Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

78 posts categorized "Faith"

Pray for a Hungry "Stranger"

Woman prays"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me..."

                                          —Mathew 25:34-35

Immigration is a hunger issue. Our broken immigration system in the United States leaves too many without access to resources they need to live. Poverty and hunger have been major forces driving immigration to this country; for those who live here as undocumented immigrants, their status means a precarious life in the shadows.

Immigration reform is part of the exodus from hunger for which Bread for the World members advocate and pray. Yet, as legislation to reform immigration languishes and the House of Representatives fails to act, frustration on the part of advocates mounts and people continue to suffer. A Christian response requires us to use our voices and advocate for our brothers and sisters both here and abroad, but a faithful response to hunger also includes prayer. 

Today, we join with our partners in the Evangelical Immigration Table, and other people of faith, in praying for our leaders in Congress, the congregations and pastors who care for immigrants and their families, and for the millions of people hurt by an outdated immigration system.

Take a moment during your day, or at any point over the next 24 hours, and pray for those who hunger for reform. Use the prayer below or one of your own choosing. Ask other in your church, campus, or community to join you, and help make this day of prayer a powerful one that moves hearts and minds. If you are a Twitter user, ask others to join you in prayer and action by using the hashtag #Pray4Reform.

All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.


Prayer for a Hungry "Stranger"

Lord Jesus Christ, Giver of abundant love,
guidance and protection,
our hearts are filled with gratitude.
Your love empowers us to do your will,
to be your hands and feet in this world,
for your purpose.
Your grace enables us to recognize injustice
and to partner in the restoration of brokenness in our
own lives and of unjust systems.
There is hunger and poverty in our world
that displaces our brothers and sisters from their homes and homelands.
Lord Jesus, we seek your shelter and protection.
Migrant workers harvest the food on our tables yet suffer
unsafe labor conditions and empty cupboards.
Lord Jesus, we imagine your harvest
to be rich and plentiful for all people
and that all people are fed and have a place at the table.
The decisions of lawmakers in this nation impact
the flourishing of millions children created in your image.
Lord Jesus, may we witness a change in this nation’s priorities so that
hunger is no longer acceptable.  
May we see the dignity
of every person upheld, especially their right to food.
Lord Jesus, may we be strengthened by your example
to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor and feed the hungry
so that our brothers and sisters everywhere will flourish.

—Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy

 

Photo: A woman prays during a worship service in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Pope Francis and Obama: When Faith and Government Meet

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Pope Francis meets President Barack Obama at the Vatican on Thursday, March 27. (Getty)

By Billy Kangas

For President Obama, leader of the one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, to come together to discuss the need to address poverty and income inequality is historic. But what exactly does last Thursday’s meeting at the Vatican mean for hungry and poor people? Will it help shift Obama’s narrative on income equality from a focus on the struggling middle class to one on the hungry and impoverished in the United States and around the world? Does the fact that the two men were able to set aside any differences in opinion and find common ground in a desire to help the poor hint at a larger sea change?

The meeting raises many questions, but it also underscores the pope’s enormous potential to impact global politics, global leadership, and global priorities—including hunger and poverty. Exactly what does the so-called "Francis factor" contribute? Here are some observations to put Francis in perspective, and give some context to the life and ministry of this cleric, who is changing the world through small acts done with great love.

He's a leader from the developing world

This point is so key to understanding Francis. His voice has continually reminded me to look beyond my own cultural concerns and obsessions to see who the truly marginalized in this world are. As much as disparity and inequality remain significant and heart-wrenching issues in the United States, the inequality that ravages so many U.S. communities is often more acutely felt in the communities of the developing world. It is from these places that Francis emerged; it is in these places that he has spent his life of ministry. He reminds us to take our gaze away from our navels and to look into the pleading eyes of those who suffer under our indifference. 

He brings a different narrative 

Our political system often only gives us two stories to choose from: the narrative from the left, and the narrative from the right. The stories from these two sides can become all-consuming, blotting out all else and creating an environment in which one is judged solely on where they fall on the continuum of conservative to liberal. Francis emerges with a different kind of story—it is not one driven by politics, wealth, or power, but humility, grace, joy, and sacrifice. It cuts us to the heart, and brings a challenge. His message is simple: God's glory; neighbor's good. There is little room for self-aggrandizement in that equation, and I have been convicted time and time again of my own sin and of my need for the transforming Grace of God in my life.

