Saturday, March 31, 2012

'The Lord Hears The Cry of the Poor'

George Huggins, Cathy Pfferle, Joy Carroll
What do the words of the Prophet Isaiah and the Circle of Protection have in common?  First and foremost, Social Justice.

But these were also the themes that were woven into our Offering of Letters workshop in Albuquerque on a Sunday afternoon in March.

Rev. Kay Huggins offered a reflection on Isaiah 58:1-9 and the relevance of the words in these passages to our advocacy efforts. 

Here are some excerpts from a  litany that we used:

Rev. Huggins: Each word we speak, each letter we write, is a ray of your luminious light...
Call: Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Response: By our voice, we create a circle of protection around the poor.

Appropriately, we also responded with the words of the song "The Cry of the Poor" by the St. Louis Jesuits, based on Psalm 34.  George Huggins led us in the singing.

Western Region organizer Robin Stephenson then explained this year's Offering of Letters, centered on the Circle of Protection.  There are four mini campaigns, but two were more relevant to us in New Mexico.

Our churches will be writing letters to protect:

Loretta Sanchez, Rev. Kay Huggins
1) Poverty-Focused Foreign AssistanceSen. Tom Udall is a member of the Appropriations Committee and sub-committee on Foreign Affairs and plays a key role in efforts to foster international development; and
2) Tax-Credits for Low-Income Families  Sen. Jeff Bingaman is member of the Committee on Finance, which will have a large influence on the Earned-Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit

We spoke about setting up local meetings with Sens. Udall and Bingaman and possibly Rep. Martin Heinrich.

Lucretia Tippit
The churches represented at the Offering of Letters in Albuquerque were Albuquerque Mennonite Church, All Saints Lutheran Church, Aquinas Newman Center, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, New Life Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Second Presbyterian Church, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.

Other congregations in Albuquerque that have committed to write letters this year are Church of the Good Shepherd, First Unitarian Church, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, and St. Paul Lutheran Church

Meeting in Santa Fe on Monday
Mary Singleton, Lydia Pendley
On Monday evening, we met with a different group in Santa Fe over pizza (actually calzones) and fruit.  A couple of folks at the meeting drove in from Pecos and from Truchas.

Our discussions again centered on the Offering of Letters.  There was some discussion about involving  members of the local Latino communities.
Andrea Streeper, Jon Bulthuis, Jim Roghair

We again spoke about local visits to congressional offices, particularly Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, as well as Sens. Bingaman and Udall. Among those who joined us were folks from First Presbyterian Church, Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Bede's Episcopal Church, St. John's United Methodist Church, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, United Church of Santa Fe, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Robin Stephenson,  Marlita Reddy-Hlemfelt

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Urban Way of the Cross in Albuquerque

Chris Jacobsen made this cross at Art Street
You are invited to participate in an Urban Way of the Cross on Good Friday, April 6, starting and ending at Wells Park (Mountain Rd. and 5th St. NW) from Noon to 2 p.m.

People from various Christian denominations will join together for a pilgrimage marking the places where Christ is being crucified in our city today and those places where Christ’s crossbeam is being carried and his brow being wiped by people serving others in deep need.

This Way of the Cross is organized by a group of local ministers and lay persons from various congregations in Albuquerque. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Food Network to Air Program on Childhood Hunger

If you have cable or satellite television, one of the many choices you have as you peruse the myriad of channels is the Food Network.  Perhaps cooking and travel is not your cup of tea, and you often bypass that channel in favor of one of the other entertainment and news options.

I'm going to give you a reason to tune into the Food Network on Saturday, April 14.  I know this is not your typical Saturday night viewing, but there is an important program airing that weekend called Hunger Hits Home.  The program, sponsored by Share Our Strength (SOS) and the Food Network, offers a firsthand view of a hidden crisis in our country: childhood hunger. The program is narrated by SOS national spokesperson Jeff Bridges  The program is not just informational; it includes an urgent call to action.

