and bring them to her mouth.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said.

The search is a steady and relentless one. Her head bobs, hands grab, tongue licks, and then a bit of grunting or fussing. In cases where moms need extra medical attention, a baby will often be placed with her shirtless father to share the positive effects of skin-to-skin contact with a parent. Even then she’s searching, and sometimes finds a nipple—a dad nipple!

This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance.

You see, babies know. They seem to have this ability to remember that the greatest gift to them is the body. Even when they are born, they long to return to the body that has been broken open for them, that will feed them, hold them, nurture and love them.

Before they even have the fullness of memory, I like to believe that babies have shared words with Jesus. That Christ said, “Remember me, baby, remember me. I love you.”

So, for many of us who have heard this regular reminder to remember, we do just that.

We remember the unique needs of maternal and child nutrition. We remember that food is the first thing we long for, that it sustains the body. Without it, we are most fragile. We remember that our work at Bread for the World, in its many forms, is so critical to feeding babies, mothers, and fathers.

Christ gave us his body that we might remember. Let us give thanks for this life-giving gift.

Kierra Jackson is major gifts coordinator at Bread for the World. She is also a trained birth doula.

Building the Political Will to End Hunger in Virginia’s 10th District

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Frank Wolf NG
Republican Rep. Frank Wolf represented congressional district Va.-10 for 17 terms. He was honored for his work addressing hunger at Bread for the World’s 2014 Lobby Day reception. (Jim Stipe)

By Robin Stephenson

We can end hunger by 2030 if we build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017. Electing legislators who prioritize ending hunger is key, says Stephen Hill, senior organizer for elections issues at Bread for the World.

Being politically engaged is also part of living out our faith.

“Just as Jesus regularly went to the public square to minister, advocate, and proclaim the good news,” Hill says, “we too must maintain an active presence in today’s public square in order to preserve justice and order in society and government.”

Hill is elevating hunger and poverty as campaign topics in the tenth congressional district of Virginia. Barbara Comstock, the Republican candidate, will face Democrat John Foust for the empty House seat in the general election on November 4.

Outgoing Congressman Frank Wolf (R) was honored in June by Bread for the World for his work to address hunger in the United States and abroad. He is retiring after more than 30 years in Congress. Hill says that although we may lose Wolf to retirement, we do not need to lose his commitment to ending hunger if the person elected knows his or her voters will not tolerate a legislator who is lukewarm on issues of food insecurity.

Using the influence of voters in the district, Hill wants to get the candidates talking about hunger.

“Our goal will be to educate, inspire, and influence the electorate. From the ballot box to the pulpit, we want to make sure that these issues factor into the conscience of the voters and the political agendas of the candidates.”

Before joining Bread’s staff, Hill was deputy district director for Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio-1). Hill knows first-hand how constituents influence their members of Congress. Politically engaged voters make an impact by building relationships with staff and attending town halls, becoming what he calls more than a voice on the phone.

Hill is looking for interested individuals to join his team in district 10 as he builds a coalition of the willing. Volunteers can assist by distributing literature at events, attending precinct meetings, recruiting others, and helping with polling as well as other election activities.

“This is a very busy district and we need maximum participation to touch as many voters as possible with our message.”

Election work that aims to build the political will to end hunger can also build a renewed sense of purpose for a post-election Congress. Instead of focusing on conflict and apathy, Hill believes faith can build a sense of community.

“Christ, as both the lion and the lamb, reconciles all conflicts and differences,” says Hill. “In him we are conquerors, and through him we have victory, purpose, and a true sense of community.”

Virginians interested in getting involved are encouraged to contact Stephen Hill for more information. In addition to volunteers, he is also looking for a catchy campaign slogan that will inspire. Contact him at  202-270-8180 or by email, shill@bread.org.  Elsewhere in the United States, you can help make hunger a part of the elections with Elections Matter resources.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.

Bread for the Preacher: A Just and Loving Social Order

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 (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Rev.Nancy Neal

I have been part of several conversations in the last few days about how the news seems more troubling than usual. There is trouble in Ferguson, Mo., in Iraq and Syria, in Israel and Palestine, and Ukraine. There are unaccompanied refugee children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and floods, droughts, and earthquakes in the western parts of the United States. We are more aware of happenings around the world because of technology and the internet, but it seems that this only brings us closer to some aspect of injustice.

And hunger is front and center. As Bread for the World seeks to end hunger by 2030, we will be working on a variety of issues through the lens of hunger because we are working for an end of hunger that is sustainable and just. The texts this month remind us that God is relentless in working for a just and loving social order. Each week offers us an opportunity to explore aspects of God’s righteousness, whether it is through stories of forgiveness and fair wages or even God’s call through the prophets for repentance.

