Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

595 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Getting Your Congregation Involved in an Offering of Letters

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Children in the Sunday school at Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., wrote letters to President Obama about ending hunger as part of the congregation’s participation in the 2013 Offering of Letters.

As we enter a new Offering of Letters season, Bread for the World organizers are often asked, "How do I get started with the Offering of Letters?" Organizing a letter-writing event to urge our leaders to help hungry people around the world is easier than many think. Here are two examples of congregations that conducted their first letter-writing events in 2013 and how they got involved in that important first advocacy step.

Deacon Grace Marable of Bethel Presbyterian Church in North Philadelphia has been a long-time activist and church leader. Illness prevents her from pursuing paid employment, so her volunteer work is her passion — one she shares with three generations of family members, including four-year-old great-grandson Devin.

Several years ago, the hunger action leader in Philadelphia’s presbytery introduced Marable to Bread for the World. She realized that advocacy, along with a strengthened food cupboard at her church, was a key response to hunger and that the two could be linked in creative ways.

Marable attended an Offering of Letters workshop last April in downtown Philadelphia and vowed that 2013 was the year that she would organize an offering among the recipients and volunteers at her church’s weekly food cupboard. She tailored the sample letter to each group and got an enthusiastic response from all who participated. One pantry recipient even returned after finishing his letters and asked, "Are there more letters to write?"

After the offering, Marable gathered all of the letters, got in her car, and drove to Washington, D.C., to give the letters to other Pennsylvanians attending Bread's 2013 National Gathering last June. She asked them to hand-deliver the letters to members of Congress during Bread's annual Lobby Day that week. After some time had passed, Marable had a pantry recipient excitedly run up to her, waving the response she had received from one of her senators. The woman was undeterred that the senator was not supportive. She was actually proud to have taken part and eager to do more.

Since becoming an active part of Bread, Marable speaks about hunger and justice advocacy each Sunday in worship and with the church’s women’s group, which she helps lead. Members of her church often remark that she has “found her voice.”

Sometimes "outside voices" draw advocates to Bread. Rev. Karen Bellimer, minister of music at Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., says she and her husband first learned about Bread when they saw Jon Stewart interview the producers of the hunger documentary A Place at the Table on The Daily Show.

Moved by what she heard, Bellimer ordered the video and showed it twice — in a local theater and later at her church. With that grounding, in May 2013 she organized the church’s first Offering of Letters, building on its existing food pantry outreach and engaging children and adults alike. Children in the Sunday school at Erwin First United Methodist Church wrote letters to Obama about ending hunger as part of the congregation’s participation in the 2013 Offering of Letters. During worship, one family in the congregation shared that its members receive federal food assistance through SNAP (formerly food stamps), and they talked about their own journey with hunger, sparking a good conversation in worship. Now, the Erwin church has pledged to make hunger and advocacy a key part of its ministry.

These are just two examples of creative ways to take that first key step toward advocacy in your church or campus. Contact your Bread for the World regional organizer for more suggestions and resources to deepen your connection to Bread and the 2014 Offering of Letters campaign. Thousands of other hunger activists in churches and on campuses across the country have found their voices through Bread, and you can too.

God Calls Us to be Advocates for Life

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(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Lang, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill (Eric Bond).

By Shirley A. Mullen

It is not difficult to attract Christian college students to advocacy. They are on the lookout for causes to believe in. Most of them are idealists. They believe the solutions just can’t be all that complicated.

For some, advocacy is like a onetime cross-cultural experience, which takes them temporarily into an exotic world of the "other" but that leaves them virtually unchanged. They know it is a good thing to do, but they do not intend to be an advocate.

For some, advocacy is another way of "coming of age." It is a way of demarcating themselves from their own history, of making a statement in their own voice, apart from their parents' faith or political beliefs. But, in the end, it is all about them and not about those for whom they are speaking.

For some, advocacy is a way of exerting their gifts of persuasion and organization to come out on top. Yes, it is all for a good cause. But the main thing is the winning. It is all about being "right" and proving that to the rest of the world.

Describing these forms of advocacy in no way discounts their potential for good. Sometimes things turn out much better than we planned for or expected. Imperfect people can be agents in accomplishing very good things in the world. More often than not, however, our efforts do not yield what we had hoped, at least not in the short run. Far too often, well-intentioned and hardworking people do not see the results commensurate with their efforts.

