106 posts categorized "Faith"
In February, I found myself in an unlikely place for a girl raised in the Midwest. As I made my way through the packed Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda, I noticed a women breast-feeding her baby. As a Bread for the World policy analyst specializing in international food security and nutrition issues, I was heartened to see her engaging in such a vital health and nutrition practice, beneficial to both mom and baby alike.
Finding an open seat next to a father and son, I leaned forward and kneeled. Bowing my head and closing my eyes, I began to pray. My heart was light that morning — so joyful, and excited for the opportunity I had just received. In my work for Bread in Washington, D.C., I advocate in support of top-line funding levels and programs for agriculture and development, but I rarely observe implementation of these programs on the ground. Now was my chance, and I was about to embark on a 15-day trip through Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
My prayer to God that morning was a simple one. I asked to be attentive and open to the East Africans I would soon meet so that I could share their stories with members of Congress, administration officials, Bread staff, and especially our committed Bread members. What I experienced in the days ahead left me in awe as I witnessed the resolve and commitment of so many East Africans in improving their own lives and transforming the future for their children. These are aspirations I believe people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and creeds share.
As I learned about women's cooperatives and farmers' access to markets, new agriculture technologies from crop rotation to soil-fertility management to land-tenure rights, I began to understand how vital programs like Feed the Future are in not only contributing to a more food-secure world, but also in transforming the lives of each of the farmers I met. Feed the Future is the U.S. government's global hunger and food-security initiative.
Augustino was one such farmer in Tanzania. As he greeted me, I was immediately drawn to the words printed on the T-shirt he was wearing. It read, “Future of Africa.” In my mind I thought never has a truer statement been made, because Augustino, along with his wife and their children, truly do represent the promising future of their country and the continent on which they live.
Now well-resourced with training they received from the agriculture cooperative in which they belong, Augustino and his wife have learned to produce higher-quality and larger yields of tomatoes. They have also recently expanded into cultivating rice, and they have aspirations to begin a trout fishery soon as well.
With their increased income, they can now afford to pay their children's school fees, buy more nutritious food to supplement their children's diets, and make other investments into their land.
What dawned on me was that with just a little outside support, guidance, and training, Augustino's family did the rest. It's their focused, hard work that tills the soil, it's their bodies that carry heavy jugs of water to irrigate, and it's their personal resolve to harvest increased and higher-quality crops that ultimately is moving them from subsistence farmers to a mother and father who are ensuring their children's lives are filled with opportunity and upward mobility to a degree and depth their families have never known.
Not surprisingly, my experience in East Africa reaffirmed my strong belief in the merits of programs like Feed the Future and the importance of ensuring Congress passes a law this year to authorize and make this a permanent program. But, it also did something else even more profound.
Through my conversations with farmers and personal reflection and prayer, I found myself drawn even closer to our loving God and God's people.
God is truly moving in our time, in your life and mine, and in the lives of Augustino and his family in Tanzania — and in others' lives in Africa and our entire world. And I am hopeful that with further discernment, prayer, and grace, we will continue our own sacred advocacy on Capitol Hill, and most importantly be drawn closer into relationship with our loving God and God's people.
Beth Ann Saracco is the international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Photo: Augustino, a farmer in Tanzania, is building a better future for his family and his continent by growing food in better ways. Beth Ann Saracco/Bread for the World.
Editor's note: Bread Blog is running a year-long series exploring passages from The Poverty & Justice Bible published by the American Bible Society (Contemporary English Version). The intent is a theological exploration at the intersection of social justice and religion. The blog posts will be written by members of the church relations staff at Bread for the World.
