Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

615 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Coffee and Conversation with US Sen. Jeff Merkley

Merkely and me
Sen. Jeff Merkley and Robin Stephenson. Photo: Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.

By Robin Stephenson

On any given Thursday when Congress is in session, the smell of Oregon’s finest coffee wafts through  U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s Washington, D.C., office. Oregonians gather in a bright blue conference room exchanging greetings and stories as they wait to meet the senator for a quick conversation.

As an anti-hunger advocate, I am always trying to get a message to my members of Congress, but I rarely meet with them personally. I usually pass my message through a staff member. Because legislative assistants advise members of Congress, it is important to communicate with them. However, face time with elected officials themselves can leave a lasting impression.

While in Washington, D.C., last week, I dropped by Merkley’s office for coffee and spent several minutes talking to him about an issue I am really worried about: schools eliminating free and reduced-price lunch programs in rural Oregon, where child food-insecurity rates are as high as 30 percent. I also talked to him about a food-aid reform bill I want him to cosponsor. He asked me some questions before we took a photo together. Afterward, he sincerely thanked me and told me that my advocacy work was very important.

It is no secret that I am a fan of the senator. I learned about the power of advocacy by working on a payday loan campaign in Oregon that he spearheaded. It might be easy to think he doesn't need to hear from me, but my showing up reminds him that he has constituents at home who count on him to continue being a champion for vulnerable people.

Many senators host weekly meet-and-greets for their constituents who are visiting the nation’s capital. Some offices have traditions that go back decades. These events are one way lawmakers can connect with constituents from home.

Using coffee chats as an opportunity to talk about poverty is nothing new to Bread for the World members. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office does coffee with a distinctly New Mexican flair; they serve biscochitos (butter-based cookies flavored with anise and cinnamon) and green chile pistachios, says longtime Bread activist and current board member Carlos Navarro.

In addition to one-on-one time with Udall, Navarro says he enjoys meeting other New Mexicans working on anti-hunger issues in his state. He met AARP state director Gene Varela at a 2013 coffee meet-and-greet in Udall’s office. “The contact turned out to be very important, since I was able to connect with him later about the Hunger Summit in New Mexico in the summer of 2014, which AARP was cosponsoring,” he says.

And there is something about meeting over coffee that makes talking to a U.S. senator less intimidating. Rev. Libby Tedder Hugus has written about how coffee eased her nerves when speaking with Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso. I can totally relate. Part of why I like “constituent coffee” is because it brings a little bit of home to our nation’s capital, and I’m just one Oregonian talking to another.

If you are planning to visit Washington, D.C., for any reason, call your senator’s office ahead of time and find out if they host a constituent coffee.

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

 

 

Racism: America's Cancer

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Protesters in Ferguson, Mo., react to the Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Angelique Walker-Smith/Bread for the World

By Eric Mitchell

I was at a gathering of national faith leaders in St. Louis, Mo., last week discussing criminal justice reform following the Ferguson decision, when I heard the news that a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y., would not indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The fact that a Staten Island grand jury made the same decision as the Ferguson grand jury sucked the air out of the room. An hour later, a young man who had been actively involved with the Ferguson protests broke down crying and left the room. 

In pain, he passionately yelled out, “what more do they need?” referring to the Staten Island grand jury decision. “What did we do to deserve this?” He then declared that he doesn’t even want to have children with all that's going on in the world. Holding back my own tears, all I could do was hug him and whisper into his ear that he is a King (in control of his life), and that he cannot let anyone break him, regardless of the circumstance.

How did we get to this point? When a young African-American man, who wants to have children, is afraid to bring life into this world? What is he experiencing that has led him to this decision? What really hit me was not the tears, but what this young man was saying. I am the father of two beautiful girls. It may sound cliché, but it is my daughters who drive me to be a better husband, a better father, and a better person. I can’t imagine how empty my life would be without them.  

What happened in Ferguson and Staten Island is not unique to those cities. A grand jury in Cincinnati, Ohio, decided not to indict police officers for fatally shooting John Crawford III at a Wal-Mart. These cases have brought national attention to the injustices that many African-Americans have experienced for decades. 

Racism is America’s cancer. Slavery and Jim Crow laws gave this disease time to fester and mature in the body of America. During the last 50 years, there has been great improvement to ensure equality for African-Americans, but the disease of racism has had time to infiltrate other aspects of American culture, the same way cancer attacks different organs. And unless this cancer is treated aggressively, it will slowly and painfully destroy this country. 