God calls us to be advocates for life — not for a season. As believers, we are to be there for the "stranger" (Deuteronomy 15), for the "widow and orphan" (James), for those who "are in prison, naked, and hungry" (Matthew 25:35). The challenge for college students, and for each of us, is to allow advocacy to become a way of life and not a one-time experience that inoculates us against a lifetime of truly seeing the needs speaking faithfully for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Advocacy is tiring work. Results are not immediate. The work is never done. Even with occasional dramatic victories, changing the law is a long way from changing culture or changing hearts.

Sustained faithfulness in advocacy must be grounded in a larger life of discipline, humility, and Christian hope if it is to endure for the long haul. We are sometimes called to invest our lives in causes that seem to go nowhere, because it is the right thing to do, because the tapestry of history is longer in the making than our short lives, and because we know that nothing is wasted in God's economy.

God offers to work through us, finite and broken as we are, in his redemptive plans and purposes in this world.

On-faithShirley A. Mullen is president of Houghton College, a liberal arts and sciences institution in western New York associated with The Wesleyan Church.

 

 

 

 

Results Founder and Author Sam Daley-Harris on Creating Champions for a Cause

Final Front Cover PanelSam Daley-Harris knows quite a bit about using advocacy to effect social change. He is the founder of the anti-poverty nonprofit RESULTS, the organization's Microcredit Summit Campaign, and the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation—as well as a longtime Bread for the World member. Daley-Harris is also the author of Reclaiming Our Democracy, in which he offers ordinary citizens strategies to become powerful advocates. He recently released the 20th-anniversary edition of his book, which issues a challenge to organizations to provide a deeper level of empowerment to their members.

"There needs to be an understanding on how to coach volunteers to go deeper with their advocacy," he says. "I spent the first 31 years of my life like most people — hopeless about solving big problems. I got involved in [California anti-hunger nonprofit] the Hunger Project in 1977 and met my member of Congress, the late Bill Lehman (D-Fla.) about a year later. He’s the one who told me about Bread and urged me to join."

Daley-Harris says he "cut his teeth" at Bread for the World, where he was introduced to advocacy work, then went on to found RESULTS in 1980, and wrote the first edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy in 1993, based on what he'd learned about grassroots activism. The updated version of the book still focuses on strengthening advocacy efforts but includes new information on using current technologies and social media in advocacy work. Daley-Harris says that although social media has expanded advocacy efforts in many ways, it's still important for nonprofits to offer their volunteers a way to engage that goes beyond a mouse click. Namely, organizations must offer their activists "a deep curriculum and rich support" — in other words, prepare advocates with useful information and offer them help in engaging with their elected officials.

He says the Bread model of not just asking advocates to sign an online petition or send a form email, but encouraging them to contact members of Congress through personal letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings — as well as writing letters to the editors of local papers — is key to "creating champions in Congress and in the media."

"If someone is in an organization that does significant online 'mouse-click advocacy,' I’m not saying to stop that," he says. "I'm just saying that if you have a million members, or half a million members, or 100,000 members, or 50,000 members, there's a small percentage of your members who want to go much deeper than that. And if you allow them to do that, major change is possible. [Those are the things] that get to the root of changing a member of Congress' position and really dealing with things like climate change and global poverty, which are systemic issues."

Letters to the editor, in particular, Daley-Harris says, are a tool that many organizations are no longer emphasizing, even though they are still incredibly effective. "Are newspapers struggling? Yes. Are they cutting back on the number of their editorial writers? Yes," he says. "But when I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I do, I wake up and I read my emails, I read Google news, and I read the New York Times online. I think we all still go to the newspaper — we just might not go to the front yard to pick it up." (See Bread's guide to writing a successful letter to the editor.)

Finally, Daley-Harris says, he learned from his time at RESULTS and his early work with Bread that advocates are capable of, and want to do, a tremendous amount of work for worthy causes. Too many organizations are afraid of giving their grassroots too much to do, but there will always be a core group who wants to do more, not less. "People really want to make a bigger difference," he says.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

"U.S. food aid has played a significant role in preventing hunger and starvation, but we can do better. With smart improvements, our government can respond more quickly when disaster hits. We can provide food that is more nutritious, especially to women and children in the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. We can better support small-scale farmers in other countries by buying food closer to where it is needed. This is why I am asking you to use the power of influence God has entrusted to each of you to help our neighbors around the world."

—Bread for the World President David Beckmann on reforming U.S. food aid

Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," invites you to urge Congress to make changes that would allow food aid to benefit 17 million more people each year — at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Join us by conducting an Offering of Letters with your congregation, on your campus, or with one of the groups with which you participate. We can provide you with the resources you need to successfully organize an Offering of Letters and engage your members of Congress. The 2014 Offering of Letters will be available in mid-January. The kit will also be available online at www.bread.org/OL.

