ELCA World Hunger

ELCA World Hunger staff and associates write about root causes of hunger, current events, and anything else they find pertinent.

Looking at Relief in the context of Service Learning

Posted on July 10, 2013 by henrymartinez


By Brittani Lamb

One thing that struck me in the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself is the author’s statement that “one of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make – by far – is applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention” (p. 101). It made me think – of all the service projects and volunteer opportunities I participated in through my church growing up, how many were something other than relief? Of course, there is definitely a time and place for relief. But how many meals do we need to serve at a soup kitchen before we do something more about hunger in our community?

One of the most memorable service projects I participated in was cleaning up the water-filled ditches of New Orleans’ St. Bernard Parish in 2009.  The waterways were still filled with debris from Hurricane Katrina four years earlier. It was amazing because we were able to make so much visible progress and the residents of the neighborhood were very appreciative. Many came out of their homes to thank us and tell their stories. But looking back, I have to wonder – could we have done something else that would’ve been more helpful? What we did was essentially relief. I feel fairly confident that what we did didn’t hurt anyone, per se, but was cleaning out the ditch what they needed from us? How could we have involved the people of the neighborhood more? We did do some research about New Orleans beforehand and heard several people’s stories about their experience with Katrina. However, as far as I know, we didn’t ask people what their needs were or include them in our service.  

I think service learning is a great way to make sure we aren’t applying relief when rehabilitation or development would be more appropriate. The Service and Learning leadership team based out of Trinity Lutheran College has integrated a four step learning process with service learning. This process of Preparation-Action-Reflection-Celebration really resonates with me. Laying some groundwork before an experience and doing some intentional processing afterward make for an amazing growth experience. Furthermore, meaningful preparation that goes beyond planning logistics makes a big difference in the attitudes toward a service opportunity. I like the idea of creating goals and assessing strengths, both within the group who is doing the service and the group or individual they plan to work with. That makes the action of service that much more meaningful and enables participants to be intentional about their involvement and find meaning in tasks that can seem meaningless, like pulling garbage out of a pond. I think the “seeking God’s presence” component of the action step of service learning is one of the best parts. If we are really supposed to be doing God’s work with our hands, we should think about how we are doing that! Beyond the service, the reflection and celebration steps of service learning really enhance the experience. Processing the service through the lens of scripture and the goals that were set ahead of time can be a deeply meaningful way to think about how the experience will shape your future actions and beliefs. Finally, celebrating and sharing the experience with partners and the congregation is another step of processing and learning. The more people who hear about the service as a learning experience, the more people start to understand the bigger picture and what service and helping should be, which is not always relief!

Brittani Lamb is an intern for ELCA World Hunger.

Meet Rich Duncan

Posted on June 11, 2013 by henrymartinez

Recently we welcomed Rich Duncan as the Director of Mission Funding for the ELCA. We invited him to introduce himself on a guest blog post. Welcome Rich!


Rich Duncan

“Welcome to Chicago!”  was the emphatic greeting I was welcomed with just a few weeks ago when I arrived  from western North Carolina.  As the new Director of Mission Funding for the ELCA, I was overwhelmed by people excited to share their passion for the ministries of our church. I have never been around a more committed and motivated team of people drawn together, united in their mission to make a difference in the world.

I wish every Lutheran could walk in my shoes at the churchwide offices for one week to see all the outreach both domestically and globally: to see the immediate and compassionate response to victims of tornadoes in the Midwest, to see the impact in the lives of volunteers that went to Africa, to see our work combating malaria and hunger in multiple countries, to hear the excitement and exuberance in the voice of a pastor of a new start congregation, to see pictures and hear the stories of a young adult in global mission sharing Christ’s story and serving others in urban and remote areas of the world, to write a letter to a seminarian congratulating them on being awarded full tuition scholarship….

If every Lutheran could see and experience the incredible scope of what their church does for others, these humble Lutherans would boldly shout from the rooftops, “THIS IS MY CHURCH!” with the same pride experienced as a parent for his or her child.

