Monday, March 30, 2009

Hunger in the Pews

The peace and justice committee at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community in Albuquerque wanted to do a townhall meeting in the parish around the issue of hunger.

The question was how to convince parishioners that this was an important topic.
In addressing this important question, one of the members of the committee came up with an even more important question. Given the current economic crisis in the U.S., how many members of the parish are suffering from hunger?

The committee, which includes Bread for the World members Virginia Pitts and Ellen Buelow, then decided to put together a survey to try to answer this question. With the help of Fathers Joel Garner and Gene Gries, the committee managed to get more than 900 responses from parishioners to the survey, including 69 who answered in Spanish.
What was touching for me, were the number of people who reached out and handed me their surveys and as I glanced at them, they were letting me know that they were part of the invisible, said committee member Joanne Angel.
Roughly one-fourth of the respondents acknowledged that they had been truly hungry, and another one-third said they knew someone who suffered that condition. The survey also asked whether respondents knew people who received food stamps and what type of charity actions they took to address the problem. (See responses below at the bottom of this post).

Here is a touching response
I will not be able to attend the townhall meeting as I have limited gas. My daughter lost her job and now I have 11 people living with me and I am a single mom who does not quailify for assistance. I have given in the past but am unable to do contribute at this time but will when things get better.
And a Spanish speaker who answered the survey said
he was amazed to see hunger existing in the land of plenty. The respondent said:

In reality hunger is greater here than in a Third World country because it's here"
At the town hall meeting, the committee brought together service providers, including representatives from The Rio Grande Food Project, St. Vincent de Paul, SHARE, The Storehouse and others. Representatives from these organizations talked about how they served the community, both at Holy Rosary and in the Greater Albuquerque area. But the committee thought that addressing the needs had to go beyond charity. I was asked to speak about legislative advocacy (both domestic and international), global poverty and Bread for the World. I urged town hall participants to take part in the parish's offering of letters on the weekend of April 18-19.

The committee is considering strategies to follow up on the results of the survey and the town hall in between now and Hunger Awareness Weekend on June 27-28. A handful of participants were touched enough by the presentations that they joined the parish's peace and justice committee and volunteered for the Rio Grande Food project.

One group [who replied to the evaluations at the town hall] mentioned that we needed to keep hunger on people's mind," said Ms. Angel. "so we are in the process of applying to the archdiocese for a grant.


Have you ever been truly hungry?
Yes 228 No 703

Do you know anyone right now who is hungry?
Yes 297 No 629

How many people do you know right now who are receiving food stamps?
None 257
1-5 369
6-10 74
11-plus 61

How do you personally address the hunger issue?

a. donate to local food banks 375

b. contribute to St. Vincent de Paul collection 498
c. Buy SHARE packages to donate to St. Vincent de Paul 121

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Teff: Bread for Ethiopia

We are created in the image of God. If I invest myself in those who suffer in the world, those who are so different from me, I learn more about this God that I love.
Rev. Dee Ivy and Charles Ivy,
explaining their mission in Ethiopia
(Note: This article is reprinted from the March 24 issue of a newsletter published by First United Methodist Church in Albuquerque. This is the first of three articles about bread in the world and Bread for the World ahead of FUMC's Offering of Letters on May 10 and 17).

By Rev. Dee Ivy

Have you ever heard of teff? Well, we hadn’t either until coming to Ethiopia in May 2008. Teff is the tiniest of grains and THE staple for every Ethiopian family. Teff is to Ethiopians as flour is to Americans or rice to Japanese. When mixed with water and left to ferment for three or four days, teff is used to make a spongy huge round bread that looks like a dirty dish towel to those of us unenlighted about Ethiopian cuisine.

HOPEFULLY, injera is made every day; the first food eaten in the morning and the last food eaten before going to bed. We were blessed to deliver 300 kilos of teff to an orphanage last December thanks to a gift of money from Los Compadres Sunday School class. They trusted us to invest in the community and provide food for orphans.

The key word in my first paragraph is HOPEFULLY.

Millions of Ethiopians are starving to death while they continue to hope. For a year, the cost of teff has steadily risen and is now at a point where millions cannot afford this simple daily staple. Without money to purchase their daily bread, what do the hungry hope for? Generosity? Charity?

During the past few years we have listened first hand to the hopes and dreams of the world’s poor. We have heard them cry for PEACE AND JUSTICE: fair wages for their labor, reasonable food prices in order to feed their children, schools to educate their children, and peace.

They long for peace---peace that means the absence of war. Without peace, all their efforts are futile. I grew up with the mantra “Work hard and you can accomplish your dreams.”

My experiences at home and abroad have shown me that this mantra does not ring true for the millions who will go to bed hungry tonight. The poor are some of the hardest working people we have ever met, but their labor is often unrewarded and they must rely on assistance.
We believe that when one suffers, we all suffer.

When one rejoices, we all rejoice. Let us rejoice as we work together for PEACE AND JUSTICE so that none will hunger or suffer tonight, not even you and me.


