Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Pentecost

is first and foremost a gift of the Holy Spirit,

not built upon mutual compatibility,
shared affection,

or common interests
upon having received
the same divine breath,
having been given a heart
set aflame
by the same divine fire,
and having been embraced by the
same divine love.
Henri Nouwen

Friday, May 29, 2009

You are Invited to a JustFaith Workshop on July 18

We are called to be compassionate as our God is compassionate (Luke 6:36), but what does the compassion of Christ look like in the modern world? How do I become a more compassionate person?

Biblical Roots of Justice: A Call to Transform Our Hearts and the World

You are cordially invited to a Saturday workshop exploring the Biblical roots of justice and introducing JustFaith Ministries, an adult faith formation program with a focus on the intersection of faith, spirituality and social responsibility in a world wounded by poverty.

While this workshop, which is sponosored by the Office of Social Justice of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, will have a primary focus on Catholic Social Teaching, there are many elements of the Roman Catholic curriculum that are applicable to the ecumenical version.

The Catholic program had a very good start in its first year in Albuquerque in 2008-2009, and local organizers hope to build on that success in 2009-2010.

Bread for the World-New Mexico would like to promote an ecumenical version here in 2010-2011 (or even 2009-2010). If you're interested, you are cordially invited to join us at this workshop.
Are you interested in embarking on a spiritual journey into compassion? The vision of the Gospels and Catholic social teaching speaks to life-giving choices on behalf of a world that struggles to survive. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore some new possibilities for your life, your church or parish, your heart!
When: Saturday, July 18, 2009 8:30 am - 3:15 pm
Where: Shrine of St. Bernadette parish hall, 11401 Indian School Rd. NE, Albuquerque, NM (between Eubank and Juan Tabo)
Contact: Anne Avellone, Office of Social Justice, 505-831-8167,
Cost: $10.00, if received by July 11. After July 11 : $15.00 Scholarships available. Pre-registration required. Lunch included. Register Early, Space Limited!

Bread for the World is one of four national partners with JustFaith, along with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Comments from previous participants:

"I loved this workshop. It was both inspirational and challenging."
"Extremely dynamic presentation."
"Very motivating talk, inspiring, spiritual and practical."
presentation, rooted in scripture.”
"This workshop is better than excellent."

About the facilitator:

Dan Driscoll is a former member of the national board for JustFaith and a
JustFaith facilitator. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Notre Dame, served as Director of Parish Social Ministry in the Greensburg, PA, Diocese, and has been an editor with Ave Maria Press.

He currently serves as administrator for a Montessori school. Dan authored several articles on prayer
and family life, and his first book, Daddyhood: This Changes Everything!, was published in 2002. Dan has worked with parishes, schools, and community organizations on spirituality and justice issues for over 15 years. Dan is married and has five children.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Neither Desserts nor Deserts

Late last year, the New Mexico Food Gap Task Force presented its report, Closing New Mexico’s Food Gap, to Governor Bill Richardson, Lt. Governor Diane Denish and the State Legislature. The Task Force was convened as a result of the passage of House Joint Memorial 10 in 2007 which called on the Governor to appoint a task force to study challenges to food access in the state and to provide recommendations to increase the ability of all New Mexicans to access healthy, affordable and culturally significant foods.

The Task Force was comprised of representatives of the Departments of Health, Human Services, Agriculture, Transportation, Aging and Long-Term Services, and Indian Affairs as well as representatives from the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, the Mid-Region Council of Governments and New Mexico Legal Aid. The Task Force met monthly from July through November to study the issue and develop the report.

Here's the first paragraph of the executive summary

Grocery stores and the food system of which they are a part are a critical cornerstone to the health and wealth of New Mexico’s communities, both urban and rural. Unfortunately, many New Mexicans do not have easy access to adequate, affordable, and healthy foods.

Fully one third of New Mexico’s counties are designated as having low food access and New Mexico is the second most food insecure state in the nation. The causes and adverse impacts of this “food gap” are varied and grave, but the opportunities to begin to close the food gap are also numerous and have great potential to contribute to the well-being of all New Mexicans.
Read Full Executive Summary
Read Full Report

Santa Fe anti-hunger advocate Mark Winne wrote an article on this topic for the winter edition of Edible Santa Fe magazine. In the article, entitled Food Deserts and the Rural Food Gap, Mark tells us what he discovered at a small rural supermarket in Logan, New Mexico, which is in Quay County. For many residents of Logan, this supermarket was the only option available within 25 miles.