Reverend Nancy Neal is the associate for denominational women's organzation relations at Bread for the World

Flexible Food Aid Meets People Where They Are

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Reforms to make U.S. food aid more flexible will benefit farmers, like the one pictured from El Salvador, and local economies  to build resilience against future food insecurity. (Jim Stipe)

By Arnulfo Moreno

Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish? We all have that innate feeling to help someone when disaster strikes. Children should not have to go to bed hungry because a tsunami happened to hit their neighborhood or because they were living on a fault line. At the same time, aid should not destroy local economies in order to provide temporary relief. As this article highlights, the key is flexibility.

Most of the federal government's programs that deliver food aid were created in the 1950s, but many of the administrative policies haven’t changed since then. The global population in 1950 was 2.5 billion people. In 2010, the year most recent data is available, the population was more than 6.8 billion people and growing. The rigid restrictions on food aid did not take into account such growth or changes in agriculture technology and transportation, as well as cultural and political changes.

The most important thing that we can draw upon from this past half century is experience. We know that flooding a market with free food can paralyze local economies and has adverse effects on populations when the food is not common to the region. We have seen that having the flexibility to purchase food locally or to issue food vouchers benefits not only those receiving the assistance but also local farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurship.  

We can continue to invest in people and future trade partners by making food aid more potent. By allowing food to be purchased locally, we help those economies devastated by disasters, both natural and human-caused, and ensure that they become self-sufficient.

As a taxpayer, I want to make sure that my money is used to help those who need it, not to line the pockets of the shipping industry or other industries. Allowing food-aid programs the flexibility to choose the best transportation method and food-allocation method helps bring costs down and grants our government the ability to help millions more with no additional cost to taxpayers.

If we set aside money to help our brothers and sisters around the world, then we have to make sure that every penny is used as efficiently as possible. Food aid should have the flexibility to meet people where they are. Give people a fish and/or show them how to fish, depending on their circumstance—not on a rigid set of our outdated policies.   

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Hunger in the News: Poverty and Incarceration, Famine in South Sudan, Riding the Beast, Polling Congress

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

Why Cutting Down Jail Time is Key to Fighting Poverty,” by Julian Adler, Moyers & Company. “Many of us who work in the criminal justice system have come to understand the profound connection between poverty and mass incarceration.”

To South Sudan’s woes, add famine — 50,000 kids at risk of death,” by Ty McCormick, The Washington Post. “Nyarony Choing is as old as South Sudan. And like the world’s newest nation, she has been to hell and back before her fourth birthday.”

A Shocking Number of America’s Military Families Are Going Hungry,” by Samantha Cowan, Take Part. “Along with countless sacrifices military families make to protect the U.S., one-quarter of them struggle with food insecurity.”

Migrants risk life and limb to reach the US on train known as the Beast,” by Jo Tuckman, The Guardian. “A crackdown in Mexico is making life hard for Central American people trying to flee poverty and violence via rail to the US.”

Asians poorer than official data suggest, says ADB,” by Ben Bland, The Financial Times. “The Asian Development Bank has joined calls for a rethink of the way poverty is measured, saying the number of poor in Asia would jump more than 1bn if more realistic criteria were used.”

Religious Response to Ferguson,” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (video). “R&E discusses the responses of religious communities with Alton Pollard III, dean of Howard University Divinity School, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Republicans More Focused on Immigration as Top Problem,” by Frank Newport, Gallup.  “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are significantly more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to say that immigration and moral decline are top problems in the U.S., while Democrats are more likely to mention poverty and education.”

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures for Parents and Children at the Border

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Catarina Pascual Jimenez (center) feeds her two twins. (Bread for the World)

By Bishop José García

The Holy Scripture relates the story of a mother, Jochebed. Hard times and a famine led her country to a condition of slavery, oppression, and persecution. Her child was under a death sentence. All of these circumstances led her to take a desperate solution. Rather than waiting for the direst of outcomes, she put the baby in a basket and placed him in the river banks, hoping this way he would have better chances for survival.  

This same story within a 21st century context is now repeated for thousands of families in Central America. Parents are facing hunger, poverty and hard times in their countries. Oppression and violence threaten their children. Many have two options: join the organized criminal gangs or die. Out of desperation these parents are doing the same thing Jochebed did, sending their children on a journey to a country where they will have better chances to live and make better choices. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that some of the children who have been deported back to their home country have lost their lives upon their return, victims of the violence they fled. It is by God’s grace only that we enjoy the freedom and privileges of our country. We cannot ignore the plight of these children and their families.