SOS, through its NoKid Hungry campaign has created a special "event" on the Internet and social media to encourage people to tune in that evening.
In the world’s wealthiest nation, 16 million children go to bed hungry every night. Change begins with you — RSVP to watch Hunger Hits Home, a documentary presented by the Food Network in partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

This is your chance to learn firsthand about the burgeoning child hunger crisis and how you can make a difference. Please let us know you’ll join us for this premiere in the comfort of your own home and even invite your friends to come over and watch it with you.
Click here to RSVP
If you live in Albuquerque, as I do, the program will air at  6:00 p.m.   Here is the timetable.
8:00 p.m. EST
7:00 p.m. CST
8:00 p.m. PST
6:00 p.m. MST
(Taken from  Food Network Schedule for April 14

If you have other plans that evening, there is always your trusty DVR or Tivo. But whether you watch it live or tape it, please do take time to view this program.  And stay tuned for information about follow-up actions.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.   -H.H. Dalai Lama

Saturday, March 24, 2012

World Water Day in Nashville

Jars of Clay lead vocalist Dan Haseltine leads World Water Day commemoration in Hashville.  (Photo  Elaine VanCleave)
The United Nations created a very impressive site with lots of nice graphics, pictures and statistics to commemorate World Water Day (observed every year on March 22). The target of ensuring that everyone around the world has clean water is spelled out very clearly in Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals.

This UN draws a very direct link between sustainability, population growth and water:

When a billion people in the world already live in chronic hunger and water resources are under pressure we cannot pretend the problem is ‘elsewhere’. Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
  • follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • consume less water-intensive products;
  • reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
  • produce more food, of better quality, with less water.

Along the banks of the Cumberland River
Communities around the world commemorated World Water Day in different ways.  In Nashville, Tenn., the event was organized by  Blood:Water Mission,  a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.  The organization was founded by the multi-platinum, GRAMMY Award-winning band, Jars of Clay.

Participants walked over the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge to the banks of the Cumberland River near L.P. Field. There they filled their containers with water and then continued their mile journey back to the downtown side of the river.  “They carry a five gallon jug and that’s the water that they’ve got for a day. If they spill it, or use too much, that’s all they have,” said Dan Haseltine, lead vocalist for Jars of Clay  He was quoted in the Changeversations blog.

The event was primarily about raising consciousness.  "We talked about if the amount we carried was enough to cook, wash, etc for a day," said Bread for the World member Elaine VanCleave, who took part in the Nashville commemoration.  "It went back in the river at the end of the walk."

And the observance went beyond those who walked along the banks of the Cumberland River.  Some residents of Nashville became aware of the importance of this day via the news media. "There's a huge water crisis in Africa, Blood:Water Mission executive director Jena Nardella told WKRN TV.

"There are 328 million people that don't have access to safe water so what that means is women and children have to walk up to five to 10 miles a day just to find water and they carry it back and bring it to their communities but the water that they have has come from a dirty pond or dirty river," added Nardella.
But this day is more than just consciousness and action.  It's about making a spiritual connection with those who lack water.  By some estimates, one in seven people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water.  “I really try to encourage people to be quiet on the way back and really just think about what it must be like for children to carry water, sometimes for miles and miles,” Haseltine said.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Power Mapping at the Bread New Mexico Leadership Retreat

(Photos courtesy of Ellen Buelow, Robin Stephenson and Joanne Angel)
Back: Debbie Ruiz, Ellen Buelow, Patty Emord, Daniel Erdman  Center: Loretta Sanchez, Lucretia Tippitt, Carlos Navarro Front: Terese Bridges, Ellen Young, Robin Stephenson
The commitment to advocacy is only the first step. The next step is to determine how we become more effective and strategic in that advocacy. So a major emphasis of our Bread New Mexico leadership retreat on March 17 was on power mapping. Here is a basic definition from the Bonner Curriculum:
Someone who is interested and involved in promoting positive social changes, through service, advocacy and other vehicles, often needs to think about context and relationships within the spheres she/he works. Power Mapping is a conceptual strategy of determining whom you need to influence, exactly who can influence your target, and whom you can actually influence to start the dominoes in motion.
It is a valuable tool for individuals actively working with communities, providing a simple framework and a set of tools to better understand and leverage relationships and networks.
Speaking in practical terms, the question centered on how we turn one of our representatives in the U.S. Congress into a strong advocate for strengthening poverty-focused foreign assistance.  How do we get that legislator to write an Op-Ed piece in the local paper, make a speech on floor (C-Span anyone?), make a speech here at home?  We have our work cut out.  Stay tuned for updates.

But all that hard brain work required some green-chile chicken enchiladas from Abuelitas New Mexican Restaurant in Bernalillo, N.M.  And they were delicious!    
(It helped that we ate our lunch outside on such a beautiful day).

Thank You to the New Mexico Conference of Churches and Rev. Donna McNiel for renting us such a wonderful facility for a very reasonable fee.

Pondering a Gift on this Friday of Lent

Every breath we draw is a gift of God's love; every moment of existence is a grace.

-Thomas Merton
(from Thoughts in Solitude)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'Your Food is Your Fuel'

Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign recently posted this video about the importance of nutritious meals for school children. No Kid Hungry has an affiliate in New Mexico. 