Learn more about this year's Offering of Letters during this afternoon's grassroots conference call and webinar (RSVP for today's event).

Photo: Catarina Pascual Jimenez (center) feeds her two twins. Catarina works odd jobs such as washing clothes and menial labor in order to earn a few Quetzales (Guatemalan currency). She is the mother of four. She and the children were abandoned by her husband which left her and the children without income. She manages to feed her children through small rations provided by a USAID program designed to help mothers and children (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World). 

Praying for Change and Being Changed

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Those in Washington, D.C., gathered in the Capitol building on Dec. 10 to participate in the wave of prayer. Three members of Congress attended the brief prayer service, even though the federal government was shut down due to a snowstorm that day (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Hundreds of thousands of Christians in the United States – and many more throughout the world – prayed for an end to hunger on Dec. 10 as part of an international "wave of prayer" led by Bread for the World and other organizations fighting hunger.

"We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion people…one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend that this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone," said Pope Francis in a video that the Vatican released on the eve of the day of prayer.

The day of prayer came at a critical time, with Congress considering deeper cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps), the most successful anti-hunger program in the United States. Cuts that took effect on Nov. 1 are already taking away approximately 10 million meals a day that would have fed working poor Americans and families struggling to lift themselves out of the recession. This loss is more than all the food charity that churches and food banks provide.

"We prayed to God for the end of hunger, which is clearly possible in our time. We asked God to guide Congress and to deepen our own commitment," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

"The global wave of prayer changed my own prayer life, and I hope that many Bread for the World members will continue to pray on an ongoing basis for the end of hunger," continued Beckmann. "I have found it helpful to ask for the end of hunger every time I say, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

Bread heard about Pope Francis’ plans to encourage a global wave of prayer to end hunger from some of Bread’s board members with ties to Catholic leaders in the United States and the Vatican. After consulting with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bread reached out to other Christian and interfaith leaders, encouraging them to involve their members in the day of prayer.

At least 17 religious denominations and organizations urged their members to engage in prayer on Dec. 10. This included the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Salvation Army, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), American Jewish World Service, Willow Creek Church, the Islamic Society of North America, the Salvation Army, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Despite a snowstorm that closed federal government offices in the Washington, D.C., area on Dec. 10, Bread and its partners in the Circle of Protection came together in a brief prayer service in the Capitol. Three members of Congress participated.

Although it is not known how many people around the world prayed that day for an end to hunger, the event garnered nearly 159 million media impressions in the U.S. articles that appeared in the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, The Hill, Catholic News Service, and Reuters.

In addition, 7,222 Christians sent emails to their members of Congress asking them to protect funding for hungry and poor people.

"We must empower the poor to shape their own destinies. We need the voice and moral force that Pope Francis – and leaders from all the world's faiths – can provide," wrote Dr. Jim Yong Kim in a blog post after Bread reached out to him for the event. "We need all of you. Together, we can build a global movement to end poverty."

The Dec. 10 prayer wave was the launching event of the "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Roman Catholic charities working in 200 countries. The 15-month campaign focuses on the right to food, with an advocacy goal of having the United Nations call a special session on the topic. 

[This article originally appeared in the January edition of the Bread for the World newsletter.]

They Are Talking About Poverty

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Movie still of Barbie Izquierdo and her children from A Place at the Table, courtesy Participant Media.

By Fito Moreno

Mention the presidency of LBJ, and people who lived during that time will probably remember one of two wars that are his legacy—the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty. Fifty years have passed since President Johnson began fighting the latter battle.

The War on Poverty spawned many well-known social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and Pell Grants, as well as modern food stamps and WIC nutrition programs. Poverty and hunger where on their way to becoming a distant memory until the mid-70s hit.

Today, an economy in recession, brinksmanship over the budget, and a focus on reducing government spending have all contributed to the increase in poverty, which in 2008 was higher than it had been in 1973. But a key factor that has led to the weakening of the social safety net is the lack of poverty on an administration’s agenda.

Some presidents since Johnson have legacies from their time in office that include an aspect of poverty—Carter and another deep recession, for example—but no president since LBJ has elevated the issue like Johnson did. As for the parties, Republicans today have focused on cutting anti-poverty programs, a stark contrast from the Nixon era. Democrats have focused more on aligning themselves with the middle class than acknowledging the 46 million Americans who live in poverty.

