Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Advocates Help Push Unemployment Bill Through to House

Advocates_during_Gathering
Bread for the World advocates during a workshop at the 2013 National Gathering, held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Jon Gromek

Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits by a vote of 50 to 38. If the bipartisan bill passes the next hurdle in the House, it will restore benefits through May, and provide retroactive benefits back to Dec. 28, when EUC expired. More than 2 million out-of-work Americans have been cut off from assistance since the end of last year.

The final passage in the Senate is a testament to the power of advocacy: Bread for the World members made 1,045 calls and sent 24,600 emails to senators. Many people who've been affected by the loss of benefits also told their stories and kept pressure on Congress through social media networks, such as Twitter. Without the loud cry from constituents across the nation, the bill may have died after the first attempt to pass it failed.

Approximately 40,000 people in Ohio are among those who've been cut off from benefits. On March 27, I accompanied Bread members who met with the staff of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in Columbus, Ohio. We relayed our hope that a deal would be reached and a solution implemented—a message the senator also received through calls and emails from across the state. Sen. Portman voted to restore unemployment benefits, and his leadership was critical in crafting the final bill.

In Illinois, where more than 110,000 people have lost benefits, my colleague Zach Schmidt asked several pastors in the state to sign on to a letter urging Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to pass EUC. More than 100 faith leaders— leaders who've see the devastation long-term unemployment has caused in their communities and congregations—responded. Like Sen. Portman, and three other Republicans, Sen. Kirk co-sponsored the legislation, which helped push it through final passage. (See how your senators voted here).

Now, as the bill moves to the House, where its future is uncertain, our advocacy work intensifies. In Ohio, we are already thinking of how we can reach out to Republican legislators who may cast key votes. Ohio Bread members will need to reach out to Reps. Bill Johnson (06), Patrick Tiberi (12), David Joyce (14), Steve Stivers (15), and James Renacci (16). While political observers can wait for Congress to act, our neighbors struggling to find work in a still-weakened economy cannot.

Roll Call reports that House Republicans are not feeling pressure to pass this bill. We must change that. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your representative today and urge him or her to vote to extend unemployment insurance. At the end of the week, House members will leave D.C., and head to their home districts for a two-week recess, providing opportunities for you to engage your representative by attending town hall meetings or setting up an in-district meeting. Your organizer can help you come up with a plan of action.

Bread for the World members in Ohio, Illinois, and other states across the country are thankful for the courage of elected officials like Sens. Kirk and Portman, who are willing to put politics aside and do what is  right for their constituents. And it is clear to us that the strength of your voices in calling on members to renew unemployment made all the difference this round. Let’s do it again.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub, at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: Baking Communion Bread

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Communion_bread
Communion bread, baked by Pastor Ron, at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. (Courtesy of Pastor Ron Glusenkamp)

April 8, 2014

"Pass it on
Break the bread,
Lift the cup
Pass it on
The broken will be lifted up
 
Every gift grand and lowly
Every purpose great and small
At this feast they are made holy
By your name you have been called
By your name you have been called."
 
—Lyrics from "Pass It On," by Peter Mayer and Patricia O'Reilly

There is something wonderful about making communion bread. It doesn't take very long to do, and the results are just fantastic. I've put together a video on how I make communion bread according to the Luther Seminary recipe. It's pretty simple. I know for certain that each time you do it, you'll find that it's easier and also more fun.

Why do I think this is important? Well, I believe it is important to use bread as often as one can for communion. At our congregation we don't always use bread, but when we do, people seem to notice. I will also say that not everyone likes real bread at communion. I'm not certain of the reasons for that, but my hunch is that it's too "earthy."

In other words, I think for some people it's simply not spiritual enough. Now, I don't necessarily agree with that viewpoint, but I've been doing this long enough to realize that, ultimately, the "delivery system" — chalice or individual cups, wafers or bread — doesn't matter. What matters are, as Martin Luther said, the words "given and shed for you."

That's what Peter is singing about:

"Break the bread,
Lift the cup
Pass it on
The broken will be lifted up."

It's all about being in communion.

Quote of the Day: Abe Gorelick

Job_fair_line
A job seeker reads a copy of the California Job Journal as he waits in line to enter the California Job Journal HIREvent February 10, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

"Since my unemployment benefits have run out, I’m just trying to make a little money with these part-time jobs. But, for perspective, if I combined my income from all of them, that would still be half of what my weekly unemployment benefits were."