Though no Whole Foods, it is sufficiently stocked to prevent a hungry man from starving. Canned and packaged goods are neatly stacked, cleaning supplies abound and a frozen food case offers a reasonable selection of TV dinners and even Lean Cuisine.

But a walk down the dimly lit
aisles will disappoint most fresh food shoppers. One ten-foot cooler carries a tired collection of apples, bananas, iceberg lettuce, pre-cut carrots and rubbery tomatoes. The only meat is packaged or frozen. And the cheeses come in two types: pale yellow and bright orange.
Pointing to various studies, Mark argues that there is a connection between obesity and the lack of access to nutritious food.

A growing body of evidence suggests, those with fewer food choices tend to eat less healthfully. According to New Mexico Department of Health statistics, Quay is the heaviest county in the state. Fully 71.5 percent of the county’s 10,155 residents are overweight or obese compared to the already high 59.7 percent rate for the state as a whole.

Even more tragically, 37 percent of Quay’s children between the ages of two and five who are enrolled in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program are also overweight or obese, which ties Quay with Hidalgo County for the rate in the state (the statewide average is 27 percent).
There are many other interesting statistics, anecdotes and examples in this piece. I recommend that you read the full article.

By the way, Mark is also author of an entire book on this topic, entitled Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Speaking of Hunger: Sermons of Challenge and Hope

The other day I stumbled across the Seeds of Hope website. I was quite taken by the tagline, which reads Hope for the Healing of Hunger and Poverty.

It turns out that this website contains a treasure of resources related to raising awareness and reflecting about hunger and poverty. There are links to denominational resources on hunger, educational activities and a treasure trove of worship resources.

What I found most compelling was a subsection entitled Speaking of Hunger: Sermons of Challenge and Hope,

Here's the description: This collection of sermons is sponsored by the Alliance of Baptists (AOB) and produced by Seeds of Hope.
"For a number of years, Christian leaders in the anti-hunger movement have been calling for a cache of sermons about hunger. This year the AOB has enabled Seeds to pull together this collection."

There are some powerful sermons contained in this section.

For example, there's a sermon entitled Counting Calories in a Starving World
According to Jesus those who don’t care for the poor have missed the gospel. Regardless of what’s said at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning in most churches, people who neglect the needy aren’t God’s people. How could Jesus have been any clearer? This story is disturbing, because we are calorie counters in a hungry world. Have you noticed that our meals have been getting bigger? As recently as five years ago, a 10-inch plate was standard in restaurants.
And then there's Knowing Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread
The growing millions of hungry people in our world are both a judgment upon our overstuffed affluence and an opportunity that presses urgently upon us. When nearly 10 million people in our land, over one-third of them children, live in households experiencing hunger, Jesus is present, demanding a response. When one in ten households in our affluent nation reports that its access to food is extremely limited or uncertain, Jesus is present, awaiting a response. An estimated 828 million people on our planet are undernourished.
And Storing Grain and Starving People
We should simplify our lifestyles and not ignore the hungry. We should become advocates for the oppressed, creating a world built upon economic and social justice. Why did Jesus think his disciples would do this? Perhaps Jesus believed they would see the sacrifices he made to help others and follow suit.
Finally, there's What! Does the Lord Require?
“Justice!” God requires you and me “to do justice.” And the verb “to do” emphasizes this is not an ideal, but a practice. It is not a concept, but an ethic. It is not some grand philosophy; it is something you do. It is not a passive state of non-aggression, an I-don’t-bother-anybody-else-so-don’t-bother-me isolation, but an active engagement in the world. Justice is about the equal treatment of all people. Justice is about equal opportunity for everyone.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Second Encounter with Rep. Teague about H.R. 2139 (This one in Las Cruces)

Remember that I mentioned in my most recent post that my encounter with Rep. Harry Teague on Saturday was brief?

LaVerne Kaufman, our volunteer coordinator for Bread for the World in Las Cruces, caught up with him on Sunday and had a longer discussion with him about H.R. 2139, The Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. Also present at that meeting was LaVerne's husband Bob.

LaVerne used a very helpful tool: a chart (contained in our Offering of Letters kit) developed by the Brookings Institution that shows that our foreign aid is adminstered by a confusing web of agencies.