One amazing thing our church does is help feed the hungry, while also addressing socio-economic issues connected to hunger. So many of us are blessed with abundance (enough money to buy what we eat; enough variety of food to make healthy choices), so it is hard to imagine being hungry for days on end. It is hard for us to imagine how much it costs for others around the world to feed themselves. When I saw this photo essay on the ELCA Wellness Facebook page, it emphasized for me our blessings and abundance compared to others.  So it is after viewing this that I ask you to share your abundance, share your faith, share your love for your church, remembering that the ELCA not only works to feed the hungry, but also works to end the systemic reasons why people go hungry.


Welcome Interns!

Posted on June 10, 2013 by henrymartinez

We’re excited to have our new interns. They will be blogging periodically throughout the summer, but for now we’ve asked them to introduce themselves.

SONY DSCHi all! My name is Brittani Lamb and I am an ELCA World Hunger intern this summer. I will mostly be focusing on projects that involve the youth of the ELCA. I am originally from St. Peter, Minnesota and now attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, where I will graduate next spring with a degree in Social Work. Through my coursework I learned how to act on the great passion I have for social justice and how to work to address issues like poverty and hunger.  I knew the ELCA would be a great place to put my new knowledge into practice. I got involved in the larger church in high school when I became a member and then president of my synod’s Lutheran Youth Organization board. As I attended national youth events and learned more about the structure and mission of the ELCA, I discovered that church is so much more than just a service on Sunday! People who work in the ELCA truly see their positions as a way to fulfill their personal vocations and as a way to serve God and the Church. I am excited to be a part of a group that is so enthusiastic about doing God’s work in our world and also learning more about addressing hunger and poverty through relief, education, advocacy and development.


Jesse_McClainI’m Jesse McClain, intern for ELCA World Hunger. I finished my B.A in Political Science from California Lutheran University in May 2013. I grew up in Hemet, CA and went to school in Thousand Oaks, CA. In high school my mom served as a case manager for a small homeless shelter in my hometown. Through her work there my family was very involved in the day-to-day operations of the shelter and it was my second home. During this time I began to see that the world was so much bigger than just me. It was also the first time I experienced and witnessed how much help the world needed. My passion is for justice and I fight for that with love. I am excited to be part of the ELCA World Hunger team and explore more ways to get involved and help our brothers and sisters around the world. Although it might seem overwhelming, hunger and poverty can end, but it takes passion, tenacity, and a human soul on fire to succeed. I know I can’t change the world alone and the work I do will only make a small dent- but the beauty of a church that works together is that a bunch of small dents makes one giant dent to end some of the suffering in the world, and that is why I am so thrilled to be part of this team!


Clara_RanaivosonHi, my name is Clara Ranaivoson and I am the summer intern for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. I am originally from Madagascar, but I grew up in Papua New Guinea, England, Kenya, and the USA. My father, Mamy Ranaivoson, served as the Program Assistant for the Health Ministry of the ELCA Global Mission and the Regional Coordinator for the HIV/AIDs program for the Lutheran World Federation in Africa. Through his work and my experiences living overseas, I discovered my interest in health project implementation and its role in the alleviation of poverty. Thus, I am interested in pursuing a career in public health or one in the medical field. Currently, I attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN where I plan to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in biology next May. I am thrilled and grateful for this opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of health project implementation and the church’s role in it, and to discover if a career in public health is well suited to my strengths and interests.




Late winter, late planting

Posted on April 24, 2013 by henrymartinez
Vegetables in a greenhouse, ready to go in the planted. Angelic Organics, Caledonia, IL, April 12, 2013.

Vegetables in a greenhouse, ready to go in the planted. Angelic Organics, Caledonia, IL, April 12, 2013.

It’s hard to talk about food and hunger without considering its growth and production. This year, much of the United States has experienced an extended winter and greater precipitation which has resulted in a delayed planting season. This of course is a far different story than last year, where drought took hold throughout much of the country.

The USDA has released some interesting data compairing the percentage of crops in the ground this year to last year at the same time (as well as averages over the past four years). For example, 18 states (which planted 92% of corn acreage in 2012) had an average of 26% of their corn crop in the ground at this time last year. This year farmers have planted an average of 4% of their corn. The biggest difference in the example of corn is Illinois, which had 56% of its corn crop in the ground by April 21 last year and only 1% in the ground this year.