No one, president or party, has talked seriously about ending poverty in the last half century since something as strong as a war was declared on it. Even the word itself has been left in the shadows and ignored. It was almost taboo to mention in the media until just a few weeks ago.

It is easy to focus on the negative fallout that came after the Johnson/Nixon era in regard to poverty. But the programs that came out of that time have helped millions survive during the hard times of the past 50 years. Poverty surged after the financial crisis of 2008, but anti-poverty programs have done much to moderate the hardship.

Seeing my Google alerts blow up due to the sudden use of the word poverty is encouraging. Both parties are not only talking about it but proposing bold steps to reduce and end poverty. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed shifting the management of anti-poverty programs to the states, but did not talk about cutting the funding for anti-poverty efforts as had been the case in previous months.

Hopefully Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address will be filled with this current anti-poverty fervor. Hopefully both parties can put aside the brinksmanship that has plagued this Congress and embrace the spirit of helping their fellow human beings. Hopefully we can all urge our politicians to do the right thing and make the eradication of hunger and poverty a top priority. Other countries, some in worse economic positions than the United States, have done this, why not us? If the presidents of my day can declare war on terror or weapons of mass destruction, why can’t they fight poverty again with the same spirit?    

Fito Moreno is a media relations specialist for Bread for the World.

Register for February’s Justice Conference

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By Jared Noetzel

The Justice Conference is just over a month away, and here at Bread for the World we’re getting excited! Every year at The Justice Conference hundreds of justice seekers gather to listen, learn, and take action to pursue justice. This year, the conference will host a stellar line-up of speakers, from N.T. Wright and Jim Wallis to Richard Stearns and Dr. Bernice A. King. These and so many other folks have spent countless years struggling to seek the Kingdom of God and see even some small part of it realized among us in the here and now. I’m proud to be joining this movement of committed Christ followers Feb. 21-22 at the Orpheum theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

If you haven’t registered for the main event yet, take a minute to do it now! While you’re at the conference, be sure to stop by Bread’s exhibitor booth or join us for our pre-conference workshop titled Voices that Challenge Injustice: Food Aid, led by Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, interim director of church relations at Bread for the World.

If you’re looking for a reason to spend a bit more time in L.A., then stick around on Sunday, June  23 for The Justice Conference Film Festival. Bread for the World will be participating, and the award-winning film “A Place at the Table” will be featured. You can get your tickets here.

This year, as we gather in L.A. for the main event, thousands more will come together at venues around the country to experience a simulcast of the L.A. main stage events. Justice Conference partner sites represent a unique opportunity for long-time activists and the newly inducted to gather to learn and grow together.

We would love to keep you up to date on The Justice Conference and so much more! You can do that by following us on Twitter, liking our page on Facebook, or checking back here for the latest blog posts. While you’re at it, you can let your decision makers know where you stand by writing them a quick email. We firmly believe that pursing justice requires faithful advocacy, so thanks for standing up and speaking out!

Jared Noetzel is an Evangelical Engagement Fellow at Bread for the World

 

Make At Least One More Resolution

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Consider facilitating an Offering of Letters in your church or community as one of your 2014 resolutions. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

 
If you’re the sort of person who makes resolutions—to eat better, exercise more, learn a new skill— then you probably already have your list made. But why not add one or two advocacy resolutions that can help end hunger?

Pick one or more of the suggestions below. If you have a idea for something not listed here, let us know in the comments.

For 2014, my advocacy resolution is to:

  • Organize an Offering of Letters at my church. The 2014 Offering of Letter campaign on reforming U.S. food aid launches later this month.
  • Call my members of Congress on each Bread action alert and encourage three more friends to join me.
  • Organize a meeting with my member of Congress this year about an important issue that affects hungry people.
  • Develop a relationship with the local and D.C.-based staff of my members of Congress.
  • Organize a local Bread team.
  • Attend a town hall and ask a question about a program that helps hungry and poor people.
  • Write an op-ed, letter to the editor, or blog post that educates on hunger issues in my area or around the world, or on the biblical basis for advocacy.
  • Use social media to engage more people and members of Congress in a conversation about ending hunger. Follow Bread for the World on Facebook and Twitter and share action alerts.
  • Create an educational event around hunger issues and invite my member of Congress.
  • Join a local anti-hunger coalition and represent Bread for the World.
  • Host a viewing of “A Place at the Table” in my church or community.
  • Invite three friends or family members, and two other churches, to join Bread to enhance our advocacy impact.
  • Come to Bread’s  National Gathering and Lobby Day June 9-11 in Washington, DC.