Here's LaVerne's description

I got a phone message last night that Harry Teague would be in Las Cruces today.

I went to see him and took the chart from the Offering of Letters kit showing the foreign aid duplications of mission.

I had a chance to discuss it with one of his Las Cruces staff and she said she would bring it to his attention.

Bob and I met with Rep. Teague briefly and I told him about our letters and the chart and asked him to sign on to HR 2139.

Like Rep. Martin Heinrich on Saturday, Rep. Teague was noncommittal after the Sunday meeting. But I suspect that we managed to get the issue somewhere high on the agendas of two of our three members of Congress.

And as LaVerne said, "
We've also made phone calls" And we're continuing to make those phone calls next week.

And thanks to Dick Steele at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and Estella Gahala-Lange at First United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, we will have several dozen letters to be delivered to Rep. Heinrich next week.

And thanks to Bobbie Rugg, we will also have about 22 letters from First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, also next week

All those letters are to be sent by overnight mail to the Bread office first thing on Monday and delivered by the Bread government relations staff to Capitol Hill.

LaVerne is pictured above with BFW regional organizers Robin Stephenson and Meredith Story Williams

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pursuing H.R. 2139 at a Train Station and at an Asian Supermarket's Deli

What do a train station and an Asian/international supermarket have in common? That's where two of the three U.S. House members from New Mexico could be found on the third Saturday in May.

With the urgency of trying to get cosponsors for H.R. 2139, this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up! We had to try to talk to them about considering the possibility of cosponsoring this important piece of legislation, also known as the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. In a nutshell, the bill asks President Barack Obama to overhaul our foreign policy structure to make sure our development policies are more effective.

Our Bread members in New Mexico had been making calls to the offices of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Harry Teague and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan all week, but as o
f the end of the week none of the three were among the 11 members of the House who had signed on to this bill.

Here's what Bread for the World President David Beckmann said just three days earlier.

Additional cosponsors will demonstrate that there is broad support in Congress for foreign assistance reform to make it more effective in reducing poverty. The next eight days are critical
So we had our work cut out. We had to find another way to get their attention. And what better way than to bring up the issue directly.

Rep. Harry Teague
Mr. Teague doesn't usually travel to Albuquerque because his congressional district comprises mostly southern New Mexico. But it so happens that the Duke City is an important starting point for our still fairly new commuter train, the Rail Runner Express, and Mr. Teague is promoting legislation that would extend this great rail system all the way down to Las Cruces. At present, the train runs between Santa Fe and Belen, which is just a few miles south of Albuquerque.

As part of his campaign, Mr. Teague decided to ride the train from Albuquerque to Los Lunas and Belen, two stops that are in his district. We caught up with him in Albuquerque, where we had a few minutes for an extremely brief chat. We handed him a copy of H.R. 2139 and asked (on behalf of Bread members in Las Cruces) to consider cosponsoring the bill. He promised he would look at the initiative closely.

LaVerne Kaufman, our Bread coordinator in Las Cruces, was going to ensure that we could reinforce the message from the district. She was going to contact that folks who hadn't called about HR2139 and asked them to picked up the telephone on Monday.

Rep. Martin Heinrich
It was with great delight that we discovered that Rep. Heinrich was holding "office hours" in the deli section of Talin World Market. This store started as an Asian supermarket, but has expanded its scope to include foods from the Caribbean, Italy, Egypt, and other regions. What better place to discuss a bill on international issues with our member of Congress?

I spent a little more time with Mr. Heinrich than I did with Mr. Teague. He gave me almost as much time as we get during our Lobby Day meetings in Washington. The difference here is that we were surrounded by meat and food cases and wonderful smells! I also handed Mr. Heinrich as copy of the text of the H.R. 2139, and had a few minutes to discuss how we felt this initiative would be a good step to improving our poverty-focused development assistance efforts. He agreed that the current foreign-aid structure was cumbersome and promised to consider this bill very closely. He couldn't promise at that point that he would cosponsor H.R. 2139, but directed the staffer sitting at his side to have the legislative aide in Washington who covers this area begin to look at the bill.

But wait! I wasn't the only Bread member who talked to Mr. Heinrich on that Saturday. Marjorie Williams came by later in the day to discuss H.R. 2139. Marjorie said she was encouraged that our congressman thinks very highly of the lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Berman.