As far as what this means for food prices, insurance, and other matters, I’ll leave that to the experts. For those of you who are professionals in this area, please feel free to comment, we’d love to hear from you. In a brief story on Harvest Public Media one farmer comments:

“It’s just crazy that one year is one way and one is another,” Smart said. “But we’ve had this before so we’ll have it again. And as I said, we don’t have to go to Las Vegas to gamble because farming is the biggest gamble there is.”

I’ve easily made the connection that farming is providing food, but the farming and gambling connection has been more on the periphery. But after considering it, I hope to appreciate the fruits of the labor, calculation, or guess even more.   

Henry Martinez serves as an educational associate for ELCA World Hunger.

World Water Day

Posted on March 21, 2013 by henrymartinez
water day blog

Water project in the Gulin area of the Sichuan Province.

March 22 is the United Nations World Water Day, the theme of which is “International Year of Water Cooperation.” Water cooperation is water management that considers a number of factors (such as food production, environment, and domestic use) in an effort to encourage peace and sustainable development.

In an effort to practice water cooperation ELCA World Hunger has worked for several years with the Luzhou City Parish in Sichuan Province, China, to identify communities in need of better access to water.

Y. Franklin Ishida, ELCA  Global Mission Area Program Director for Asia and the Pacific writes of a project among the Miao ethnic minority people in Luxian:

This is an example of ELCA and government collaboration, where ELCA contributed to a major water works project for a hilltop village in this area. Local farmers relied on the weather for their crops. This past year [2011] was an example where drought caused major problems. An antiquated pump system no longer functioned. With ELCA funding, a new pump system was installed to raise water from the nearby river for then distribution throughout the land to fill paddies. The area covered is huge, and the impact obvious when you see paddies filled with water this year. While the local government officials were eager to show the new pumping station, the holding ponds, and the water outlets at various places; one woman’s smile, as she paused from planting rice, said it all. She compared things to the previous year, when there was no water: Even drinking water had to be trucked in.

Water cooperation is shown here through collaboration between government, faith-based and local actors.  Ishida highlights another example:

In the Maxi area of Gulin, I was invited to dedicate the new water system put in that benefits 83 people in 18 households. According to Yan Yi-you, the village head, “we can drink fresh water, provide for the goats and cows, and plant our crops without worry of droughts,” something that had occurred in 2011. “Before it was a very hard life: now we can easily do things,” he said.

The system is a simple one. A pond was dug at a spring. A pump was installed to pump the water uphill to some holding tanks. From there, gravity takes the water to each home. Easy to install, easy to maintain.

About all this Yan says: “We did the work because you gave for us: you care for us. Though there was water [at the source down the mountain] from the time of our forefathers, this new water system will now help us for generations to come.” And with this, he gave me a huge hug.

Through these projects and ones like them, ELCA World Hunger is able to support water cooperation around the world.  By working together with the communities like those in Luxian and in the Maxi area of Gulin (both in the Sichuan Province) –we are able to support projects that make a difference.  As the UN makes water cooperation work a priority throughout this year, may we – as ELCA World Hunger – continue to realize and support the incredible work that is possible through collaboration between government, faith-based, and local actors.

Henry Martinez serves as an educational associate for ELCA World Hunger.

International Women’s Day

Posted on March 8, 2013 by henrymartinez

Google doodle celebrating International Women’s Day

March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD). The two prominent themes for IWD this year include “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum” (internationalwomensday.com) and “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” (UN Women).

This also coincides with President Obama signing the Violence Against Women Act into law today, extending criminal justice protections and provisions for victims of rape and domestic violence (for a brief reference see the Whitehouse factsheet).