While I don’t have the answers on how to cure us of this disease, I do know that it can no longer be ignored or written off. While in St. Louis, I joined many of the young people at the federal courthouse to protest the injustice that many African-Americans have experienced at the hands of law enforcement. And while the recent decisions moved me to go, I was also there to speak out against my own experiences of bigotry as an African-American man in this country. What I witnessed was that we were not out there just to speak out on the injustice of police harassment, but we were speaking out against injustice – period! We were calling for the right to employment and fair pay, access to quality housing and education, and an elimination of the prison industrial complex. These are demands that transcend race, and are not unique to Ferguson.

What we have seen over the past week are African-Americans, whites, Hispanics, Asians, and others standing up to the injustice and inequalities that still exist. In the Christian faith, which has in the past helped to perpetuate the sins of this country, we are seeing white Christians speaking out and standing with African-American Christians.  In my own experience, over the last week, a number of my white colleagues and friends (conservative and liberal alike) have come to me expressing their frustration about the lack of justice as it relates to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. These events have opened the eyes of many white Americans. 

Regardless of where you stand on the specifics of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, we have to recognize that inequality still exists in this country, and that it will take a collective of people to change it. Apathy is the biggest threat to any movement. While meeting with some of the leaders of the Ferguson movement, they challenged us to find our own Ferguson. There are injustices happening everywhere, whether it is Ferguson, Staten Island, or Cincinnati. And it’s not just the criminal justice system. The remnants of America’s cancer has affected other areas such as hunger, public health, education, wages and employment, and housing. Find your movement. Civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis often reminds us that “you have to get in the way.”  This is our moment to let the powers that be know that we are speaking up and speaking out. It’s our moment to get in the way.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: Bread issued a statement on the killing of Michael Brown on Nov. 14 and you can read it here. For more information on race and justice, read resources from our partners, the National Council of Churches and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. You can download here the latest fact sheet on hunger in the African-American community.

It's #GivingTuesday, Give Your Tue-Cents!

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By Ryan Quinn

As a countermeasure to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, today is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Giving Tuesday reminds us to give to people who need it most. Thousands of organizations across the world are taking part in this new holiday tradition of generosity.

Today we are asking you to give your Tue-cents in two ways: At Bread for the World, we welcome your generosity and gifts to support our mission. But today we also encourage you to give back through your advocacy.

In fact, your giving and advocacy efforts toward ending hunger have been working already. Right before Thanksgiving, a House committee unanimously approved the Global Food Security Act (HR 5656). It still needs to pass through a Senate committee before being voted upon in the full House and Senate.

With only 10 days left in Congress’ schedule this year, now is the time for it to act to improve global food and nutrition security. We need you to email your members of Congress today. Tell Congress to pass the Global Food Security Act!

In passing this legislation, we can help solidify U.S. leadership in fighting poverty and claim another victory in our fight against hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty over the long-term. We look forward to a day when 805 million chronically undernourished people in our world becomes zero.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today, and urge them to support the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 5656 and S. 2909)!

Ryan Quinn is a senior policy advisor at Bread for the World

 

Bread Pioneer Barbara Howell

  BHowell
By Patricia Bidar

Barbara Howell is like a cherished friend at a dinner party — she came early to help set up and stayed long. The North Carolina native was one of Bread for the World’s very first staff members. Her impressive 25-year tenure as director of government relations made a powerful impact on ending hunger in God’s world.

In 1973, Howell was working as a journalist in Singapore. A college classmate who was visiting her from India knew of her interest in international issues and her Capitol Hill experience at the Council of Churches. When the classmate told her about a hunger advocacy group that had just moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., Howell was intrigued.

“I felt strongly about Christian ways to work and about helping end international hunger,” Howell remembered. When she met Rev. Art Simon and read The Politics of World Hunger, the book he wrote with his brother, Paul Simon, who would later become a U.S. senator from Illinois, Howell knew her next step.

Soon Howell was installed at Bread’s office in the Methodist Building, right next door to the Supreme Court. Opened in 1924, the United Methodist Building is the only non-government building on Capitol Hill. The building has incubated some of the most widespread justice movements of the 20th century.

“I shared an office with a young mother who worked for the Friends of the Filipino People. She worked with her baby beside her, installed in a desk drawer!” Barbara recalled. “Terry Martin and Brennan Jones were helping Art Simon to create a policy group. When they came from New York, they’d sleep in the office.”

In those days, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) was still a pilot program. Introduced by Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Rep. Carl Perkins, WIC provides healthcare and nutrition for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.