So we hope these visits translate into cosponsorships. Letters and phone calls and e-mails will continue pouring into Washington next week, not only to the offices of Rep. Heinrich and Teague, but also Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (We didn't know of any public event for him--or we would have been there too)!.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
-Thomas Merton

This is a musical slide show of photographs from Bread for the World-New Mexico, dating back to the mid-1990s. The latest photographs are from 2008. Some of these photos involve Bread for the World activities within The ONE Campaign. Others are scenes from our Offering of Letters workshops and other activities. The quality of the photos is uneven.

But don't pay attention to that. Instead, focus on the different people who offered their time and talent to the mission of advocating for policies that will reduce hunger and poverty in our country and in our world.

With an Eye of an Artist and the Soul of a Seeker

This is an excerpt from Bread for the World's Website

Margaret Woodson Nea has the eye of an artist and the soul of a seeker.

Her photography has taken her from Kenya to Nepal, Ecuador to Thailand, and to 16 more countries. Since 1998, Margie has photographed in many locations for Bread for the World. Her photos of sisters Catherine and Bernadette Phiri in Zambia were featured prominently in the 2008 Offering of Letters.

If you're going to the National Gathering, please be sure to take Ms. Woodson's workshop, which she will give jointly with Jim Stipe and Rick Reinhard.

Call Congress about HR2139: It's very simple!

Making a call is very easy!
First the Austin Version

And then the Portland Version

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Very Important Phone Call to Washington

Urge Reps. Martin Heinrich, Harry Teague and Ben Ray Lujan to Co-Sponsor H.R. 2139

Now that we have an actual bill number in the U.S. House for our 2009 Offering of Letters, it should be easier to talk about and write letters about reforming foreign aid. H.R. 2139
directs the President of the United States to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting global development, and for other purposes.

The initiative was introduced last week by Rep. Howard Berman, D-CA, and cosponsored by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-IL. Since then, only a handful of House members have signed on Click here to keep track of co-sponsors We need to expand this list before May 18, and hopefully make the list as bi-partisan as possible. H.R. 2139 is likely to be merged with related legislation during that week.

Bread for the World President David Beckmann tells us why it's so important to build up our list of cosponsors before then:
By getting as many cosponsors as possible, we are demonstrating that foreign assistance reform is a politically viable issue. If we fail at this juncture, I doubt that we will achieve broad reform of U.S. foreign assistance this year or next.
We want all three members of the House from New Mexico to join the list of cosponsors. If you haven't called one of those three representatives, won't you take 2 minutes to make the call?

Here's a toll-free number to the Capitol Switchboard: 800-826-3688

If you want to hear an update and more details about H.R. 2139 and foreign-aid reform, join other Bread for the World members in a conference call. Use this toll-free number to participate 866-866-2244. Conference code: 1422871#

Standing With Mothers and All Other Women on Mother's Day

Our friend and ally Vicki Gottlieb of RESULTS Albuquerque asks us to join with her in a unique and meaningful way to celebrate Mother's Day. Here's a note from Vicki:

I joined this movement at its inception two years ago, the year after my mother died. I stood at the Barnegat Bay, New Jersey lighthouse where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay and was joined by a friend I finally met last year who stood at the tip of the southern coast of South Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

I invite you to join me this Sunday, wherever you are, with whomever you find yourself, in a powerful stand for a world that works for everyone with no one and nothing left out
Click on this link to find out more

Friday, May 08, 2009

Stories Below the Radar

Tom McDermott of Santa Fe, a member of Bread for the World who has twice has spoken at our Offering of Letters workshops, has started his own blog. The purpose of the blog, called Tom's Page, is to look at stories “below the radar”

As Tom puts it, these are stories "unlikely to make headlines, but which are nonetheless interesting – at least - to me."

For those of you who came to our workshops, you probably know a little bit about Tom. He was in the Peace Corps in India, and then worked for the UN in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, Indonesia, Thailand, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, India, Pakistan, and Bosnia.

Plus, he served as Special Representative to the Countries of former Yugoslavia during the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. And after that, he became UNICEF's Director of Personnel and then the agency's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Tom currently serves on the boards of New Mexico State University's International Institute and the Santa Fe Council on International Relations.

I can't think of anyone with better qualifications to write this blog. Please do take time to visit it. Tom brings up some very interesting topics.