"The Lord has told us what is right and what God demands: See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God." (Micah 6:8)
By Diane Ford Dessables
Last month, while attending Bread for the World’s race summit in Orlando Fla., a middle-aged white pastor and I were in conversation with each other. I am a middle-aged African-American woman. We sought to understand each other and be evermore serious about bringing Good News to a nation that is still coming to grips with its “original” sin – racism. We agreed that we needed to get serious about taking up the Cross. If we are to make a commitment to follow Jesus anew, we need to do it with our eyes wide open.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043,” with minorities projected to be 57 percent of the population in 2060. In response, fear and restrictive laws are creeping back into our culture and our politics — often without explicit racial bias. However, structural inequities are becoming more rigid, and systemic biases harder to eradicate. As a result, new coalitions are forming and old ones are partnering with new allies. Together, they are ministering with and on behalf of underserved societies. That is the reason the pastor and I were Spirit-led to be in each other’s company.
That day, at the summit, I was curious to know how this pastor could begin to come to terms with the discomfort that loss of power, control, and privilege often produces. In response, he said, “I fear not knowing what I will become once I no longer have easy access to them.”
As I reflected on his words, I became keenly aware of two things: I am not responsible for addressing his fear; only he can do that through God’s love and grace. It is, however, my responsibility never to succumb to any temptation to use power, control or privilege as weapons to personally or systemically oppress another human being.
I responded, “I fear becoming what I abhor. I pray to God I’m spared from subjecting that on anyone else.”
Today, we are called to nurture a more complete relationship with God and a closer walk with Jesus; to commit to supporting and loving one another into a new way of being; to encourage each other’s prophetic voices and reach out together to heal the divides by which our communities are coming undone.
The church today must not only reflect on how Jesus’ church can move beyond charity to justice, but we must also move beyond issues of socio-political justice, and contemplate the reason for and substance of our spiritual life. Today we must prepare together for the consequences of transcending our national spiritual status quo. It is out of this kind of movement that we will start to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…”
We can’t end hunger and poverty without being in deepened relationship with each other. We must allow God’s promise to love us and help guide us anew to justice, and mercy in our world.
Diane Ford Dessables is senior associate for denominational relations at Bread for the World.
By Dan DeBevoise
I’ve been in conversation for a while with a friend and community organizer about the possibility of gathering people from our local community to talk about race relations. We talked about having honest, intimate conversations. We talked about sharing in the context of our faith.
I had no idea how important, inspiring, and transformational such an event would be until we actually did it. I thank God that Bread for the World and Faith in Florida provided the opportunity by sponsoring the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.
Sometimes it seems that the most significant leap is the one from talking to taking action. Bread and Faith in Florida made it possible for us to take that big, sometimes intimidating step.
Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director for Faith and Formation at PICO National Network, opened the event by teaching two Zulu phrases: a greeting, “Sawu Bona,” which means “I see you,” and the response, “Sikhona,” which means, “I am here.” This set the tone for our work together. We learned anew the power and affirmation of deeply acknowledging the presence of another person’s full humanity – “I see you.” And we were asked to experience the freedom of being present in the fullness of our humanity – “I am here.”
We did the risky work of sitting down with another person different from ourselves and asking, “Can I share a story of something important that happened to me that I want you to know?” And we did the hard work of listening to one another in ways that opened us to the truth of whom they are and whom we are.
We sought the truth about our communities and society. We listened to panelists describe the circumstances and challenges they face every day: youth, single women, people of color, people who know poverty and have struggled with hunger and feeding their families.
Throughout the event, we listened to each other, we pushed each other, we embraced each other, we encouraged each other, we challenged each other, and we walked with each other (literally on a march in downtown Orlando,) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.
Then, to conclude, Rev. Dr. James Forbes led us in worship. Forbes shared the powerful proclamation that God is in the business of erasing the boundaries and barriers that we set up to protect ourselves from each other. We were given in worship the gift of unity that comes by the love of God for all people: praising, praying, singing, proclaiming God’s word of reconciliation and justice. We were in that moment a part of the beloved community.
In the big picture, it may look like a small step, but for me, it was a big step. And definitely a step in the right direction.
Dan DeBevoise is a co-pastor at Park Lake Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.
By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy
Social justice-minded advocates who are looking for inspiration will find it in a new book—Possible: A Blueprint for Changing the World. Its author is Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an international relief and development partner of Bread for the World.