In the 1980s, when efforts to cut food programs began in earnest, Bread began holding Offerings of Letters aimed at ensuring that all who needed WIC’s help could access it. Bread members got creative, with Mother’s Day cards that read, “Remember the mothers who need this help.” “Another time, we sent small candles with the message, ‘Keep WIC lit!’” Howell said.

“We always pointed out the benefits. For each dollar invested in the program, you’d save $3.50 in medical care. We constantly needed to push that cutting WIC meant costing more money and hurting child development. What satisfaction there is that such a wonderful program has remained strong and so many helped!” Yet Bread remains on watch for WIC and other child nutrition programs. Its 2015 Offering of Letters will return to this issue.

Howell is well-known as a mentor to the many interns and young staffers she worked with during her years at Bread. “I used to be envious of the interns and young staffers who worked with Barbara,” said one of Howell’s fellow staffers, Kimberly Burge. “She was there to do her job—and also to equip others to accomplish great things. Her interns did not lick stamps or file papers. They were on Capitol Hill, attending policy meetings.”

Today Howell is retired and enjoys spending time with her three grandsons. She has been an active member of Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church as long as she’s been involved with Bread, including as a member of the congregation’s mission committee. The congregation holds an annual Offering of Letters and is a Bread Covenant Church, providing an annual donation.

“Barbara was with Bread for over 25 years, a duration of service almost unthinkable today,” Burge said. “In this day and age, people expect instant change. This work can be frustrating, because changes are so incremental. Yet she found a way to stay energized for two and a half decades. Her quiet strength continues to provide inspiration!” 

Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer

Rev. David Beckmann Challenges You to #ShareYourPlate

By Bread Staff

Yes, here’s proof that Rev. David Beckmann can cook – but with the help of two young anti-hunger activists, Elizabeth Quill and Margaret Hudak.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, answered a #ShareYourPlate challenge: a Catholic Charities, USA social media campaign to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hunger. By sharing a cooking video, the #ShareYourPlate campaign reminds us that food is something we all share.

While preparing a taco salad, Quill and Hudak emphasized the need to advocate for programs that help people put food on their table. The girls told Beckmann of a meeting they had with their Virginia members of Congress in which they asked lawmakers to support funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).

Their lobby visit illustrates how sharing a story with your member of Congress is a powerful advocacy tool. It can also help lawmakers understand the reality of hunger in states and districts far removed from their Washington, D.C. offices.

Hudak related her own experience of seeing hunger in the lunchroom at school.  She noticed some students restricted their purchases to only cereal and milk and saw others go without food entirely. “A kid can’t function through the day on milk and cereal,” she said.

Last December, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, and others answered Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis’ call for a global wave of prayer to end hunger as part of the One Family #FoodForAll campaign.

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, created his own cooking video as a way to build on the #FoodForAll campaign. He then sent out a challenge to others to do the same before November 27 - including a special invitation to Beckmann.

Beckmann now challenges travel writer Rick Steves, community food systems expert Sharon Thornberry – and you.  Create a cooking video or post a photo at #ShareYourPlate and on your Twitter or Facebook page. Share a virtual meal and help bring awareness to the problem of hunger.

Folllow the challengers on Twitter: @DavidBeckmann, @Fr_Larry_Snyder, @RickSteves, and  @OFB_SharonT and tag @bread4theworld with your cooking video.

Tweet Congress: #FeedtheFuture

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Kenyan Farmer. (ACDI/VOCA)

By Robin Stephenson

Since 2010, Feed the Future programs have helped millions of farmers increase the amount of food they can grow and the the ability to feed their families. It is time to codify the program into law. With enough pressure from constituents, bills introduced in the House and Senate last month (H.R. 5656/S. 2909) could be voted on and passed during the lame-duck session. These bills would permanently authorize this comprehensive approach to global food security, ensuring the initiative continues beyond the current administration.

Learn more: Bread’s Bill Analysis: Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014.

Both bills have been introduced into committee. For H.R. 5656 and S. 2909 to move forward, the committee leadership must schedule a mark-up. Committee members then vote on the marked-up version, and if passed, the bill moves out of committee and is eligible for a floor vote.  Leadership then determines if there is sufficient momentum to pass the bill and if so, will put the bill up for a vote from the full chamber. 

Cosponsorship implies a commitment to vote in support of a bill and helps build the momentum for a floor vote.  Help us build momentum.  Look for your state, and if you have a member of Congress on one of the committees considering the Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014, click on his/her name to automatically load a tweet. If you do not have a Twitter account, email or call your representative at (800) 826-3688 and ask him/her to cosponsor H.R. 5656.  And email or call your senators, and ask them to cosponsor S. 2909. 

