Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

68 posts categorized "Faith"

Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform

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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.

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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).

Typhoon Haiyan: How to Help


Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, was one of the area most ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Caritas/ CAFOD)

Rev. Edwin Amor is pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tacloban City on Leyte Island in the Philippines — a city that news reports are calling the center of the disaster zone created by Typhoon Haiyan. His house was badly damaged, and there's no water, no power, no food, and no milk for his grandchild. Still, Amor, who is the local director of the Adventist Relief and Development Association, has opted to stay in Tacloban to help in the relief and recovery efforts.

He is helping coordinate the work of medical teams and performing other vital tasks in the aftermath of a storm that has left thousands dead, and hundreds of thousands without food, clean water, or shelter.

Many of Bread for the World's partners, including denominational disaster programs and faith-based relief agencies, are involved in emergency response. We encourage you to give to your denomination's relief and development agency, or support the efforts of organizations such as World Vision and Church World Service, both of which have mounted disaster-response campaigns.

Interaction, an alliance of more than 180 nongovernmental organizations around the world, including Bread for the World, has compiled a list of its member organizations that are responding to the crisis.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it is sending emergency shipments of food to hard-hit areas of the Philippines, providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance in the wake of this tragedy. We ask that, in addition to making generous donations to service organizations, you continue your work to support U.S. food aid programs, which allow the U.S. government to respond quickly and effectively to such disasters, and help our brothers and sisters around the world in times of great need.

Your concern, your generosity, your advocacy, and your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Let's Argue It Out: November's Bread for the Preacher

'Holy Bible' photo (c) 2009, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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. Gary Cook

Some days, I feel like standing outside Congress holding up a sign that says, "Isaiah 1:8." God’s invitation to a rebellious people is, "Come, let us argue it out." It's an invitation that affirms a lasting relationship and invites dialog, despite having "had enough." Such an attitude would go a long way toward ending the gridlock in Washington.

As we begin the rapid rush through the holidays, many of the people in our pews are "arguing it out" with God. They are seeking to come to some agreement about faithfulness in a context of consumerism. Some understanding of "joy," "hope," and "peace" that surpasses hollow holiday pretense. Some comprehension of Jesus as both Christ child and ruler.

Beginning with the Isaiah text on November 3, the month’s lectionary texts invite such a discussion with God. I pray that your preaching will help it happen. And I ask that your congregation prays for our members of Congress, that they might "argue it out" in a way that the result is good news for hungry and poor people.

Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Fighting Poverty By 'Transforming the Whole Pond'

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Susan and Russell Stall (Photo courtesy of Jay Spivey/FETE magazine).

Bread for the World members Susan and Russell Stall of Greenville, N.C., work to change systems and empower people. The couple recently traveled to Kenya, a trip organized by Dining for Women. Susan serves on the board of the local chapter of this global giving circle dedicated to helping women and girls in the developing world. The Stalls learned about Dining for Women when its founder addressed a JustFaith group that the Stalls facilitated in 2011.

JustFaith is a small-group curriculum that links spirituality and the church’s social justice mission. Bread for the World President David Beckmann, another speaker in the JustFaith series, also made a lasting impression on the Stalls.

“David told about meeting the mother of his adopted child,” Susan recalls. “This woman had made a contribution to Bread for the World. When David asked her what motivated the gift, the woman said that when she was a young, unwed, pregnant woman, she couldn't have survived without the government assistance that Bread for the World helps pass in Congress. Now that her life was stable, she wanted to support Bread’s work.”

“I was struck by how this person was helped—and even more that Bread for the World’s own leader was indirectly impacted by Bread's advocacy through his child’s birth mother. I was also struck by the inclusiveness David exuded when he addressed us. My son asked a question and David answered as though Hampton (the only teenager at the event) was the most important person in the room.”

In 2008, Russell founded Greenville Forward, dedicated to improving the Stalls’ home city. The effort mobilizes community conversations, leadership development, and community gardens, to name just a few. The latter is of special interest to Russell.

“Public gardens, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are becoming the new front porch, where people can see each other and visit, and grow healthy food to eat,” he says.

The Stalls are members of Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church, where affluent members sit shoulder-to-shoulder with homeless people, who make up half the congregation.  Susan calls the congregation “an incredible model.”  Triune recently hosted a large Offering of Letters.  These letters to Congress had a special significance, since many of them were penned by low-income and homeless constituents.

Susan and Russell have a son in college and another in his senior year of high school. Their oldest son, Hampton, worked as an intern at Bread for the World this past summer.

 The Stalls’ preferred mode of financially supporting efforts to end hunger is through gifts of stock to Bread for the World Institute.

“We’re not the top of the heap when it comes to income. But we do have resources,” Susan explains. “When we give appreciated stock, Bread for the World Institute gets the full amount—and we are not liable to pay capital gains tax on it. So giving stock has been a great mechanism for us. Being Bread members provides us with a way to advocate for the world’s most marginalized people.”

“Bread for the World could go out and give food to people,” Russell says. “But changing systems? Empowering people to speak out? That’s not teaching a man to fish. It’s transforming the whole pond!”