Bauman, who is also on Bread’s board of directors, poured his vast personal and professional experience rebuilding marginalized communities at home and abroad into this powerful text. Bauman wrote Possible to be hopeful and helpful for anyone engaged in making the world a better place.
And hope-filled and helpful it is. “Possible is a personal call to reconsider what it means to sustainably impact our neighborhoods, villages and cities. It’s for anyone who dares to believe change is possible, from artists to engineers to storytellers and students to moms and musicians,” Bauman says.
The core message of Possible should ring true for the hundreds of thousands of Bread advocates and leaders who have been organizing their churches to write letters to Congress, praying to end hunger, drafting op-ed pieces for local papers, and keeping our nation’s decision makers accountable to ending hunger and poverty.
One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled “The Making of Heroes.” In it, Bauman talks about how ordinary people with a willingness to listen to others, with simple humility, authenticity, and belief in trusted relationships can undergird the transformative actions that actually change the world. The book also emphasizes the need for asset mapping in all areas of our lives. This enables us to employ the skills and resources we possess in partnership with God, who is already at work in the world.
As the executive director of The Justice Conference (TJC), Bauman is creating a space where partnerships with God can manifest. The social-justice conference, held in Chicago this year, brings together world-class speakers and artists to catalyze emerging works of justice around the world. Thousands of Christian activists will gather at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago June 5 and 6.
Over the last four years, Bread has worked closely with TJC, and this year we will lead the pre-conference advocacy track on global poverty. Register for The Justice Conference, and join Bread for the pre-conference. We will have an intensive dialogue on global poverty – exploring what is possible when we partner with God and answer the call to change the world.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy manages evangelical relations in Bread for the World’s church relations department.
By Bread Staff
In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.
Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society. Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.
Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear: women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.
On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.
Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.
For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.
I am not into celebrating the lives of my ancestors for just one month out of the year. Rather, I take a moment each and every day to reflect on the lives of my ancestors, on the lives of greatness. Black History Month is not all that exciting for me, but it does serve as a reminder, nevertheless.
During the month of February, I am reminded, especially by others who celebrate the lives of black people, of how educated, beautiful, radiant, talented, driven, brilliant, intelligent, innovative, and legendary my people are. I am reminded that no matter how we are perceived today, that we were once kings, queens, inventors, innovators, educators, leaders, architects, and rulers of great nations, to name a few. I am reminded of how resilient and strong that we have always been and must continue to be.
Having grown up in the rural Mississippi Delta, I am reminded of my sharecropping grandparents who spent many years on a plantation in Leflore County. Many years in which they worked to provide housing and basic necessities for their eldest children. Many years in which they were short-changed daily by their “landlord” and barely made ends meet. It’s similar to the plight of so many residents in the Mississippi Delta, who struggle to provide for their families in 2015. I am reminded of the systemic issue of hunger and poverty that has always been pervasive in the Mississippi Delta due to blacks having little to no access to land or resources. I am reminded of the local, statewide, and federal policies that have allowed these systemic issues to remain commonplace.
I am reminded of great leaders who organized in an effort so that others and I would one day have better lives, opportunities, and a chance to live in a more just society void of systemic issues that plague black communities. I am reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer. I am reminded of June Johnson. I am reminded of Euvester Simpson. I am reminded of Victoria Gray Adams. I am reminded of Annie Devine. I am reminded of Unita Blackwell. I am reminded of Sam Block. I am reminded of Willie B. Peacock. I am reminded of Jesse Harris. I am reminded of Silas McGhee. I am reminded of Hollis Watkins.
In 2015, as we fight to prove that “black lives matter,” I am reminded of why I have chosen what I dare not call a career, but a way of life. I am reminded that the battles that my ancestors fought have not been won yet. The torch has been passed on. The fight must continue.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” –Assata Shakur, an African-American activist (b. 1947)
Brittany Gray is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Photo: Brittany Gray at a Moral Movement Rally in Jackson, Miss. Brittany Gray/Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
Can we turn our faith into action and become conduits of God’s love as leaders in our communities?