Senate Foreign Affairs: 113th Congress Committee Members
*members in bold have cosponsored S. 2909: Global Food Security Act of 2014

State

Majority Member

State

Minority member

New Jersey

Chairman, Robert Menendez

Tennessee

Bob Corker, Ranking Member

California

Barbara Boxer

Idaho

James Risch

Maryland

Benjamin Cardin

Florida

Marco Rubio

New Hampshire

Jeanne Shaheen

Wisconsin

Ron Johnson

Delaware

Christopher Coons        

Arizona

Jeff Flake

Illinois

Richard Durbin

Arizona

John McCain

New Mexico

Tom Udall

Wyoming

John Barrasso

Connecticut

Chris Murphy

Kentucky

Rand Paul

Virginia

Tim Kaine

 

 

Massachusetts

Edward Markey

 

 

House Committee on Foreign Affairs:  113th Congress Committee Members
*members in bold have cosponsored H.R. 5656: Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014.

State

Majority Member

State

Minority Member

California

Chairman, Edward Royce

New York

Eliot Engel, Ranking Member

New Jersey

Christopher Smith

America Samoa

Eni Faleomavaega

Florida

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

California

Brad Sherman

California

Dana Rohrabacher

New York

Gregory Meeks

Ohio

Steve Chabot

New Jersey

Albio Sires

South Carolina

Joe Wilson

Virginia

Gerald Connolly

Texas

Michael McCaul

Florida

Theodore Deutch

Texas

Ted Poe

New York

Brian Higgins

Arizona

Matt Salmon

California

Karen Bass

Pennsylvania

Tom Marino

Massachusetts

William Keating

South Carolina

Jeff Duncan

Rhode Island

David Cicilline

Illinois

Adam Kinzinger

Florida

Alan Grayson

Alabama

Mo Brooks

California

Juan Vargas

Arkansas

Tom Cotton

Illinois

Bradley Schneider

California

Paul Cook

Massachusetts

Joseph Kennedy III

North Carolina

George Holding

California

Ami Bera

Texas

Randy Weber Sr.

California

Alan S. Lowenthal

Pennsylvania

Scott Perry

New York

Grace Meng

Texas

Steve Stockman

Florida

Lois Frankel

Florida

Ron DeSantis

Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard

Georgia

Doug Collins

Texas

Joaquin Castro

North Carolina

Mark Meadows

 

 

Florida

Ted Yoho

 

 

Wisconsin

Sean Duffy

 

 

Florid

Curt Clawson

 

 

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

 

 

Hunger Justice Leader Wins Brave Preacher Award

HJL at mic
Rev. Annie Edison-Albright went through Bread’s Hunger Justice Leader training in 2008. She subsequently became a Lutheran pastor in Wisconsin and has received an award for a sermon she preached on poverty.  (Jay Mallin)

By Stephen Padre

What happens after Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders are trained and return to their work? If you preach for your profession, like Rev. Annie Edison-Albright, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Stevens Point, Wisc., you might talk about hunger and poverty in your sermons and even be recognized for the risks it sometimes involves.

Edison-Albright is the 2014 recipient of The Beatitudes Society's Brave Preacher Award. The organization announced her as the winner of its award on Nov. 3 for a sermon she preached earlier this year. The theme of this year’s award was the violence of poverty and income inequality in the United States. Criteria for the award include the relationship of current context to biblical text, courageous proclamation, and attention to the preacher's craft.  According to its website, the mission of The Beatitudes Society is to identify and equip “emerging leaders to grow Progressive Christian faith communities for the sake of justice and the common good.”

Edison-Albright  describes her congregation, its response to her preaching, and her own anxiety about delivering her sermon in a news release from the organization:

"Redeemer Lutheran Church is an ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] congregation where 50-90 people worship at one service every Sunday, located in Central Wisconsin in a small, predominantly Roman Catholic, college town. The congregation is almost entirely white, with significant diversity in age, socioeconomic status, political views, and religious background.

"I felt called to preach about the extreme prejudice against people living in poverty, particularly attacks aimed at fast food workers striking for an increased minimum wage. I struggled with how to call out this injustice without singling out a few members of my congregation and letting the rest off the hook; the terrible Facebook memes I've seen are a symptom of a much larger, systemic sin that we all participate in. My goal was to convey that the people living in poverty whom we reject and dehumanize are incarnations of Jesus Christ. I worry that I didn't focus clearly enough on the systemic nature of the oppression faced by people living in poverty. I also don't like that it's clearly an example of a privileged pastor talking to (mostly) privileged people about (largely absent) people in poverty; I struggle with speaking honestly about the privilege in my context without creating an us/them dichotomy.