A Short Note about Charlie and Dee Ivy

Having served in United Methodist Missions in Liberia and the Philippines for three years, they returned to Albuquerque to be with family and participate in the spiritual life of First United Methodist Church in Albuquerque for four years. But Africa called.

While poverty and suffering are everywhere in the world, I believe the most vulnerable people in our world are in Africa. Living in Bahir Dar, Charlie mentors a regional health director and Dee is an educator in a local secondary school. God participates in work and relationships that are mutually beneficial. The more we give, the more we receive. When you wonder if God is in the midst of something, just look at who is benefiting!

Our cyberspace conversation was “mutually benefiting” across the miles. All will benefit in reading Dee’s article about teff. Estella Gahala-Lange

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daffodils, Cheesecake and the Emerging Church

(Originally published in Bread Blog, March 24, 2009)

What is the relationship between daffodils and cheesecake? They both served as centerpieces at a recent conference about the Emerging Church, sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. Both are also very powerful symbols of a very rich weekend of reflections and sharing.

The cheesecake (and the chocolate cake) that were offered for dessert after the Saturday evening meal seemed a little too rich to eat all at once. This was the case with the flow of ideas and discussions.

The daffodils, a common symbol of spring, represented the sense of rebirth, convergence, and emergence that emanated from the discussions.

At the risk of leaving out important pieces of information, I will attempt to briefly address the spirit of the discussions. The obvious question: What is it that the church in all its various manifestations and denominations is "emerging" from? I can answer this in one word: institutionalism.

But it goes even beyond that. Presenters like Alexie Torres-Fleming, Shane Claiborne and Karen Sloan suggested that our motivation must change from being simply "fans" of Jesus to truly become "followers" of Jesus. This means that the values that were most dear to Jesus, such as walking with the poor and simplicity, must become the center of our own faith experience.

One of the presenters noted an inscription on a banner that said "How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?"

Presenter Phyllis Tickle quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that church had become a place to go more than a people to be.

But as Father Richard Rohr, Rev. Brian McLaren and the other presenters warned us, it's not about creating a new institution, but about promoting a conversion within our own existing structures. We see our discontent as the very reason we engage the church not disengage.

Shane Claiborne put it in a different and more humorous way: The way I see it is like Noah's Ark. It stinks inside. But if you get out, you drown.

The discussion, in fact, is about whether we should even call it "emerging church" or "emergent church." A common suggestions is to call the movement "emerging Christianity"The passion for change is reaching across the spectrum of Christian denominations, from the liturgical (Roman Catholic-Anglican/Episocpalian) to the Emerging23 reformation denominations (Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, etc..) to Charismatic, Evangelical and other traditions. All were represented at the conference.

In addition to the rich variety of traditions, the event attracted scores of younger persons (under 40), who are drawn to this emerging way of looking at spiritual growth that promotes linking contemplation (a deep personal relationship with the creator) with solidarity with those who are disenfranchised; social justice and holistic mission; and the creation of authentic community.

To get a greater sense of the movement, I recommend that you read the October-December issue of Radical Grace, where the presenters offered their reflections. The Emergent Village blog also deals extensively with the subject of Emerging Church and Emerging Christianity.

Bread for the World's Role

Emerging4 So, in the larger scheme of things, how does this apply to our work at Bread for the World? We are still trying to figure out where our movement fits in this transition.

But I do have one clear example. A Bread for the World member from a community in central New Mexico mentioned to me that it would be difficult to set up an Offering of Letters at his church because of opposition from the higher-ups.

But in our discussion, we agreed that for now, letter-writing would not have to be confined to the institution, but that members could meet in community to write letters. By doing this, they would at least have some members of the church writing letters instead of not being able to use their advocacy gifts on behalf of the poor. And hopefully, the small letter-writing activity could become a stepping stone to eventually bring it to the full church.

Additionally, Bread for the World is in the process of reviewing its grassroots organizing strategies, and the values and recent trends related to the Emerging Church/Emerging Christianity are sure to become part of the conversation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scenes from 2009 Offering of Letters Workshops

Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces
See program

Regional organizers Robin Stephenson and Meredith Story Willams chat with Las Cruces coordinator LaVerne Kaufman

Rebecca Wiggins
, speaker

LaVerne Kaufman chats with Ray Willem;

Becca Winship and Katie Smoker

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque

See program

Anna Creamer
, Kyra Ellis-Moore and Ester Schneider read script about letter-writing

Speaker Maria Franco-Tapia (Heifer) chats with Sharon Barefoot

Speaker Mark Peceny

Else Tasseron
, George Huggins

First Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe

See program

Robin Stephenson & Bro. Jim Brown, FSC


Speaker Tom McDermott

Keith West-Harrison & Andre West-Harrison, speakers from CARE Action Network

Susan Duncan
chats with Carlos Navarro

To see more photos from our three workshops visit our album on Photobucket