The Bible teaches that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him(Romans 10:12). Jesus taught us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. In a more direct admonition about the treatment of immigrants among us, Leviticus 19:33-34 says: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

As Christians, we are called to live by the principles and values of the Kingdom of God, and to be an extension of Jesus’s love, compassion, and example of service. The Scripture admonishes us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27). We have the power to call our members of Congress to respond to this crisis in a compassionate way. And our members of Congress have the power to act with a humanitarian and dignified way to this crisis.

Will you act?

Email your members of Congress.  Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

World Prayers for Aug. 24-30: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

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A Latvian dinner consisting of a cold soup, pot-cooked cabbage, a cotlette, a gjerkin, sour milk (kefir), and some Russian kvas. Aigars Mahinovs via Wikimedia Commons

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give. In this blog series, we will be providing a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
 
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
 
We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of August 24 to 30, we will be praying for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania:

Lord, God of all people, we give you thanks for the unique contribution of the Baltic and Finnic peoples to the flourishing of your world.

We give you thanks especially for their strong, historical commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lord, care for the people of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as they face economic hardship.  Provide good jobs that they might honor you in their work. We pray that strong and just economies will be built where all people have a place at the table as these countries emerge from decades of communism.

Merciful God, raise up the church in those countries to care for the hungry and the marginalized. Give wisdom to their leaders as they seek the common good. In your way and by your means, end hunger and poverty there.

We pray all these things in the name of our Savior who redeems, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Figures for these countries' Human Development Index (HDI), a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living:

  • Lithuania: HDI value for 2012 is 0.818—in the very high human development category—positioning the country at 41 out of 187 countries and territories.
  • Estonia: HDI value for 2012 is 0.846
  • Latvia: HDI value for 2012 is 0.814
  • For comparison: HDI value for the United States in 2012 was 0.937, third highest in the world after Norway and Australia.

Source: United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report 2013

Member Profile: Rev. Roger and Marilyn Timm

Timms 1By Stephen Padre

In mid-June, Bread for the World held its National Gathering and Lobby Day. More than 300 anti-hunger activists from across the country came to Washington, D.C., for education, inspiration, and to speak directly to their lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The gathering was an occasion to celebrate Bread’s 40th anniversary and to recognize many of the founders and early staff members who got the organization off the ground. This celebration was possible because so many Bread for the World members have, decade after decade, supported the organization and engaged in advocacy.

Among those attending the gathering were Rev. Roger and Marilyn Timm, a couple from Emmaus, Pa. Roger Timm has been a Bread member since its founding, yet remarkably, he had never attended one of its National Gatherings until this year. “I’ve been a member for 40 years, so I thought I should come celebrate,” he said at the gathering.

Roger had spent his career as a Lutheran pastor. In 1974 he was working at a small church in Bronxville, N.Y., when he heard of Rev. Art Simon. Simon was a fellow Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, not far from Roger’s church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Roger later joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Simon had founded a new organization called Bread for the World, and Roger became a member.

The final congregation Roger served before he retired in 2011 was in the Chicago suburbs, where he and Marilyn had lived for many years. Besides providing financial support over the years, Roger was involved in other ways with Bread in the congregations and campus ministries he served. He often conducted an Offering of Letters and organized a performance of Bread’s musical, Lazarus.

“Now that I’m retired, I’ve got more time,” Roger said. “One of the things I can do is be more active in advocacy.” This has included the trip to Washington, D.C., to visit his members of Congress as he and Marilyn did on Lobby Day following the gathering in June.

As a pastor, addressing hunger has always been a fundamental biblical tenet for Roger. “Providing food is one thing, but it’s important to go beyond that and advocate for hungry people,” he said. He added that he resonates with Bread’s belief that the government can provide more than churches can.

Marilyn shares Roger’s passion for social justice and global issues. Before she retired in 2007, Marilyn worked for 11 years in the global mission department of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at its church-wide offices in Chicago. Her positions in different parts of the department gave her a broad view of the denomination’s work around the world through missionaries and with relief and development projects. Both Marilyn and Roger give thanks that Bread is a ministry of the ELCA and is a vital partner in the denomination’s anti-hunger work domestically and internationally.

Roger and Marilyn Timm embody the generous financial support and steadfast involvement in advocacy that have sustained Bread for 40 years. To the Timms and many others who have been with Bread over the decades, we say a hearty thank you.

Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Photo:  Roger and Marilyn Timm at Bread for the World's National Gathering in June in Washington, D.C.  (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter.

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