Bringing Good News of Great Joy with Bread Christmas Cards

Christmas Card
Bread for the World 2012 Christmas card image. (Nurun Nahar Nargish/Drik/Majority World)

By Vince Mezzera

Reconnecting with friends and family. Reminding people that you care. Spreading holiday cheer. Bread for the World members know that sending our Christmas cards can accomplish all of these things, while also delivering the good news that a world without hunger is possible.

Geneva Butz of Philadelphia says there are several reasons she has used Bread for the World Christmas cards in recent years. “First of all, they are very attractive,” says Butz, who ordered this year’s new shepherd boy design. Beyond that, Butz says it is a way to introduce her friends to Bread, "especially at the holidays when people are focusing on the needs of others around the world.” 

Long-time Bread supporters George and Kammy Young of Knoxville, Tenn., selected a previous year’s design. “When we were deciding what to use for Christmas cards to send to the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, we first thought of Bread,” George Young says. “We loved the cards available, and especially were grateful for the women's theme” of the mother praying design.

Some Bread members plan to spread the Christmas cards beyond their usual lists of friends and family. Margaret Smith of Dallas, Texas, also sends Bread’s cards to her members of Congress.  Smith says she wants to “support the wonderful work that Bread for the World does,” adding, “I am a JustFaith graduate and a RESULTS global group leader; both organizations are partners with Bread and share the same goals.” 

For Smith, the cards offer a way to connect the people in her life to her passion for ending hunger. “Almost everyone who will get a card knows that I am a champion for the end of hunger and poverty," she says. "I want the card to remind them of the importance of this goal.”

Good news, indeed.

To view all five of Bread for the World’s available Christmas card designs, visit www.bread.org/cards

Vince Mezzera is Bread for the World’s resource specialist for members and churches.

Beware of the Chair

Derek
“The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put 'love thy neighbor' at the center of our legislative agenda.” said Derick Dailey, in a video from Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table." (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

The shutdown is over and the debt ceiling has been raised — for now.  The finish line – a final 2014 budget and a responsible replacement of sequestration – was moved to early next year.  For faithful advocates these new developments mean a chance to take a breath, but beware of the chair.

Amelia Kegan, our senior policy analyst, talked about the allure of what runners call “the chair” during this week's grassroots webinar and conference call. Kegan, who recently completed a 100-mile race in Pennsylvania, warned that after you’ve hit the 60-mile mark and come to an aid station, you inevitably see a chair. Tired, you eye it with longing. But, you know that once you sit in that chair and your eyes begin to droop with relaxation, it is much harder to get back up and finish the race.

Our race to end hunger is long and, as the last several months have proved, sometimes frustrating. We share victories, but we also share despair.  I’ve heard more than one anti-hunger advocate say that, at times, they’ve wanted to cap their pen, hang up their phone, and never speak to another politician.

I wonder how Moses did it, all those years in the desert?  I imagine his often “stiff-necked” charges always asking: are we there yet? I often see this race to end hunger as being similar to crossing that desert — long and tiring, to say the least. At times manna is given to us when we most need it, but like Moses we must wander as servants of the Lord, faithful that the journey is part of the reward.

We know we are not alone as a network of Christians and we know that God is in our midst. Like Moses, we have answered God’s invitation to “come.” Perhaps, like Moses, we might feel inadequate for the job — especially against special interests and the power of money. But we are not inadequate in the eyes of God, whose power is greater than all.

Moses probably saw his share of chairs in the desert. Coming off the mountain, he finds corruption and idol worship among his people. He is angry, but he doesn’t sit down, he travels on.

The coming months will continue to be tough. The farm bill conference is likely to begin soon and our collective responsibility to care for the widow and the orphan will again be called into question as SNAP faces yet another attack. The expected immigration reform legislation in the House and continued budget negotiations reminds us that we must encourage those who have the power of the purse in order to live out the command to love our neighbor.

Are we there yet? No, but we have travelled the trail faithfully. Take a moment, say a prayer of thanks that we passed this hurdle, but beware of the chair — we have work to do.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer in the western hub.

Farm Bill: Now What?

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Faithful advocacy takes perserverence. Bread for the World members at the June 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Christine Meléndez Ashley

Last Thursday was not a good day. After months of faithful advocacy against deep cuts to SNAP – in district meetings, local media, more than 7,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls to Congress – the House narrowly passed a bill cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by $40 billion. Emotions felt by faithful anti-hunger advocates likely mirrored my own. Defeat. Sorrow. Outrage. A sense of loss and disappointment, along with the question, “Now what?” hanging over my head.

But I woke up Friday morning with Psalm 108 on my heart, a psalm we had read in the office shortly before the vote on Thursday afternoon:

My heart is steadfast, O God! For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. [Psalm 108:1, 4 ESV]

What originally was a prayer for victory became a prayer of comfort to me. Regardless of the wins or losses on Capitol Hill, we stand steadfast, remembering that God is, God has been, and God will continue to be faithful. We may not have won on this bill, but this isn’t the end of the line in our advocacy for a strong SNAP program. With this psalm buoying my spirit, I look forward to the work that needs to be done.