The video features Yolanda Prim, a principal at Robert Morehead Middle School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  She stresses the importance of school meals and nutrition in helping students learn.  “Your food is your fuel, it’s your power, it’s your everything. If you don’t have food, you can’t survive," said Ms. Prim.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Tribute to a Tireless Advocate of Ending Global Poverty

Former US Rep. Eva Clayton wrote a very nice tribute about her colleague, the late Rep. Donald Payne, in the the Huffington Post. The piece is entitled "Saluting the Congressman Who Served the Poor Around the World."

Rep. Payne, a Democrat from New Jersey who served on the Bread for the World board of directors from 2004 to 2009, passed away on March 6 of complications from colon cancer. 

Rep. Payne was a strong supporter of human rights and worked tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance to developing countries, particularly in Africa. He was the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

Read more about his accomplishments from Bread for the World and ABC News 

Here is an excerpt from Rep. Clayton's tribute: 
We can learn from the principled legislator and humanitarianism that Congressman Payne continued to be right up until his death. He demonstrated his commitment through proposing legislation and providing leadership to protect critical programs that would protect the most vulnerable among us, particularly those living in developing countries around the world. This was evident by his legislation to support Somalia, Zimbabwe and Haiti.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A New Book from Bread Member Jenny Moore on Humanitarian Law in Africa

Moore and two women from The Centre for Development and Peace Education in Sierra Leone in October 2010
It's not often that you hear the words "humanitarian" and "law" in the same sentence, but Bread for the World member Jenny Moore manages to find a thread that ties the two concepts together in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa that recently faced internal strife. Jenny, a Regents Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, offers case studies in Uganda, Burundi, and Sierra Leone, in her recently published book Humanitarian Law in Action within Africa.

"[The book] makes a compelling argument that durable peace with justice is possible - even in the aftermath of brutal armed conflicts," said Karen Musalo, Clinical Professor of Law & Director, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, University of California-Hastings College of the Law.  

"It will be of interest to anyone searching for a conceptual understanding of international law norms relevant to periods of armed and post-conflict. But perhaps, more importantly, Humanitarian Law should be required reading for anyone who wants to read a persuasive argument that a better world is possible." 

Moore has had ample experience working with refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, having served on the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in West Africa. “I was in Rwanda after the genocide (in 1994) with the U.N., and that was very impacting, as you can imagine,” she said in a recent interview with The Albuquerque Journal.  
Secondary school students in Bombali District, in Sierra Leon’s Northern Province, greet Jenny Moore in October 2010.
The Journal recently published a great article about Jenny and the impact she has on the students who take her classes. As the article points out, Moore inspires students to use their degrees to advance human rights.  

Moore, a member of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, is a very down-to-earth and compassionate person.  Jenny has a passion for any efforts to address global poverty, and is generous with her time when given an opportunity to talk about this subject.  She has spoken on several occasions at Bread for the World gatherings about the Millennium Development Goals.

Can You Work a Shovel? Roadrunner Food Bank Needs You

Volunteers helped with landscaping on March 10
When you think about spending time as a volunteer for a food bank, the first thing that comes to mind is sorting food or organizing a food drive.  And those are much-needed core services.  But Roadrunner Food Bank needs a different set of skills on Saturday, March 24, and Saturday, March 31: basic landscaping.  You don't have to be an expert.  All you need is a pair of hands and good hat to shield against the sun.  If you can help on those days from 8 am to noon, contact Matt Sanderson, or 349.8825

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Matt Damon Urges You to Play a Role in Ending Hunger

Matt Damon takes on his toughest role yet: playing Steve, a man trying to keep his family from going hungry each night in Minnesota. Find more real hunger stories from Feeding America.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"God is with the Vulnerable and Poor"

The singer Bono was a special guest at a White House prayer breakfast in February 2006.  God's Politics Blog from Sojourners reposted the video and the transcript this week, and we're taking the opportunity to also repost the video here.  If you read or listen closely, you might find some of the words very familiar.  That's because we used them in a reflection at a conference sponosored by The Center for Action and Contemplation in April 2010  and again in our Circle of Protection Prayer Vigil in Albuuerque in October 2011

Friday, March 09, 2012

Actress Kristin Davis Goes to Washington to Push for Reforms to Food Aid

Actress and Global Ambassador for Oxfam Kristin Davis is in Washington this week. She's meeting with members of Congress to lobby them on reforming the Food Aid portion of the Farm Bill which must be reauthorized by September.
I think that it’s in everyone’s interest that the other countries and people in other countries have stability in terms of their food sources. Sometimes our food bills destabilize other countries, so I think that we need to look at that and make sure that we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot. -Kristin Davis
The Sex and the City star spoke to Editor Emmanuel Touhey, comment editor of The Hill newspaper, about the need for reform, her visits to refugee camps in Africa and what she hopes to accomplish on her first visit to Capitol Hill.  Below is a great video. And here is an excerpt of the interview published in The Hill .