—Abe Gorelick, a marketing professional with a  master’s in business, who has been unemployed for more than a year. Gorelick told the New York Times that he is currently working three jobs—driving a cab and picking up shifts at Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods—but has still fallen into credit card debt, wiped out his retirement accounts, and has even contemplated selling his house since losing his unemployment benefits.

Gorelick is one of more than 2 million people who are classified as long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been out of work for more than six months. The obstacles this class of workers face to find employment is even more difficult than it was pre-recession; emergency unemployment insurance is their lifeline.

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits through May, and make them retroactive to the Dec. 28 expiration. As the bill moves over to the House, even more pressure will be needed to push the it through.

Congress must renew emergency unemployment insurance today. Call 800-826-3688 today and tell your senators and representative to act.

Lenten Devotions: The Trust of Trees

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'tree on the rocks' photo (c) 2007, Ralf Kayser - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

April 7, 2014
 
"Only You can stand beside me through all my thoughts and deeds
You raised the might Redwood from the seed
Only You formed the mountains that stretch to the sky
Cover them with moonlight tonight
I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You."

—Lyrics from "Only You," by Peter Mayer and Jim Mayer

Every once in a while you see a tree growing out of the rocks. It's amazing that anything can survive in such a seemingly harsh climate and terrain. Yet, a tree grows among all the sand, rocks, and beautiful formations. I don't know how the tree got to be where it is. Maybe a bird was carrying a seed and dropped it in a particular spot. Or perhaps the wind blew a seed to that location. Obviously the location and situation were just right for something to take root and grow. It boggles the mind.

People are a lot like plants. Sometimes people grow and flourish in the most difficult situations. Other times, even though the soil, drainage, lighting, and nutritional input is exactly what the horticulturalist ordered, nothing (or more appropriately, no one) seems to blossom and grow.

The tendrils of the roots seek out water and receive nourishment. I'm thinking about young people whose witness brings their parents to church. I'm giving thanks for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors who give a ride to friends so they can come to church. I rejoice in people who are "connectors" so that Living Water flows to those who are thirsty for something real to drink.

Today's First lesson from Isaiah offers an invitation:

"Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!    
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1).

"I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You." "Only You," by Peter Mayer and Jim Mayer

So, one of the things to reflect on this Lent is "where are you planted?"

And the following passage from Jeremiah seems to suggest that where one is "planted" is somewhat conditional on where, or what, or in whom one places trust.

I'm trusting that you are growing in your trust of God.

"Thus says the LORD:
      Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
      and make mere flesh their strength,
      whose hearts turn away from the LORD.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
      and shall not see when relief comes.
      They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
      in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed are those who trust in the LORD,
      whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
      sending out its roots by the stream.
      It shall not fear when heat comes,
      and its leaves shall stay green;
      in the year of drought it is not anxious,
      and it does not cease to bear fruit" (Jeremiah 17).

Shall we gather at the river?

Lenten Devotions: Chicken Noodle Soup

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Chicken Noodle Soup' photo (c) 2013, Cajsa Lilliehook - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

April 5, 2014

"Every gift grand and lowly
Every purpose great and small
At this feast they are made holy
By your name you have been called
By your name you have been called"
 
—Lyrics from "Pass It On," by Peter Mayer

"I'll tell you one thing, Franny. One thing I know. And don't get upset. It isn't anything bad. But if it's the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you're missing out on every single...religious action that's going on around this house. You don't even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup--which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse."
—From "Franny and Zoey," by J.D. Salinger
 
I like Salinger's point that often the "holy" is right there in front of us. In this particular case, it happens to be the "consecrated chicken soup." The soup that was made for our soup luncheon on Wednesday struck me as being "consecrated." It was made with love. It wasn't "store-bought," it made at home by a busy person who took time to share her gifts with others. The physical ingredients made it tasty, but it was all the more delicious because I know it was made with care.
 
That particular soup experience inspired me to make some chicken noodle soup on Thursday. I trust, as Peter sings, that, "Every gift grand and lowly, Every purpose great and small, At this feast they are made holy, By your name you have been called."
 
Share the joy of this mighty love: celebrate SOUP!

New Fact Sheet: Hunger in the African-American Community

Nadine
Nadine Blackwell of Philadelphia tells her story in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King gave his life fighting for economic opportunity—a fight that is still important today, as too many African-Americans continue to suffer from hunger and poverty. Ending hunger in America is possible, but in order to effectively address this issue we must honor Dr. King’s legacy by achieving economic opportunity and equality.”