Thankfully, much has been gained in the struggle for equality, but a few UN statistics remind us of the incredible amount of work that still needs to be done:

  •     Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  •     Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  •     Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

We are reminded that violence and gender inequality are a threat to sustainability and further perpetuate the reality of poverty and hunger in the world.  Check out ELCA World Hunger’s Gender and Hunger Toolkit, which has downloadable resources desginged for small groups to explore the connections between hunger gender inequality.  A prayer from that toolkit:

Dear God, so often we forget the people of your world who are nameless and unseen to us. Help us to know that in your eyes none of us are faceless people for we are all made in your image. Creator God, help us to recall daily women and girls who become victims of atrocities everywhere. Let each of us in some way be your instruments of healing and empowerment. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen. (Jennie Malewski, adapted from Sing Out New Visions: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections by Women)

Henry Martinez serves as an education associate for ELCA World Hunger


‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House (and Senate and White House too)…

Posted on December 20, 2012 by henrymartinez

(From left) Bishop Jim Mauney, Virginia Synod; Drew Genszler, Director for Advocacy; Bishop Robert Driesen, Upper Susquehanna Synod; Bishop David Zellmer, South Dakota Synod; Bishop Michael Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod; Bishop Jon Anderson, Southwestern Minnesota Synod; Rev. Dan Rift, Director of ELCA World Hunger

By Rev. Dan Rift

As our nation faces a “fiscal cliff”,  five Bishops who have made themselves ready to speak with elected representatives on domestic issues, met Monday with staff from the White House, from Speaker Boehner’s staff, and with the Secretary of Agriculture.  Andrew Genzler (Director for Advocacy) and I accompanied them on this visit. 

The main topic of conversation was the impact that any budget compromise would have on those who are most vulnerable among us. We also discussed vision for continuing to strengthen rural community life, impending changes for dairy and other farming support, tax exempt deductions for charities, and protecting the future for our children. In each meeting, those with whom the Bishop’s met, encouraged folks in the church to personally form a working dialogue with their elected officials. They were especially heartened to hear about specific ways that the work of the government and the work of the church have together created opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty. Throughout the times, the Bishops prayed for and with those with whom we met, for our elected officials, for a way forward that might bring hope, and especially for those who struggle with hunger and poverty in this nation and around the world. For me it was a great Advent gift, remembering that God works to bring good news to the poor. We follow in that work. Merry Christmas. 

Dan Rift is the Director of ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal

“Faith in Action…End Stigma NOW”

Posted on December 1, 2012 by henrymartinez

December 1 is World AIDS Day. In many cases people living with HIV/AIDS have a greater chance of being at risk of suffering from hunger and poverty as well. For more information see the ELCA strategy on HIV/AIDS or look for worship resources

By Kenneth Callaghan

Attending the International AIDS Conference this past summer helped me realize stigma is something I can help confront.  The truth is, I personally cannot cure those who are infected, but I personally can fight stigma, face my own stigmas, and acknowledge cultural situations that make stigma thrive, within society and the church.

Preparing for IAC I began to consider stigma and what it meant, how do people experience it, what are its effects and implications?  It was easy to think of stories from the Bible of how Jesus took the “stigmas” of his day and called people to wholeness and healing.  Stories like: people with leprosy being banded from mainstream society, the paralytic man forced to become a beggar to survive, blind Bartimaeus, Lazarus, and the woman at the well being condemned because of her past.  These stories are important because they challenge the notions of sickness, sin, outcast and “the other.”  What is interesting is Jesus confronts these themes and asks questions like, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Jesus confronts marginalization and stigma reminding us to be careful of judgment and condemnation of others in light of our own shortcomings.

With the world of HIV/AIDS in mind, consider who might be on today’s list.  A newly infected/diagnosed 20 year old gay man in L.A., twin babies born infected in Uganda, the transgender youth forced to become a sex worker in order to eat, the immigrant who works a low paying job without health care, AIDS orphans who grow up without family or who think life is about sickness and devastation, the husband who’s been secretly living with HIV for years and exhausted his finances because he thought he would die, the gay men/women who because of cultural realities fears family abandonment because of his/her sexual orientation, the person who believes intimacy is participating in anonymous sex rather than an open honest relationship, the mother living with AIDS who never tells her children they are HIV+, etc.

Jesus actions in the lives of those who experienced stigma brought healing and newness.  He made an incredible difference as he addressed the ignorance of stigma and discrimination.  People of faith are called to follow Jesus example.  The apostle Paul reminds us “there is nothing that can separate a person from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Through the risen Christ, we are given the same ability and authority to make a change in the lives of those who suffer.

