Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

585 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Fast for Families: La lucha sigue!

Declaration
(Photo courtesy of Fast for Families)

By Dulce Gamboa

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
 to loose the chains of injustice  and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV)

Last week, I had the privilege of standing with participants in the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move members of Congress to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.

I joined the fast for two days, in solidarity with the fasters leading this effort, and my heart was definitely full after meeting immigration reform advocates who fasted for more than 20 days as an act of love, faith, and commitment. I was filled with hope after listening to the stories of fellow fasters and community leaders who have defied the odds to gain the attention of Congress. So many people involved in the immigration reform movement were appalled by the inaction in Congress— the House of Representatives has failed to act on immigration reform—and the idea that reform can wait. In reality, the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, and their families, cannot wait. Every day, families are torn apart, and millions of people live in fear of deportation.

Bread for the World was one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, which launched Nov. 12 and ended Dec. 12. Several of our staff members, including David Beckmann, fasted, and we participated in both a Dec. 11 prayer service at the fasters’ tent on the National Mall, and a Dec. 12 congressional day of action. During the Dec. 12 action, more than 1,000 people involved with Fast for Families visited 170 offices of members of the House Representatives, in what was called a “day of promise and prayer." We sought to touch their hearts, and move then to enact compassionate reform that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the shadows.

Bread staff prayed and sang for an hour in the office of Rep. Leon Acton “Lynn” Westmoreland (R-Ga.) of Georgia's third district. We felt re-energized by the prayers, chants, and stories we delivered that day. All the stories we shared of people migrating to the United States had a common thread: each person was escaping poverty and hunger in his or her home country. The stories showed that when we talk about immigration reform, we are talking about people.

Immigrants are making an immense economic contribution to this nation. We are helping to revitalize depressed local economies, everywhere from rural Iowa to Detroit and Baltimore. We are entrepreneurs, dreamers graduating from college. We are part of this nation—a nation of immigrants.

The immigration movement has knocked on many doors for decades now. We have made it this far thanks to the perseverance and sacrifice of great advocates. The fast is now over, but this is the kickoff of the next phase of putting pressure on the House until its members bring immigration reform to the floor for a vote.

Even though we are facing inaction in the House right now, as advocates we must continue to strengthen our resolve and prepare for what’s next.

La lucha sigue! We shall overcome!

Dulce Gamboa is Bread for the World's associate for Latino Relations.

Make Connections at the 2014 Justice Conference

Justice-Conference

By Jared Noetzel

I wouldn’t be working at Bread for the World if it wasn’t for the Justice Conference.

A year ago, I was sitting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, interning for Paz y Esperanza, a Bolivian-run human rights organization. One day, as I was doing some reading online, I saw an ad for the conference. After some browsing, I sent an email to a group of interns from Wheaton College, who were working for organizations around the world on the same program that took me to Bolivia. Eventually, we decided that the conference was worth the 13-hour road trip from Wheaton, which is in Chicago, to Philly, and we bought tickets.

We’ve all received career advice, and often it has to do with polishing a resume or sharpening answers to interview questions. Maybe some advisers give you inside scoop on networking, but no one tells you to go to conferences with your friends. In other words, I didn’t walk into the exhibitor hall looking for a job.

Then, I walked up to Bread for the World’s table and met Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the head of national evangelical church relations for the organization. We shook hands, and she made a simple offer: sign this petition, and we’ll give you a shirt. Now, as a college student, a free shirt is a pretty good reason to do most things, but in this case it was an easy decision. The petition was aimed at President Obama, urging him to follow up on his 2012 election pledges to address hunger and poverty, both in the United States and abroad.

Only then did I have the good sense to ask Krisanne a bit more about Bread. She gave me her card and I promised to follow up.

A month or so later, I sat on my friend’s couch and typed out an email to Krisanne. I joked that "this email is going to get me a job!" My friend and I were both graduating seniors, staring down the job market without serious prospects. I hit "send," and went back to editing a paper.