 —Bishop Don DiXon Williams, associate for African American Church Relations at Bread for the World, in a press release today.

Bread for the World has released a new fact sheet, Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness, in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work on issues of economic equality. Dr. King was assassinated 46 years ago today.

The fact sheet looks at hunger in the aftermath of the Great Recession, noting that food insecurity has disproportionately increased among African-Americans, as compared to other groups, due to higher unemployment rates and other injustices.  Among the findings:

  • The unemployment rate for the African-American community is 12 percent, higher than the national average of 6.7 percent, and higher than any other major group.
  • In 2012, 5.4 percent of African-American workers earned below the minimum wage, while 13.3 percent earned below the median wage, compared to 4 and 8.7 percent of white workers, respectively.

  • Only 2 percent of African-American women work in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) industries, while white women make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.

"The anniversary of Dr. King’s death reminds us that we still have a long way to go in ensuring freedom from hunger and poverty for African-Americans," said Bishop Williams. 

Bread for the World proposes a four-pronged approach to ending hunger in America; it is outlined in the 2014 Hunger Report.

Lenten Devotions: St. Benedict the African

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

St-benedict

April 4, 2014

"We are blessed ...........every breath
We are blessed ............daily bread
We are blessed ...... blessed
be the blessing
Oh with every breath .....blessed
Take our hands and our footsteps ...........blessed
We are blessed to be the blessing

Blessed are those who mourn they will be comforted
Blessed are the meek they will inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger for justice for God will use their hands
Blessed are the merciful mercy will be there dance
Blessed are the pure in heart they will see the Lord
Blessed are those who live in Peace they are children of the Word
Blessed are you who walk through the fire and suffer for the road God shows you,
Through everything give thanks and sing for the Love of God that holds you

We are blessed ...........every breath
We are blessed ............daily bread
We are blessed ......blessed

—Lyrics from "Blessed to Be the Blessing," by Peter Mayer

I must say that I am not really acquainted with St. Benedict the African, who died on this day in 1589. I saw his name on the calendar for today and checked him out via various websites, specifically church websites. He was born to Ethiopian parents who converted to Christianity. He endured racial discrimination. I encourage you to do some research of your own to find out more about this saint. How cool it is for people to look at the family tree of saints and see folks who look like them? How wonderful it is for all of us to realize that God calls and has called people from every place and time?

Peter wrote the song "Blessed to be the Blessing" to celebrate the work and ministry of our congregation and an intern (now Pastor Jessica Harris Daum), who created a day of service for us where we canceled church on Sunday in order to serve the community.

Our tag line is, "Worship is canceled; join the service!" This year we are praying that 1000 people will take part in this wonderful event on June 1, 2014.

So, Peter takes the theme that God said to Abraham and Sarah that "they were blessed to be a blessing" (Genesis 12). In turn, we have adopted that theme to be our motivation for doing what we do: "We are blessed to be a blessing."

Benedict the African, often referred to as Benedict the Moor, was blessed; but when you read about his life, you realize he was often "cursed," allegedly because of the color of his skin. But, when you think about it, that rationale or idea of causation is really blaming the victim. One must deconstruct the situation and come to the conclusion he was "cursed" by others because they didn't realize or understand that he was blessed, just as they were blessed. Rather, the sin of racism distorted how people saw each other. Consequently, there were insults and condemnation.

We are "blessed to be a blessing."

Take that blessing, that wisdom, that attitude to heart today.

Photo: Statue of Saint Benedict the Moor, in the front of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict, Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ryan Budget Threatens International Programs that Save Lives

Refugee_camp_classroom
Children inside a classroom at Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Alyssa Casey

Since the crisis in Syria began more than three years ago, nearly 9.5 million people—almost half of Syria's population—have fled their homes. More than 2.5 million Syrian refugees have relocated to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Their needs—for shelter, food, medical care, education, and employment opportunities—are great. At this critical time, what Syrians do not need is reduced support and assistance from the international community, including the United States. Unfortunately, under the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), this would likely be the case.   

Ryan’s fiscal year 2015 budget resolution, released this week, proposes deep cuts to programs that provide relief to those affected by conflict in Syria, and other parts of the world. Ryan’s proposal cuts the International Affairs budget by a devastating 11 percent. As the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition points out, this funding level would mean a 24 percent decrease in the total International Affairs budget since 2010.