When we reach out to anyone affected by “stigma” with God’s love and grace there is healing.  We counteract stigma when we remind people they are beautiful creations of a loving God and bring the awareness of God’s love by creating safe, caring environments for people to connect and share with one another to bring hope, and as we really listen to the concerns of others without sharing our opinions or advise we empower them to work through depression, anger, fear and frustration.  Whenever we fight for equal rights for all people we make a change.  As we provide education regarding safe sex practices, the use and availability of condoms, the importance of regular HIV testing, treatment compliance, the need for affordable housing, employment, strive for healthcare reform, provide care for orphans, we make a difference.

Lives are changed when we model acceptance and inclusion – gifts of grace from our loving God.  With God’s help we make a difference in the world for those affected by HIV/AIDS or anyone who suffers the abuse of stigma by bringing acceptance, replacing fear with love and where open arms of welcome bring hope.

Kenneth Callaghan serves at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, North Hollywood, California. 

Re-Orienting: Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Week

Posted on November 20, 2012 by mikkamccracken

Is it really Thanksgiving week? I feel like I’ve somehow missed it due the earlier-than-usual influx of holiday ads and decorations. Is anyone else feeling dizzying disorientation? Welcome to the season where shopping ads and holiday decorations bombard our mailboxes, inboxes and all manner of television, mobile and computer screens.

Right behind #TurkeyDay come #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday. According to a Philanthropy Journal article, “Last year, Black Friday brought in over fifty-two billion dollars while Cyber Monday sales topped one and a quarter billion dollars in the United States.” Before we feel too proud that all we’re doing is give, give, giving… I also heard an article on National Public Radio this morning that shoppers in the United States will spend an average of about $140 on “self-gifting,” buying something for ourselves while shopping for others.

Move over, Turkey (or delicious vegetarian Mac-and-Cheese-Style Cauliflower I will be digging into this year)—we need room on the table to plot out the perfect sale shopping route and timetable!

Well, amidst all the hustle and bustle, a beautiful little movement flashed on my screen yesterday—introducing #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a namely social media driven movement (hence all the #– Twitter hashtags in my post) started by a coalition of nonprofits to highlight charitable giving. Right on the heels of a frenzied shopping weekend, we are invited to give to the organizations that matter most to us. What a great idea!

Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to celebrating and being thankful for the harvest—the harvest of the fields (according to the U.S. Department of Ag lower than normal this year in U.S. staples like corn and soybeans due to earlier drought, though prices are heading up, up, up) and the harvest of the gifts we have been entrusted with. Let’s re-orient ourselves around what matters, what we are called to as people of faith.

So, bring it on holiday season. We are ready. We heed the challenge to be faithful stewards; we strive to work for justice so those without plentiful harvest can know wholeness; we give thanks for the call to serve; and we give thanks especially for all of our wonderful ELCA World Hunger leaders, friends and donors who join us in this call!

Mikka serves as program director for constituent engagement and interpretation with ELCA World Hunger. To join the network and for more information on how you can get involved, write hunger@elca.org

Oct. 16: World Food Day

Posted on October 16, 2012 by henrymartinez

World Food Day celebrates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This year’s World Food Day theme is “Agricultural Cooperatives- key to feeding the world.” One particular strength of the cooperative lies in connecting farmers and members to one another and to the market. Connections allow farmers to benefit from greater access to goods and pooled resources.  Cooperative members are more likely to be invested community members and seek sustainability in their work.

 The FAO has a few examples of how agricultural cooperatives work: (A great line around 4:00 the woman talks about the forest as “the children’s heritage”).


The ELCA engages in global mission through accompaniment, a way which sees us (the ELCA) and our partners as mutual participants in the body of Christ. Working through partner church bodies, provides a way for our work to be deeply effective. The connections with church bodies in other countries mean that we are well positioned to support local and sustainable work.

The Lingson Family story illustrates a commitment to the local cooperative approach and reminds us that this approach to fighting hunger and poverty works in transformative ways.


Best of all, this is work we can all be involved in. On this World Food Day, think of how you can best respond to ending hunger in the world.

Henry Martinez, ELCA World Hunger Education