We all know that making a resolution is easier than keeping one. A good way to remind yourself of your advocacy resolution is to print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it up on your fridge.

And here’s the great thing about Bread advocacy resolutions: they come with trainers! If you need help getting started or have any questions, just give your regional organizer a call.

Counting Our Social Media Blessings

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As the clock winds down on 2013 and we anticipate new opportunities in the next year to end hunger, it is a good time to reflect on the blessings of the past year.

Because of your advocacy in 2013, many of the deepest cuts proposed to programs that help end hunger were thwarted.  Writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with members of Congress made a difference. We also used social media as another tool to amplify our message. Many of you shared and educated others in your networks with resources and action alerts that we posted on the Bread Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Social networks are about conversations and national conversations influence members of Congress. Each time one more person calls on his or her member of Congress asking them to act to end hunger, it is a blessing. Each person who joins the mission to end hunger is a blessing.

  • More than 20,000 blessings (followers) on Facebook like and share resources, stories, and action alerts. Your comments and interaction inspire and inform us.

  • Nearly 10,500 blessings (followers) have used Twitter with @bread4theworld to #talkpoverty and help us end hunger. 
  • All year we have worked to make the Bread Blog a resource for of up-to-date news on issues related to our work and we have seen a marked increase in daily readership – a trend we hope to see grow in 2014!

We began last year on the brink of “fiscal cliff” negotiations that threatened to derail the economy.  Instead, we were able to report a final vote that protected important programs to end hunger, such as the 2013 extension of emergency unemployment benefits. One of the year’s first blog posts included a thank you to faithful advocates, who helped urge lawmakers to do the right thing for those who experience hunger. 

Although we end the year with a thank you again to advocates for urging Congress to pass a budget that put aside political brinksmanship, lawmakers failed to extend emergency unemployment for 2014 or pass a farm bill. Comprehensive immigration reform still waits for action by the House of Representatives. Without action on these three issues, many face an uncertain new year clouded by worry.

The first few months of 2014 will be busy. We will ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid. We will urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad.

It is possible for us to achieve great things together through faith and action. We can use every tool at hand to change the political will to end hunger–including social media. Continue to read the Bread Blog to stay informed. Share content on your social networks. Help us increase our blessings in 2014.

With just a day and a half before the New Year, thanks to a few generous donors, online gifts will be doubled. Can you make a gift now to help hungry people?

Immigration Reform: Looking Ahead to 2014

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

In spite of the House of Representatives' inaction on immigration reform this year, 2013 ended with a crescendo of activity among advocates, and planning for a harder push for reform in 2014.

In November, faith, immigrant rights, and labor organizations launched the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass just and compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World was one the sponsors of Fast for Families, and on Dec. 5, Bread for the World President David Beckmann prayed and fasted at the campaign tent on the National Mall, just a few blocks from Bread’s Washington, D.C., office.

“Immigration reform will allow people to work their way out of poverty,” Beckmann said.  He added that “immigration is part of the great exodus from poverty that is going on today,” and said that nations with comprehensive immigration policies have been able to more efficiently combat poverty than the United States. 

On Dec. 12, the Fast for Families campaign culminated its activities for the year with major direct action in Congress. More than 1,000 activists occupied the offices of 170 congressional representatives who were inactive on reform during 2013. Bread for the World was a full participant in the daylong action, working with our faith partners on several aspects of the event.

Ricardo Moreno, Bread for the World’s national organizer for Latino relations, kicked off Bread’s participation by leading a prayer service at the fasting tents in the morning. In the afternoon, a dozen Bread for the World staffers participated in the congressional action, “occupying” a congressional office and singing, praying, and sharing stories about the personal, real-world implications of the nation’s broken immigration system for families in the United States and overseas.

The Fast for Families campaign promised that the action was a symbol of increased grassroots engagement 2014.

In addition to grassroots action, Bread for the World staff members have been meeting with House Republican offices–including those of Republican leaders such as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)–to discuss the economic importance of immigration to the economy.Lower-skilled immigrants, in particular, revitalize rural and urban areas through their labor and entrepreneurship.

Although House Republicans didn’t act on immigration in 2013, they have repeatedly stated that it will be on the agenda in 2014. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has indicated he would like to tackle the issue next year. Speaker Boehner also signaled that he is serious about addressing immigration reform when he hired Rebecca Tallent, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, to lead his immigration policy work. Tallent is a veteran on immigration reform, and worked on previous congressional attempts at reform as a staffer for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Next year promises to be important for the immigration reform movement and Bread for the World will be fully engaged on the ground in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

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