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A Passion to End Hunger and a Little Planning

Our regional organizer Robin Stephenson recently wrote a piece for the Bread blog about writing letters to Congress.  For veteran letter-writers, Robin's words ring very true.  But for folks who have not written a letter before or who have only written a couple of letters, Robin has the following advice:
Conducting an Offering of Letters isn’t rocket science; it just takes a passion to end hunger and a little planning.  If you are a first timer, fear not.
Robin quotes Angela Ruprock-Shafer of Plymouth Indiana and our own Ellen Buelow from Albuquerque in her article. Read Robin's blog post

Letter writing at JustFaith class. 
More than two dozen churches in New Mexico have organized Offerings of Letters over the years. This includes the JustFaith class at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Las Cruces  (See picture above).  We've had letters from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, Gallup, and Truchas.

Here in Albuquerque,  the social justice group at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church has put together a special plan for its Offering of Letters on March 25.

Parishioners will be asked to write their message to Congress on post cards asking  Rep Martin. Heinrich or Sen. Tom Udall or Sen. Jeff Bingaman  to form a Circle of Protection on programs that protect vulnerable people in our country and overseas.  There will be a specific request related either to foreign assistance or the Earned Income Tax Credit or domestic nutrition programs or protecting foreign aid.  (Check this blog for updates.  Or better yet, please join us at our Offering of Letters workshop on March 18).

"Joanne Angel, social justice committee member, wrote a 3-minute catechesis on specifics for the Circle of Protection covering the first Sunday in March," said Ellen Buelow.  "This will be followed by a bulletin insert and then a Noticias article about Bread for the World over those next two weekends. After the 12:15 Mass we are planning a luncheon with corn tortillas, rice and beans." At the luncheon, the social justice group will use parts of the liturgy we put together for the Circle of Protection prayer vigil on Oct. 22, 2011.

The social justice group is making sure that this is a parish-wide effort.  Participants and graduates from in the Just Faith and Engaging Spirituality classes have been invited as well as parishioners who have participated in  various missions: the Sister Parish program (and visited San Eugenio in Mexico), the ACTs community, SHARE, and small church communities.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Discussion Guide for Letter Writers in Your Congregation or Group

Bread advocates around the country know by now that our 2012 Offering of Letters consists of four mini campaigns as well as an overall theme based on the Circle of Protection. The choice of which campaign to choose depends on many factors, including the importance of our representative or senator to one of these issues, the timing of an upcoming vote, and the interests of a congregation. Or a congregation or group could choose to base their letters on the overall campaign.

The Bread staff, in conjunction with grassroots advocates in the north-central region, has prepared a great study guide for each of the four mini campaigns.  The study guide contains questions that go hand in hand with each of the four videos.  The guide is just one of many great resources available from Bread to help you put together a successful Offering of Letters.

The guide offers two to five questions for each of the four mini campaigns and also for the overall campaign.  Here is one question from each section.

Overall Campaign Programs that help hungry and struggling people are “critical to the well-being of the whole society,” mentioned Rev. Judith. In what ways is the whole society affected by hunger and poverty? Why would making sure people have enough to eat be important to the well-being of everyone, including those who always have enough?

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance Development assistance is a way to focus on long-term causes of hunger and poverty, while food aid meets people’s immediate needs. While both are important, many Americans focus more on charitable feeding than on causes. In what circumstances is food aid appropriate? What makes development assistance more sustainable over the long term?

Domestic Nutrition Private feeding through churches and charities covers just 6 percent of the nutrition needs for low-income and struggling families in the United States. One person has estimated that if churches and charities needed to cover those costs, each church, synagogue, mosque, and charity would need to increase their efforts by at least $160,000 just to cover food, not to mention the structures through which they would provide food. Could your church manage this?

International Food Aid Usually we talk about development assistance as offering the long-term solutions, and food aid as being a band-aid solution for the short term since it involves giving people food directly. How does food aid enable communities to sustain themselves? What is “sustainable” about it, or how might it lead to greater sustainability and development?

Tax Credits for Low-Income Families The video mentioned that the average time on the EITC is two years. Does this seem like a long or short period oftime to receive this tax benefit? What are some tax benefits that you have received? How long did you receive them?