Krisanne got back to me, and we set up an interview. After some consideration on both our parts, I committed to an internship after graduation. In those three months, my work presented a steep learning curve. But, it turned out that I fit in pretty well, and Bread offered me a position to continue engaging evangelicals in the movement to end hunger from Bread’s office in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Conference served as a transition point for me. In Bolivia, I walked with our brothers and sisters in their faithful efforts to challenge unjust systems and create lasting change. Now, as a young professional, I have an amazing opportunity to apply the lessons I learned in Bolivia to Bread’s advocacy here in the United States. It’s an immense privilege, and the Justice Conference played a huge role in getting me here.

If you, your church, or campus would like to help channel burgeoning professionals into the work of justice, please consider joining the Justice Conference, which will be held in February 2014, as a partner site. You’ll receive access to top-notch content from the event in Los Angeles, and support from the Justice Conference team as you organize your own local gathering of justice seekers.

For more information about the Justice Conference, and to register, visit thejusticeconference.com.

Jared Noetzel is Bread for the World's evangelical engagement fellow.

Bread with Your Coffee, Senator?

'Coffee' photo (c) 2012, Steven Lilley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This is a story of how Bread for the World advocacy methods work. The elements of our story include a Republican senator, a barista, prayer, worship, an Offering of Letters, and a wealthy fundraiser, but this isn't a tale of inside-the-Beltway intrigue.

The senator is Dr. John Barrasso of Wyoming. He is not an ordinary senator, but he is chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) and fourth ranking member of Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate. The RPC advances Republican policies by providing positions on legislation, floor debate, and votes.

The barista is Rev. Libby Tedder Hugus of First Church of the Nazarene in Casper, Wyo. She was a barista at a Starbucks in Casper frequented by Sen. Barrasso and his wife, Bobbi.

In summer 2012, Hugus came to Washington, D.C., for training as one of Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders. On Lobby Day during the event, she paid a visit to Sen. Barrasso's office on Capitol Hill. Nervously, she introduced herself as his barista in Casper. He then offered her coffee, apologizing that it was not as good as the one she brews for her.

"What others might consider ironic, I consider the imaginative humor of our Creator-God. I had travelled all the way from serving coffee to Sen. Barrasso in our Wyoming hometown to being served coffee by the senator in his office of power in Washington, D.C.," she writes on Bread Blog. "As I shared my story with Sen. Barrasso and used my voice to ask that he consider poor and hungry people while making vital legislative decisions, my jitters were swept away by God's spirit."

In October of this year, a group of ten churches in St. Louis all wrote letters about hunger and the budget debate to their members of Congress. They brought all of their letters to an event where Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, preached. They offered the letters up to God before sending them off to Washington, D.C.

After the event, a leader of one of the churches, Roy Pfautch, approached Beckmann to set up meetings for him with several senators, including Sen. Barasso. Pfaustch contributes and raises money for Republican politicians.

Upon returning to Washington, Beckmann almost immediately got an appointment to meet with Sen. Barrasso.  The senator told Beckmann right away that he knows all about Bread for the World. 

"I went to church in Casper last Sunday, and the preacher was Libby Tedder Hugus," Sen. Barrasso recounted. "She got everybody in churches to write letters to their members of Congress about hunger and poverty. She didn't see me in the back of the church, but the senior pastor did, and he said, 'You know, I think we could save some money on stamps here.'"

In their meeting, Beckmann and Barrasso focused specifically on food stamps and international food aid. Beckmann said Bread is working for reforms in international food aid that would allow the United States to help an additional 2 to 4 million of the world's most desperate people every year at no additional cost — mainly by buying more of the food from local farmers. 

Sen. Barrasso was already convinced that reform would be good policy. He was, however, against it because of a sense that Wyoming farmers would be against it.

"Overall, I think Senator Barrasso changed his judgment about the politics around this issue," said Beckmann. "All because Roy Pfautch used a chit to set up the meeting and, even more, because of Libby Tedder Hugus' activism and the constituents' concern about hungry people that he experienced at that church in Casper."