We all acknowledge the current tough fiscal environment, but we cannot let the poor and hungry bear the largest burden during these difficult times, as they so often do. As Bread for the World has previously noted, sequestration has already cut funding for life-saving international efforts, such as child and maternal health and international food aid. Now is not the time for additional cuts.

The International Affairs budget funds poverty-focused development assistance programs that provide emergency relief to those affected by conflict and disasters, saving countless lives. Last month, the World Food Program reported that food aid is now reaching previously inaccessible areas of Syria, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands.  The U.S. Agency for International Development helps fund critical programs that provide immediate needs such as food, water, shelter, and vaccinations to Syrian refugees.  This funding also achieves longer-term goals such as education, psychological care, and job training to help refugees rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, Syria is not unique. Crisis and conflict continue to fan the flames of hunger and poverty in South Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and other countries across the globe. Fortunately, we can help. As a nation, we must continue to offer life-saving assistance, and as individuals, we must continue to urge our members of Congress to support robust funding levels for international humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts.

At a time when U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives every day, we cannot risk the progress that has been made by abandoning the funding that makes it possible. Rep. Ryan’s budget resolution is not the solution.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.

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)

Lenten Devotions: "Banana Nut Bread"

Banana nut bread  pretzels 007
Banana nut bread baked by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp.

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

"I'm a lonesome chord looking for a song

Still not sure I know where I belong
You're a tired word looking for a rhyme
Feel as though you're running out of time

They say Joy will be
Just around the bend
'Til I'm there
It's good to have a friend

You're a quiet whisper dancing in the breeze
I'm a hurricane tumblin' toward the Keys
You're a wild dream on a falling star
To me the destination seems too far

They say happiness
Is just around the bend
'Til I'm there
It's good to have a friend"

—Lyrics from "Good to Have A Friend," by David Bailey and Peter Mayer

*

One of the things that I love about doing the Lenten devotions is the "timeliness" of it all. I usually write them the day before they appear. I often refer to it as being like baking daily bread. I know it's gotta go or we don't have it out there. I feel really good that you get that fresh baked smell each and every day.

Father Dominic Garramone, who write Bake and Be Blessed: Bread Baking as a Metaphor for Spiritual Growth, talks about having the "wind knocked out of oneself." Basically, this also happens when kneading the dough takes place. It's a necessary process in order for the rest of the baking process to unfold. Father Richard Rohr speaks of "falling upward." No matter what we call it, when it is all said and done, it's about suffering.

As I wrote yesterday, you know that my colleague Pastor Ruth Ann and I are in the midst of a season of ministering to families who have suffered. They have had the wind knocked out of them. And I know myself well enough to know that in the midst of giving and also receiving, the "wind," i.e., SPIRIT, has been knocked out of me, as well.

I write those words not to elicit pity or praise, but rather to say to you all that pastors, teachers, nurses, doctors, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cops, architects, secretaries, butchers, bakers, cash register folks, students, everyone is at risk of feeling the impact of life's ups and downs at times.

Peter sings about the value of friends in this whole experience. He also directs us to something "just around the bend." I really like that and know it to be so very, very true.

Father Dom has a great section in his book that calls for self-reflection and awareness. Basically, it asks, "What kind of bread are you?" He wrote this long before all of the Facebook quizzes asking us to figure out what kind of car, character from a movie, rock band, etc., we are.

Father Dom writes:

"One more kind of bread: banana bread (you were already thinking of it, weren't you?). You probably know how to make banana nut bread: you use the bananas that have gone bad, that are too old and spotty, too bruised to put on the table, bananas that someone else might throw away. Unfortunately, our society does that with people sometimes. We can look at others and say, 'You're no good. You're the wrong color. You're too old and spotty to be of any of use. You don't belong because you are not like us.' But the banana nut bread person doesn't think that way. The banana nut bread Christians go in search of the people who are bruised, the ones who seem to be going bad, the people who are a different color, the ones who are old and isolated. They seek those people out and they say, 'We're going to make something special out of you. You belong here. You have a place and a purpose.' And to do that, you have to be a little bit nuts. But in my cookbook, banana nut bread is the best kind of bread to be. It is the bread that Christ has called all of us to be." 

Stay Connected

Bread for the World