Travel writer and Bread for the World member Rick Steves thinks so. Steves talked about the importance of advocacy as an act of faith during the Faith Action Network (FAN) annual fundraising dinner in Seattle, Wash., last November.
Advocacy goes beyond models of charity. For Steves, it is the implementation of God’s love to address structural poverty. It is an extension of stewardship that considers community and neighbor. "We are so richly blessed," Steves said. "I think if we are honest with our faith, we take that stewardship seriously."
Steves used the image of a Whirling Dervish to show how people of faith can be tools of God.
“He plants one foot in community - his home - and his other foot goes around the world, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of God’s great creation," Steves said. "He raises one hand up to God to accept the love of his maker, the other hand, like the spout of a tea kettle, goes down and showers God’s love on his great creation as he whirls - one foot in his home with his loved one, the other celebrating the diversity in his community.”
Steves’ worldview is shaped by his faith and travel. He said that one of the reasons he values travel is that he can view his own country from a distance but also see the different ways communities across the globe deal with similar challenges. “We can learn from other people's experiences, we can share notes,” he said.
Steves’ book, Travel as a Political Act explores how travel can connect people and engender a mutual understanding. Travel opens our eyes because it exposes the similarities and diversities of various approaches to living. Sometimes what we see is gross inequality. But for Steves, that pushes him to engage his elected officials - the leaders who make policies that affect vulnerable people around the world.
Last year, Steves spoke out about a policy provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually. Steves sees short-term profit over feeding hungry people as a problem of perspective.
“Sure, we have our economic challenges,” Steves wrote in The Seattle Times last June. “But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.”
By speaking up in your communities and with your elected officials, advocates like you and Rick Steves, helped put a stop to the harmful provision. God’s love for humanity channeled through God’s people triumphed. That is faith in action!
A Whirling Dervish, perpetually in motion and radiating God’s love and promise out to the world, is a nice metaphor for what we do as faithful advocates. By urging our elected officials to craft programs and policies that celebrate human diversity, while acknowledging that we are one people tied together by God’s love, we most certainly do turn our faith into action.
Watch the video of Rick Steves' presentation on the Rick Steves' Europe Blog.
As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Photo inset: Whirling Dervishes. Tomas Maltby/Wikimedia Commons.
This week marks the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a time for Christians around the world to give thanks for the unity we already have as followers of the one Christ and for us to pray that we would make that unity visible among ourselves. Congregations and parishes often exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services during this week.
This year’s theme, “Jesus said to her: ‘Give me to drink’” (John 4:7), centers around the importance of water. Some may immediately think of their own baptism as one of most popular images of water - a symbol of life and divine affirmation of God with us. In John 4:7, we see an illustration of this in a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman about the difference between good drinking water and living water.
After being tired from his journey and sending the disciples to get food, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a historic well called Jacob’s well in a place called Sychar. This place, which was near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, was known for having good water that nourished the community. Jesus breaks the cultural taboo of asking a Samaritan to share with a Jew by requesting a drink of water from her. The Samaritan woman responds to Jesus by saying, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus responds with a surprising statement that moves the conversation to one that seeks to bridge their cultural and gender identities when he states: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
It is important to point out that although Jesus didn’t need to ask the Samaritan woman for a drink, he did. He put the Samaritan woman in the position of being the giver and hospitable host despite the ethnic and gender differences between them.
This story invites all of us to be givers and hospitable hosts. At Bread, one way we can give is to lend our voice to helping our nation’s children receive the meals they need by supporting the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill. The bill is set to expire this fall. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care food Program and WIC Program.
This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development. Bread is urging Congress to pass a child nutrition bill that protects these nutrition programs and gives more hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive and to ensure such programs are not paid for by cuts to other vital safety-net programs.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bread for the World gives thanks for the support it receives and the partnerships it has with a wide variety of denominations and faith communities—for the ecumenical nature of the mission it carries out. American Christianity has many faces and worships in so many different ways, but there is one thing we can agree on: God calls us to end hunger. Our denominations may not look unified, but we come together in places like Bread for the World because of our mandate from the same Jesus, who set the highest example of caring for people’s bodily needs.