He has a different kind of power

Francis wields a significant amount of power, but it is not the kind of power that we have grown accustomed to in our contemporary world. He does not have the power of the nation-state, he does not have the power of a global corporation, he does not even have the power of a radical revolutionary. His power lies in his ability to remind millions that their allegiance is to the God who demonstrates love in Christ laying down his life. Francis has been a great communicator of that message. He has been an example of what Christ looks like, and that is a power we have rarely had to contend with in this modern age.

He is bringing to bear a tradition

Another reason the “Francis factor” must be taken seriously is that he is more than just a prophet, he is a pope. As a pope, he brings with him a tradition that is deep and rich and beautiful. He does not bring ideas that are his alone, which will flash in the pan of world history and be forgotten, but represents a movement grounded in 2000 years of theology, philosophy, and social teaching, from which countless others have given their lives to demonstrate the radical love of God in Christ. Francis will not be pope forever, but we can be sure he will not be the last to bear this radical call. The message Francis preaches is not his own, and it will continue long after he has gone. It is the message that continues to sustain us.

It remains to be seen exactly how the “Francis factor” might influence the agenda of Obama—and vice versa. But hopefully, at the very least, last week’s meeting signaled to the world the importance of coming together to address issues of hunger and poverty in our world. 

*

Living out the mandate to work for God’s glory and neighbor’s good includes ensuring that all are fed. Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, “Reforming U.S. Food Aid,” seeks smart forms to U.S. food aid programs—changes that would help feed millions more each year, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Visit http://www.bread.org/ol to learn more.

Billy Kangas is Bread for the World's Catholic Relations fellow.

April's Bread for the Preacher: "Resurrection and Restoration"

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

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

By Rev. Nancy Neal

The end of Lent and Holy Week usher in the spring season of rebirth in nature around us. Many of us have trudged through harsh winter weather, but now we see glimpses of new buds on trees and the tips of leaves poking through the cold ground. In light of Christ’s resurrection, the budding flowers of spring remind us of a similar budding within us to be agents of transformation and restoration in a suffering world.

Fasting with Jesus in Lent, celebrating his triumphant entrance on Palm Sunday, remembering his intimate last supper on Maundy Thursday, and mourning his passion and death on Good Friday, we look for signs of new life. We keep a spirit of hope in the promise of resurrection, pondering what it means in Easter to, as Wendell Berry says, "practice resurrection." Reflecting upon Lent, one question before us may be For what purpose has this new ground been tilled?

As we find renewed life in the Risen Christ this Easter, may we discover a renewed commitment to be restorers in our world, especially to end the scourge of hunger.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

Establishing a Moral Government

06_Martin_Luther_King,_Jr._and_Lyndon_JohnsonBy Paul Turner

When Martin Luther King Jr. came out against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, his justification was that it was draining resources needed to implement the Great Society social programs and hampering the government’s ability to finally deliver on a promissory note guaranteeing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. King was drawn to the antiwar movement because his faith compelled him to work toward systemic change.

His opposition to the war broke down the silos of seemingly disparate movements and fused them together in one overarching desire for open, honest, and responsive government—a moral government.

Today, that desire involves pushing our government’s leaders to play a significant role in stemming hunger, poverty, and disease at home and abroad. However, just as King had the Vietnam War in his time, we too face enormous competition for government resources to help those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”  We too are outraged by government waste, fraud, and abuse; but we are just as outraged by the government’s misplaced priorities and devolution from social responsibility. Even getting the attention of congressional leaders is a competition. The wealthy and powerful are able to steer government policy through campaign contributions and special-interest lobbying firms.  How do the voices of those who can’t afford to “pay to play” get heard?

Bread for the World is unlike the special-interest firms that crowd the Capitol, bestowing gifts and favors on members of Congress who support their motives. The organization instead serves as a proxy for those who lack the income and wealth to gain access to these corridors of power.

Bread uses its influence to call for policies that are characteristic of a moral government. It speaks with authority on behalf of the church, God’s primary agent for transformation in the world, and supplies the vigilance needed to ensure the government plays an active role in addressing poverty and hunger.

In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 5, Jesus encounters a lame man who is lying by the pool of Bethesda because no one would help him enter its healing waters. His blessing was being deferred by the selfish motives of others, who were out to get their own blessings. That’s how it often is in Washington—powerful interests rush in, seeking to receive from the government trough.

When Jesus healed the lame man by telling him to “take up your bed and walk,” he demonstrated the power the church has in advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable.

In the Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership program (MATUL) at Azusa Pacific University, our students are engaged in social entrepreneurship and community transformation in the poorest communities around the world. They are working outside traditional structures to empower the poorest of the poor. Bread similarly engages in social entrepreneurship by embracing civic engagement and advocacy to bring the faith community together to pray, act, and think about new ways to establish a moral government. 