"My congregation is used to me preaching on topics in the news, so this sermon wasn't out of the ordinary in that way, but I found it challenging to prepare and nerve-wracking to deliver…A couple people have seen the sermon as an invitation into deeper conversation with me about poverty and politics, and I'm deeply grateful for that."

As for the $500 prize that comes with the award, Edison-Albright says, “My plan is to give $250 to Bread for the World, which invested in me and trained me as a Hunger Justice Leader back in 2008, and taught me so much of what I know about changing systems of injustice through advocacy.” She said she plans to give the other half to the Portage County Mobile Pantry, which delivers food to hungry people in the rural areas surrounding Stevens Point. “The Pantry just recently moved into their new home in my congregation's church building. I think this is a very Lutheran, very both/and approach: we need both charitable assistance and systemic change until hunger is eliminated completely."

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

Bread Rising in New Mexico: Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future

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(Left to Right) Debbie Steffen, Joan Brown, Anne Hanke, Terese Bridges , Rev. Steve Miller,  Mark Peceny, Erik Medina, and Bill Miller (photo courtesy of Carlos Navarro).

I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. -Anne Lamott


By Carlos Navarro

How did we get here? What did we accomplish? Where are we going? Those central questions were part of our simple but very meaningful celebration of prayer, reflection, and song on Saturday, October 25, which we called Bread Rising in New Mexico. Several dozen people joined in the celebration at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church that afternoon.

We came together to observe Bread for the World's 40th birthday. More importantly, we put together a celebration that allowed us to stop and think of how that long history of Bread applied to us here in New Mexico. Just as all politics is local, all grassroots advocacy is rooted in local activity.

We asked St. Andrew to host the event because this congregation has been a part of Bread for the World's history in Albuquerque from almost the very beginning. (We could have also held our celebration at St. Paul Lutheran Church, with whom we also have a long relationship).

With a slide show we celebrated the decision of Jim Brown, a member of the Christian Brothers, to take on the role of  volunteer state coordinator in 1984. We rejoiced as we remembered how a group of Bread members, including Lutheran Campus Pastor Howard Corry, decided to create a local group in 1989 and then promote Offerings of Letters among churches in Albuquerque. Then we lifted up the dozens of churches that stepped up over the years to hold  letter-writing Sundays (and sometimes Saturdays and weeknights) in New Mexico, including Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in the tiny community of Truchas, Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Albuquerque, St. John's United Methodist Church in Santa Fe, and many, many others. Here is a video of my introduction to the slide show.

Celebrating People

Our advocacy over the years went beyond the pen and paper (and more recently the computer). We viewed pictures of Bread members from New Mexico who took our message directly to members of Congress and of candidates with direct visits in Albuquerque and Washington. We also used the occasion to recognize one of our own members of Congress, who has been an "Outstanding Anti-Hunger Adovcate for New Mexico."

Our slide show also celebrated dozens of individuals who have long been the core of Bread New Mexico over the past 30 years, including those who were involved in the 1990s, the 2000s, those who are part of our current leadership team, and the local members who have become involved more recently. And how can we forget our regional organizers?  Emily Abbott, Zelinda Welch, Matt Newell-Ching, Holly Hight, and Robin Stephenson. We also expressed gratitude for the partnerships that we forged with the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry, The New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, and the CARE Action Network.

Our walk down memory lane also included scenes of those times when we came together for worship in ecumenical services, Circle of Protection prayers and songs, and to heed the call from Pope Francis to pray for an end to hunger. Because we come from diverse Christian faith traditions, our ecumenical choir was an important part of our celebration. And fittingly, the opening and closing song was Bread for the World, a piece composed by Marty Haugen on the occasion of Bread's 35th anniversary. We also have a video of the choir performing Pan de Vida (Bob Hurd).

Looking Ahead: The Bread Rising Campaign

Our review of our history was very important for the other purpose that brought us together in this sanctuary: the Bread Rising campaign, which aims to end hunger by 2030. David Miner, national chair of the Bread Rising campaign and an anti-hunger activist in Indianapolis, was a special guest at our service.

