Saturday, May 07, 2016

OL 2016: Children at All Saints Lutheran Church Participate in Blessing of Letters to Congress

 (Note: This is the fourth in a series about the congregations and schools in New Mexico that participated in the 2016 Offering of Letters. We have also featured Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (and South Valley Preparatory and Holy Ghost Schools), Albuquerque Mennonite Church, Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces).

On May 1, Pastor Russ Sorensen and a group of five children from the All Saints Lutheran Church congregation in Albuquerque offered a blessing over a basket of 84 letters. In these letters, members of the congregation urged Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce, and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to to prioritize support for global maternal and child health programs, emphasizing nutrition.

The participation of the children was an appropriate part of the blessing, particularly in light of the topic for this year's OL on maternal and child nutrition. "The Blessing of Letters was included with the Children's Message at both our services," said Karen Hyde, chair of the Community Outreach Committee at All Saints Lutheran Church.

For the past several years, organizers of the Offering of Letters at the church have used a clever but simple tool to inform the congregation about that year's campaign: a skit.  In the past, the skit focused partly on the mechanics of the Offering of Letters as well as the issue. This was the case in 2012 with the Earned Income Tax Credit, 2014 with the issue of food aid reform and in 2015 with domestic child nutrition.

The Skit that Resulted in 84 Letters
The skit that was presented to the congregation a couple of weeks before the 2016 letter-writing Sunday focused entirely on the issue, borrowing from background materials put together by Bread for the World for this year's Offering of Letters and from the presentation by our guest speaker Hellen Mbithi at the Offering of Letters workshop in Albuquerque. Ms. Mbithi becomes one of the characters in the script, along with Margret Zimba and Christina (both interviewed by Bread for the World for the background materials). The writers of the script took a bit of literary license. After each character introduces herself, the script uses them to present facts related to the Offering of Letters (so the words on the page are not their original comments).

Margret Zimba
My name is Margret Zimba. I am from Chimudomba, Zambia in Africa. Most families here are subsistence farmers and during the hunger season in February and March before new crops are harvested and after the previous crops have run-out many of these families experience severe malnutrition. I am a volunteer nutrition leader from the Mawa program, run by Catholic Relief Services and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. I teach mothers about good nutrition for children from pregnancy until age 2—the first 1000 days in a child’s life. In today’s session I am teaching the mothers about the importance of protein. We begin the session with a song that the women sing and dance to. Then we will have a cooking demonstration. Through this hands-on learning, mothers and babies are on the road to a better, healthier life.

My name is Christina. I also live in the village of Chimudomba. Today I am participating in a group program for mothers of young children. I am learning how to grind up high-protein peanuts and black-eyed peas to add to the corn-based porridge I feed to my baby. I also learned that in Africa half of all children under 5 die because of malnutrition and hunger. I do not want that for my child. I enjoy these classes taught by Zimba. Today we started with a song and then had a cooking demonstration. I am so happy that I will be able to keep my baby well-fed and healthy because of help from the U.S. government.

Hellen Mbithi
My name is Hellen Mbithi. I am from Ngai, an isolated village in Kenya. Unfortunately my village has not received any aid from the programs sponsored by the U.S. My village has a school, but it is falling down around the children. Many of the families cannot earn enough to feed their children and also send them to school. I was very fortunate. My parents sacrificed a great deal and sold everything they owned to send me to primary school and then on to high school and nurse’s training. Through a special lottery I received a green card and was able to emigrate to the U.S. I had to borrow the money to pay for the program.  I passed the exam to be able to be a nurse in the U.S. and now I am working here in Albuquerque as an R.N. Although I have a six-year old daughter to support, I send as much money as possible back to my village in Kenya to help them raise enough to repair the school and build a clinic. I hope that my village will also be helped by the U.S. AID programs very soon because many of the children are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Hellen: Here are some facts and figures about global hunger and poverty. Since 1990, global hunger has decreased by nearly half, but undernutrition still affects 795 million people and causes 3.1 million child deaths annually.

Christina: In 2014, Feed the Future’s agriculture and food-security investments directly helped nearly 7 million farmers transform their farms and fields, which, in turn, has helped reach 12 million children with nutrition programs that prevent and treat undernutrition, saving children’s lives.

Margret: By providing people with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, we create a more stable world. For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent.

Hellen: 43 of the top 50 consumer nations of U.S. agricultural products were once U.S. foreign-aid recipients.

Christina: Since their establishment in 2002, McGovern-Dole International Food for Education programs have boosted school attendance and provided meals to approximately 28 million children in 37 countries.

Margret: Worldwide, 36 million people still live in extreme poverty—on less that $1.25 per day.

All: Write a letter. Help the world’s children Survive and Thrive!

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