In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030. It’s only with persistence and prayer that we can build the political will to end hunger here and abroad.
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement at Bread for the World.
Photo: In rural areas of developing countries, women and girls are responsible for retrieving water used in cooking, drinking, cleaning, and washing. Richard Lord for Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Derick Dailey, a board member of Bread for the World, recently wrote on the issues of hunger and poverty for Yale Divinity School's Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry.
He said "too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope" because of the country's "broken immigration system, dysfunctional public schools, black and brown genocide in our city streets, and chronically unproductive legislative structures."
At Bread, we are committed to ending hunger by 2030. It is only with voices like Dailey’s, spreading the message of the challenges and the solutions, that ending hunger can become reality. The following are excerpts from Dailey’s insightful piece:
On how faith institutions play a role in ending hunger:
Social justice is a larger priority for faith institutions and theological education. Congregations are embracing strands of political theology to fight poverty and hunger.
Involvement looks different for each community. Some groups run local soup kitchens and food giveaways. Others ask Congress to support strong poverty-reduction policies. Others directly invest in building schools and libraries in underdeveloped countries. Another trend is the collective mobilization of their church, typically the national body, to divest from companies that do not support their vision of justice. Thanks to progressive theological education, new generations of faith leaders are demanding that social justice be central to a prophetic gospel in ecclesial bodies, businesses, and global.
On how “smart power” is changing the fight against hunger and poverty:
Smart power is now in the policy arsenal of most developed countries. Rich countries are investing unprecedented dollars toward poverty reduction to ensure stability and exert influence throughout high-conflict regions. The United Kingdom, in 2013 alone, spent 11.3 billion pounds on international aid. 7 Non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank invest in anti-poverty policies through debt relief and development. Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department has doubled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the executive agency tasked with issues of food aid and humanitarian assistance. Hunger reduction continues to infiltrate American mainstream political discourse and policy circles.
On how people of faith can get involved:
Ending hunger will not happen without a move of God. For the Old Testament prophets, food was, in effect, a basic human right. They remind us to seek justice for everyone, especially the orphan and the widow, so that everyone has enough to eat. There is no shortage of biblical support for food justice and God’s continued grace. So we must pray and act. Pursue food justice locally. Urge policymakers to embrace poverty-reduction strategies. Leverage your voices and your votes.
In this election season, consider contacting your federal legislators about eliminating hunger in the world. Tell them you are moved by God’s grace to work to end hunger by 2030, and your vote depends on their support for poverty-reduction policies. Encourage your church to pray for the end of hunger in its weekly devotionals, Bible study, and worship.
Dailey graduated with a master's degree from Yale Divinity School last year and is now attending Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Christian leaders from the Circle of Protection gathered Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to implore 2016 presidential hopefuls to make ending hunger and poverty a national priority.
The Circle of Protection represents various denominations which millions of Americans are members of, and Christian relief and development agencies that work to alleviate hunger and poverty here and abroad. Christian leaders are challenging the 2016 presidential hopefuls to submit videos outlining how they would end hunger and poverty - putting pressure on them not to stay silent on the issue.
Here is a sample of what the Christian leaders said on Thursday:
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World: "There is broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country. 100 Christian leaders of all stripes are urging all the candidates to explain, on camera, what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”
Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals: “There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people—some more effective than others. Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility. Silence on poverty is inexcusable.”
Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA: “Christian leaders from all major Christian traditions have come to have a shared sense that the extent of poverty in this country is unnecessary and shameful. We expect that our president, regardless of which political party he or she represents, place hunger and poverty at the top of his or her priorities."
Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA: “For the 45 million Americans living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. Helping them achieve their full potential should not be a partisan issue - it's time for candidates from both sides of the aisle to have a meaningful conversation about advancing the common good."
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
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