The campaign urges Bread members and supporters around the country to take three important actions: 1) increase our commitments to ongoing prayers for the end of hunger; 2) redouble our commitment to advocacy; 3) provide the resources to help our organization leverage the big changes that are needed to end hunger. We asked local Bread members to prepare reflections on those three actions as well as the goal to end hunger in our country by 2030. Those reflections are included in a separate piece that we will be posting soon.

Carlos Navarro has been a Bread member for over 20 years and has led Bread’s presence in New Mexico for the last decade. He maintains the Bread for the World New Mexico website and blog, and serves on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Reprinted with permission from the Bread New Mexico blog.

 

God, Grace, and Good Works

Castle Church - door where 95 Theses were nailedBy Stephen Padre

Once there was a man who thought of establishing a public “lock box” in every town and city in his country. The idea was that a community would collect money in a central place, and the funds would be used to care for poor people, among other things. This “community chest” would make caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in his country.

If this sounds something like a modern-day government program, the idea is actually 500 years old and came from Martin Luther.

On this day in 1517, Luther, then an Augustinian monk, Catholic priest, and professor, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This action of posting his long list of grievances (protests) against the Catholic Church sparked the Protestant Reformation. And because it happened today, on Halloween (a word that is short for All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, Nov. 1), many Protestant denominations mark today as Reformation Day.

During his lifetime, Luther wrote volumes of works about many issues, and he became one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time. The theological subject he is perhaps best known for is the idea that we as humans cannot earn God’s favor. Luther struggled with constantly trying to please God but knew that he would always come up short because of his imperfections. Finally he realized, through his study of the Bible, that God’s love is truly and only a gift—it is pure grace. God’s love is freely given to us, apart from anything we can do to earn it, not dependent on our works.

So it’s ironic that I am writing about an organization—Bread for the World—that is devoted to doing good works on a day that is dedicated to the radical idea in the Gospel that our good works don’t save us, the idea that Luther wanted the church in his day to focus on.

So why should we do good works if we don’t have to in order to earn God’s favor?

A popular saying goes: God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. God’s unconditional grace frees us to do good works—not to win God’s favor, but for our neighbors’ well-being. Bread for the World is working to end hunger so that everybody shares in the abundance of God’s creation. We come together as Christians of all stripes across the country to do these good works through Bread for neighbors near and far.

And so we can look at Luther’s idea of the community chest as a model for ending hunger. The place where our common resources are assembled—the taxes collected by our government—becomes the community chest. Some of these resources are used to assist people when they are hungry, through domestic nutrition programs or through food aid overseas, for example. This work carried out by our federal government on behalf of Americans makes caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in our country.

Let us go forth and do good works—for the sake of our neighbor—knowing that God’s grace has already saved us.

Stephen Padre is Bread for the World’s managing editor and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Photo: re-creation of the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses. (Stephen Padre)

10 Ways Christians Can Help End Hunger During the Elections

Vote
(Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

I turned my television off last night because the campaign ads were too numerous. Besides telling me little about the candidates, the negative tone put me in a foul mood. However, I will not turn off my commitment to using my citizenship to end hunger.

Each election gives me the opportunity to send a leader to Washington, D.C., who will make ending hunger a priority. Bread for the World has given me all the resources I need. I put my favorite resource on my bulletin board about a month ago to remind me that elections can be another opportunity to live out my faith.

 10 Ways Christians Can Help End Hunger During the Elections.

  1. Develop an “elevator speech” for why ending hunger is important to you as a Christian.
  2. Register to vote.
  3. Write to your local paper saying that ending hunger is a priority for you as a voter.
  4. Learn what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
  5. Speak about the importance of ending hunger at candidates’ town hall meetings.
  6. Engage your friends. Make sure they are registered and know what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
  7. Magnify your voice by combining it with those of thousands of other Christians. Become a member of Bread for the Word; organize an Offering of Letters.
  8. Engage your church.
  9. Give money and volunteer time to candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
  10. Vote for candidates who are committed to ending hunger.

Voting matters to me because I don’t believe any person should be hungry.

I am a citizen, not a subject, and I “have a stake, role, and responsibility in my government.” Through voting and advocacy, I can influence the legislative framework that structures our society. My sister in Christ who is farming in Kenya does not have a vote, but her ability to prosper may be connected to global trade laws legislated by my government. Programs that provide access to healthy food, so that my neighbor next door can provide for her child, are created through participatory government.

There is one more thing on this list that I would add: Add your name to the pledge to end hunger.  Join me and others who are raising our voices and making it clear that we vote to end hunger.  

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

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