Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Lobby Visit with One of our New Members of Congress

As part of Bread for the World's Beat 08 campaign, members around the country attended candidate forums and met candidates for Congress to bring up hunger- and poverty-related issues.

This effort continued past the Nov. 4 election, when members sought out the newly elected representatives to discuss issues important to our organization.

On Monday, Dec. 22, Bread member Jim Brown (pictured at right) met in Santa Fe with Rep.-elect Ben Ray Lujan, who will represent the New Mexico Third Congressional District.

Here is a short account of Jim's visit with Rep.-elect Lujan.

I was able to meet with Congressman-elect Ben Ray Lujan one-on-one representing Bread for the World.

After giving him some basic information about Bread and some brochures, I answered some questions which he posed about our organization. He did say that what we represent, fighting hunger and the many related causes and issues, was a subject of interest to him.

I said I would be in touch with the proper staff person on our issues once his office was fully set up. -Bro. Jim Brown, FSC
Speaking of our new congressional delegation, here is a great guest piece written by Julie Heinrich, wife of Rep.-elect Martin Heinrich, in the Democracy for New Mexico blog. The article gives us an overview of Rep.-elect Heinrich's busy work since he was elected to represent the New Mexico First Congressional District.

We look forward to following up with Rep. Lujan, Rep. Heinrich and the rest of our New Mexico congressional delegation on Lobby Day in mid-June (probably June 15).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fourth Week of Advent: A Sunrise Prayer

Riding on our new Railrunner service between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, it's very easy to get lost in the landscape. As the train rolls just past the city limits of Albuquerque, our local mountain range is quite visible to the right. One cannot help but notice how the light plays with the shadows and shapes of the Sandia Mountains.
There is quite a different landscape on the return trip from Santa Fe in the evening. Again, sitting on the right-hand side of the train, I detect the Jemez Mountains much further in the horizon. The Jemez aren't as tall as the Sandias but the light from our Creator plays with them just as well.

So in that spirit of light, I want to share this poem from Praying Advent (Creighton University)

Thank you. What a gift this morning from you as I watched the blazing sunrise through a cloudy winter sky. It is hard getting up these dark mornings, Lord, and yet you gift me with a sight that I miss at other times of year, when the weather is warmer and the sun rises before I get up.

I stared out the window at the red and purple light, gloriously framed by the gold of the rising sun. "Be still, and know that I am God" was the only thing that came to me. I watched in silence, filled with a sense of your presence in my life.

I am filled with gratitude this day for such a treasure and could feel it and see it as a gift from you. Thank you for your love. Today, let me carry a sense of how much you love me to send me such a gift.

Let that awareness of your love change the way I treat others today. Let me be more reverent in the irritations of the day. I ask your help to move through my errands and holiday preparations today with peace and a sense of your sunrise in my heart. Your glory fills my spirit and I want only to give thanks with my life this day.

Local community food advocate recommends direction for USDA

Mark Winne, a Santa Fe-based advocate for community-based food systems, wrote a piece in his blog in which he recommends the direction that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should take under the new administration.

Here's an excerpt:
The mere structure of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture...presents a lingering policy problem that thwarts those growing hordes of activists who see the promise of justice and sustainability being fulfilled at the community level.

USDA is hopelessly fragmented into programs that assist farmers – mostly very large commodity farmers, as we know; programs (15 separate ones in all) that feed people such as food stamps; and programs that support conservation.

If I walked into USDA headquarters in Washington, DC and asked to see someone who could help me develop a local food system that respected our natural resources, rewarded farmers with a decent livelihood, and provided healthy food to all our residents, nobody would know where to send me.

Click here to access more of Mark's thoughts via his website and blog, including information about his recently published book, Closing the Food Gap. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2009 Offering of Letters: Reforming Foreign Aid

Excerpt from Bread West December newsletter
(By Robin Stephenson and Matt Newell-Ching)

Bread for the World is preparing to launch the 2009 Offering of Letters on Reforming Foreign Aid in January. Our 2009 Offering of Letters will urge Congress to rework U.S. foreign assistance to make it more effective in reducing poverty.

At a time of economic constraint, we have a long-awaited opportunity to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective and get more of our aid to people who really need it.

If foreign aid is fixed, more lives can be saved. Fewer children will die of hunger. Parents will be able to feed their families in the years to come.

Better foreign aid also means less waste. We will be asking Congress to bring U.S. foreign assistance up to date and ensure that development is elevated as a national priority, alongside defense and diplomacy.

Bread for the World has had sent groups to Ethiopia and Nicaragua to gather stories to create this year’s Offering of Letters DVD. Bread staffers Kimberly Burge and Brian Duss wrote about their trip to Nicaragua in the Bread blog. (The above photo was taken during Kimberly and Brian's trip)

Recently Bread for the World president David Beckman spoke about the hunger crisis and Foreign Assistance Reform on Voice of America. You can listen here. As well, there was a very good story on NPR’s All Thing’s Considered with about foreign aid and the next administration. Listen here.

There are good background papers by Bread for the World policy analysts online (you might want to build a study group around these).

Global Development: Charting a New Course by Todd Post.
2. Reforming Foreign Aid by Charles Uphau

Finally, the Dec. 14 edition of Parade magazine published a chart that provides good background on the direction of our foreign aid until now. The chart lists the top six recipients of foreign aid and the purpose of that aid. For the top four (Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan), the words "weapons" and "security" are prominent. For the next two, Kenya and South Africa, the key word is HIV/AIDS.
Here is a link to the chart.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Third Week of Advent: Candles and Gratitude

In many different traditions lighting candles is a sacred action. It expresses more than words can express. It has to do with gratefulness. From time immemorial, people have lit candles in sacred places. Why should cyberspace not be sacred? Click here to light a candle via your computer.
(Thanks to Gratefulness.org for providing this site)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Second Week of Advent: The Deeps of Invisible Light

Praises and canticles anticipate

Each day the singing bells that wake the sun,
But now our psalmody is done.
Our hasting souls outstrip the day;
Now before dawn, they have their noon.
The truth that transsubstantiates the body's night
Has made our minds His temple tent;
Open the secret eye of faith
And drink these deeps of invisible light.

-Thomas Merton

(an excerpt from the poem After the Night Office--Gethsemani Abbey)