It's proof that Bread-style advocacy can work — or that God can work among us in surprising but wonderful ways.

Author Shares Book Proceeds with Bread

Jason_d

Jason Dykstra is a diagnostic radiologist and youth mentor based in Holland, Mich. He is also a Bread for the World member.  He recently published a book entitled Healing Hereafter—and advised Bread for the World that part of the book’s proceeds will directly benefit our work to end hunger in God’s world. Recently, we spoke with Jason about the project.

Can you tell us about the book?

Sure. Healing Hereafter is an exploration of God’s biblical plan. In an atmosphere of positivity and gratitude, it combines answering some of the complex questions about the Christian faith with encouraging positive action. My hope is that the book stimulates considerations and ways to improve the world.

 How did you decide the book profits would go to four nonprofit organizations?

One of the major goals of the book is to raise awareness and donations for organizations approaching world problems in strategic and cost-effective ways. Bread for the World was one of four I thought were ideal. Already, people are responding positively to the book’s charitable aspect. Knowing they are contributing makes them feel good!  

Why do you support Bread for the World?

About three years ago, my wife and I decided to look at issues the Bible calls us to care about. Hunger was a big one. Then we looked to see what was being done about those issues. It was easy to find groups providing direct aid. But Bread for the World had a model we found unique and easy to get behind. Bread for the World embraces comprehensive, long-term relief. We are proud to be monthly donors. 

To read Jason’s blog, or purchase Healing Hereafter, visit jasondykstrawrites.com. The book is also available on Amazon.com.

 

Giving Thanks for Being Able to Help Others


(USDA photo)

By Fito Moreno

Waking up to the smell of a marinated turkey baking in the oven is what solidified Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner table has always held dishes from many countries. There are pupusas, patatas bravas, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sofrito, tamales, and, of course, the turkey.

Growing up Hispanic, food was always at the heart of all gatherings — graduations, first communions, birthday parties, and especially Thanksgiving. The one concern my mom has always had is making sure everyone has enough to eat and enough to take home. Yet for many families, making sure everyone has enough to eat is a privilege.  

Data released yesterday shows that in 2012, more than 35 percent of Latinos lived 130 percent below the poverty line, and 3.6 million Latinos lived in food-insecure households.

At a glance, those statistics are just numbers. But as I reflect on previous Thanksgiving dinners, I imagine the family members and friends behind those numbers. My mom has always been concerned about making sure everyone has enough to eat because some of our friends and relatives sometimes just don’t have enough. Sometimes friends would be ashamed taking food home, but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. She believes that it is wrong to invite people to your home and have them go hungry; if you are able to feed them, then you are obligated to do so.

As a country, we have the same responsibility. We invite the tired, the poor, the huddled masses; it is our job to ensure that they have enough to eat. 

As I pack my bag and get ready to go to my mother’s place for Thanksgiving, I am thankful to live in a country where I can be a gracious host, and help ensure that all are fed. I am thankful to living in a country where I can have an impact on my government by reaching out to my members of Congress and urging them to ensure that people of all means are nourished.

Fito Moreno is Bread for the World's media relations specialist.

Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform

Fastforfamilies
Participants in the Fast for Families, join together in prayer (photo courtesy of Fast for Families).

In February 2004, Sang Hyuk Jung left Korea and came to the United States, full of hope for a better future. He had visited the country a year earlier to prepare his paperwork and meet with several  "experts," who told him that everything would be fine as long as he paid his "immigration fees." 

Several years passed, and Jung learned that his case had gone nowhere. He was out a huge sum of money, and the "immigration consultant" he'd been working with threatened to turn him in to authorities if he contacted him again. Jung later applied to change his visa status through the proper channels, but his application was denied. He fell into a deep depression and even thought about going back to Korea, but didn't want to uproot his children, who had been living in the United States for five years at that point. He continues to live in this country without legal documentation.

Jung is one of people participating in Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform. On Nov. 12, faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders launched the fast in an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World is one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, and several Bread staff members are fasting.