Now that the Senate and the House have each passed a version of the farm bill, it’s time for a conference committee to come together and iron out the differences between the policies passed by each chamber. The Senate previously passed a bill with $4 billion in SNAP cuts. Obviously, it will be a tough negotiation to protect SNAP. 

The farm bill technically expires on Monday, September 30, but it is almost certain we will not have a final bill by then. Historically, farm bills have been allowed to expire for a couple months before a final bill has been passed. This will likely be the case again this year. SNAP is a unique farm bill program in that it can continue past the September 30 deadline as long as the government is open and functioning. This gives us as advocates the time we need to make sure our message is heard loud, clear, and often: SNAP must be protected in any final farm bill.

As Congress works out the parliamentary and procedural details of how to move forward, we continue to press on in our faithful advocacy. Now is a critical time to let your representatives know you were watching how they voted. Call 1-800-826-3688 and express your thanks or your frustration and outrage at their vote. Our calls today could mean a difference in how representatives vote on SNAP cuts in the future!

The nutrition bill passed but it was a very close vote. Threats to SNAP will continue to come up this fall but victory - protecting SNAP - is within our reach. Stand steadfast and stay tuned for updates from us in the coming weeks.

Christine Meléndez Ashley is a policy analyst at Bread for the World.

A Radical Commitment to End Hunger Takes Faith

Amelia and Gary to White House
Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan and director of church relations Gary Cook travel to the White House in August to deliver the first set of signatures from Bread for the World members asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Amelia Kegan

You may be overwhelmed by the number of times we have asked you to call your members of Congress lately. You may be so angry at the partisan brinkmanship that you want to ignore the news. I know because sometimes I feel it, too. But I’m not giving up and we won’t stop asking you to speak up. Your voice makes a difference; there is too much at stake to lose faith now.

Soon Congress must pass a responsible budget and the path there will include more partisan fights over a continuing resolution, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The fate of SNAP in the farm bill is still uncertain as the House and Senate move toward a reconciliation process. At each juncture we must be vigilant and vocal or risk an increase in hunger both at home and abroad.

Bread for the World knows ending hunger requires a long-term vision. We envision transitioning from a political climate of defensive protection to a bold offensive against hunger, transforming the rhetoric of scarcity into one of hope and abundance. We will pull out by the roots this political culture that blames the poor and demonizes those on SNAP. We will replant a new seed of radical commitment to ending hunger within Congress and the White House—a seed that will eventually yield economic security for all and a real opportunity to attain the American Dream. We will grow this transformation with the soil of on-the-ground, person-to-person grassroots organizing, the waters of political accountability, and by radiating the fierce unconditional love of Jesus Christ. 

But staring only at that grand vision of ending hunger in our time without attending to the immediate fights in front of us is like driving with our sights on the horizon while ignoring that sharp and dangerous curve in the road right just up ahead. How will we end hunger in this generation if 2014 begins with 4 million Americans kicked off of SNAP and 2 million more people around the world denied lifesaving food aid because of the sequester?

The budget battles we are fighting today are becoming part of the political narrative defining this era. There is no doubt in my mind that if we keep at it we will emerge victorious because we're in the right on this. When those suffering from hunger are able to fill their dinner tables with more than just anxious conversation, we all benefit. History, economics, and scripture have taught us that we are all in this together.

While each new budget fight might bring a level of increased exhaustion, frustration, and irritation, we cannot be discouraged. We must continue the relentless struggle over these fiscal fights. And while some may question the sustainability of our seemingly small efforts, we know the parable of the mustard seed and that with faith, we move mountains. 

As we face the next several months, prepare yourself for the trial ahead by taking comfort in the  certainty that you are not alone in God’s kingdom and everyone deserves a place at the table

Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst for Bread for the World.

Realizing the Dream: September's Bread for the Preacher

'Holy Bible' photo (c) 2009, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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. Gary Cook

A few blocks down the street from Bread for the World’s Washington, D.C., offices, thousands of people crowd the National Mall, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On Wednesday, they will join Americans across the country in commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. There will be some celebration of what has changed in 50 years, but the people on the Mall are keenly aware that the Trayvon Martin verdict, the curtailment of the Voting Rights Act, and the mass incarceration of people of color are all signs that the dream is far from being realized.

Many of those on the Mall are people of strong faith. They know that "Let justice roll down like waters" was a divine mandate long before it was a Dr. King quote. And they come trusting that the God of deliverance is still at work in this world. Remembering that God also had a role for Moses in delivering Israel from bondage, they raise their voices before those who have the power to change things for those who face hunger, poverty, imprisonment, and deportation.

The September lectionary begins with the Letter to the Hebrews admonitions for Christian love that encompasses concern for brothers and sisters in need, for the stranger, and for those in prison. Throughout the month, we are reminded that relationships of solidarity, understanding, and love are essential to the realization of justice.

I pray that your September preaching helps connect your listeners to the faith and passion of those who mark this important moment in our country's history — and rekindle hope that the dream will be realized.

Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.

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