Paul Turner is director of Mission Implementation at West Angeles Community Development Corporation, adjunct professor of the MATUL program at Azusa Pacific University, and elder at Abundant Life Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Los Angeles, Calif.

Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 1966. (Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office)

March's Bread for the Preacher: Looking to Lent

Mountain_in_guatemala

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

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

By Rev. Nancy Neal

In March, we round out the season of Epiphany with Transfiguration Sunday, which grounds Jesus in the long tradition of Moses and the Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets. From there, we turn our attention inward, asking the questions Who are we? and Whose are we? Many of our churches' members will give up sweets or caffeine during this season. Or perhaps they will add some kind of healthy habit to their daily routine. Our challenge is to help them dig deeper to recognize our corporate identity inaugurated in the "new Adam," to remember that God often favors the outsider and the excluded, and to take risks on the road to justice.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

David Beckmann: Our Loving God is Moving History

More than 30 years ago, Bread for the World president David Beckmann lived and worked in Bangladesh, and saw extreme poverty while in the country. A few years ago, he and his wife went back for a visit, traveling to the northwest region where they once lived, and saw something amazing.

"What was best about this experience was that although people are still extremely poor, they are dramatically less poor than they were 30 years ago," Beckmann said during a talk at the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University on Feb. 9. "The changes have been spectacular."

Beckmann spoke about improvements to infrastructure, such as new roads and buildings, as well as how people's lives have changed—he saw children that looked better nourished, and met women who were taking advantage of new literacy education and microcredit programs. And these changes aren't unique to the country he once called home. "This same thing has happened in hundreds of thousands of communities in the world," he said. "The World Bank judges that the number of people in the world in extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 30 years."

At the Saint More Catholic Chapel and Center to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of its soup kitchen, Beckmann spread the message that the dramatic progress that has been made in alleviating extreme hunger and poverty is evidence that ending hunger is within reach.

"Those of us who believe in God and can read about and understand this huge change in the world, I think we have to understand this as our loving God moving history," he said. "I've come to see this as a great exodus in our own time; this is God answering prayers on a huge scale. And I think our loving God is asking us to get with the program. Because in our time, it is clearly possible to make much, much more progress—probably to virtually end extreme poverty and hunger within a couple decades."

Beckmann also talked about what it will take to accomplish this—namely, building the political will to move our leaders and "change big systems in ways that will move us toward the end of hunger in our country and around the world."

By connecting with members of Congress—through letter writing and participating in Offerings of Letters, in-person visits, and writing letters to the editor, people learn “that we have power, we can change things," Beckmann said. "Learn how you can be an active citizen and make the world more like how you think God wants it to be."

Watch the full video of the tlak above, and then learn more about conducting an Offering of Letters, and what you can do to help move history.

February's Bread for the Preacher: The 'Why' and 'How' of Justice Work


A woman prays during church service in rural Xonca, Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

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

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

By Rev. Nancy Neal

In this season of new year's resolutions and new starts, we celebrate that Congress just last week passed a budget without shuttering the government. Perhaps we are seeing small cracks in the walls that divide us politically. Our pleas and prayers for an end to the political brinkmanship are making a difference.

The lectionary passages for this month address the Why? and the How? of doing justice work. The texts urge us toward justice and righteousness, not only in our personal devotions, but also in our public lives. In some instances, we will challenge our communities to ground their justice work in a devotional life. And in other cases, we will challenge our communities to extend their personal devotions into the world to act for justice.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

God Calls Us to be Advocates for Life

Houghton-students-on-cap-hill-main
(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.

 

 

 

 

Praying for Change and Being Changed

Prayer_wave
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.]

Join Pope Francis in Prayer Today at Noon

Woman-prayingBy David Beckmann

The day has come! A multitude of Catholics rallied by Caritas Internationalis and millions of other Christians and people of other faiths around the world are raising their voices in a "wave of prayer" today at noon (local time in every time zone) to end hunger.

Pope Francis has released a message in support of this worldwide effort. We hope his words will inspire you to join this prayer wave!

Would you join us today at noon? Pray individually or ask others to join you.

Today a clear and loud message of ending hunger in our time will rise to God. Hopefully it will also touch the hearts of our nation’s leaders in Congress when they are finalizing — at this very moment — a decision on the farm bill and harmful cuts to nutrition programs. At this critical time, they need to hear from you.

After you pray, please take action and call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress. Tell them not to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), but to take actions that will help end hunger in our country and around the world.

If you need a prayer for this occasion, consider the prayers — from various Christian traditions — we have assembled at www.bread.org/prayerwave.

Together in prayer we can change the world.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

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