Jung says he is participating because he is tired of living in the shadows.

"I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am," he wrote in a recent blog post. "I want to tell you, tell others that we should not be discouraged. I know how difficult it is to live as an undocumented immigrant. Yet, I (and my family still) have hope. I believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform together.

"I also have a message to the members of Congress," he continued. "We, the undocumented, are not different from you. We are just like your friends and families. We also work hard and pay taxes to make this nation better. We’ve been a part of this great nation. If you continue to deny our rights as human beings, if you use us for your political advantage, if you continue to break our families, you will find yourself isolated and you will be held responsible when immigrant families stride to polling places."

We ask that you join us in standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are seeking U.S. citizenship. Sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.

Students Advocate for the Hungry During Teach-In for Justice

Billy_Kangas_and_friendBy Billy Kangas

Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.

As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.

My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!

We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.

On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.

We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:

All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.

Banner

Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.

Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).

Coming in February: The Justice Conference

JC12
Bread for the World staff at last year's Justice Conference.  Left to right:  Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant (Robin Stephenson).

By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
                                                                                               —Isaiah 43:19

Does your church or campus community want to share God’s concern for poor and hungry people? Seek inspiration for the long haul of its social justice journey? Desire to connect with a national, biblically-grounded rising of teachers, business people, artists, stay-at-home moms, and others who have a passion for justice?

For the past three years, Bread for the World has been a sponsor of The Justice Conference, an annual national gathering that educates, inspires, and connects a generation of men and women around a shared concern for biblical and social justice, and the vulnerable and oppressed.

In February, Bread for the World will again bring its proven Christian legislative advocacy experience to the conference, and look to find new ways to collaborate around addressing global hunger and poverty. 

Here’s how your faith community can get involved with this year's Justice Conference, which will take place Feb. 21 to 23 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles:

If you, or your church, are participating in this year’s conference, either attending or serving as a host site, please let us know—we’d like to connect with you. To learn more about this year's conference, watch the conference promotional video, featuring poet Micah Bournes, below.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

Challenging Lawmakers to Prioritize Smart Immigration Reform

R4RSocialGraphic_EN_lgBy Minju Zukowski

On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.

Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.

This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform

There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy.  The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.  

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.

It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.  

While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.

So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.

Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.

Bread's Director of Government Relations Named Among Best in His Field

GR
Bread for the World's government relations department (left to right): Traci Carlson, Christine Melendez Ashley, Eric Mitchell, Amelia Kegan, Ryan Quinn, and Beth Ann Saracco (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Bread for the World’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, has been named one of 2013's top grassroots lobbyists by The Hill newspaper. Mitchell says the honor may be in his name, but stresses that the accolade recognizes the work of faithful advocates across the nation and Bread for the World’s dedicated staff. 

When asked by advocates if they should write yet another letter or make another call to one of their members of Congress, Mitchell's response is always, “lather, rinse, and repeat.”  He says
if you find a process that works, you keep at it, over and over again.” He learned this adage when he was working as a congressional staffer. This practice of perseverance has helped Bread for the World shape many policies and programs that help end hunger both in the United States and abroad.

The expert policy analysts of our government relations team, led by Mitchell, track legislation as it moves on Capitol Hill. They determine when action from grassroots can be most impactful, and then ask our members to participate in email calls to action. Each month, on a national grassroots conference call and webinar, Mitchell's team joins Bread's organizing department to give a legislative update that ensures that our members stay informed. And when advocates report in-district visits with their members of Congress to their regional organizers, Mitchell and his team follow up with the D.C. offices, increasing the impact of our members' congressional visits.

Congratulations to Mitchell, his staff, and faithful advocates for this distinction.

+

Lather, Rinse and Repeat! Even if you have already contacted your member of Congress, call or email them again. Members of Congress are in the process of making decisions about the budget and farm bill, and faithful advocates must tell them that any final budget or farm bill must not increase hunger.

 

Stay Connected

Bread for the World