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Conflict and Hunger Part V: Stability

This post is Part V of a five-part series discussing the many ways that violent conflict impacts hunger. The next key aspect of food security is stability. Is access to food reliable, even during a crisis? Here, we take a look at how conflict impacts this, with specific attention to the crisis in Ukraine. Read Part I and find links to the other posts here.

Stability, in short, means that food production, access, and utilization are reliable and resilient. Put another way, if we can eat today, how sure are we that we will be able to eat tomorrow?

There are two reasons this is important. First, instability and unpredictability change the way people behave. Farmers, for example, become more hesitant to trade, invest or diversify their work. For example, after the civil war in Mozambique in the 1980s and 1990s, farmers tended to focus on subsistence farming and reduced their participation in the market, meaning there was less food produced for other people to purchase and consume. Similarly, farmers may shift away from livestock or away from crop diversification, since doing so seems to pose less risk in the short-term, even if it may have longer-term negative effects.

In Ukraine, one of the current concerns is that farmers may not fertilize their grain crops because of high prices and instability. That would lead to a drastic reduction in the wheat crop for 2022, which could cause further shortages and higher prices globally into 2023. Moreover, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that fertilizer costs are expected to rise globally, adding to the strain of farmers dependent on them. Russia and Belarus provide a large share of the world’s fertilizer, and their shipments have been significantly interrupted. (Of course, because causes and effects are complex, this situation might actually spawn the positive benefit of focusing attention on increased efficiency of chemical fertilizers and investment in alternative fertilizers that are less destructive to health and the environment, as IFPRI notes.)

The second reason stability is important is because conflict doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t bring an end to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 or other diseases. Nor does conflict make climate-related disasters take a hiatus. The most significant risk to food security in a region occurs when multiple shocks coincide.

This is, in part, what makes the food security situation for export-dependent countries so dire right now. In places like Yemen, which depend on grain exports from Russia and Ukraine, the war comes on the heels of a locust swarm that devastated crops and continues to pose a threat to farmland. Moreover, some of the people dependent on exports from Ukraine are in areas facing their own conflict-related crises, such as Afghanistan.

When combined with existing poverty, rising prices, climate events and other conflicts, the shock to the global food system that the war in Ukraine represents could be severe. In the short- to medium-term, the FAO estimates that the conflict could lead to nearly 8 million more people around the world becoming hungry. This is in addition to the refugees and internally displaced people of Ukraine whose lives and livelihoods have been immediately impacted. That increase in hunger would come on the heels of significant growth in undernourishment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To sum it up, conflict destabilizes nearly every aspect of our global food system, which is partly why it is often named as the most significant driver of hunger around the world. For most of history, humans could assuage feelings of responsibility or even fear if a conflict emerged halfway around the globe. But our world today is far too connected to believe that borders, oceans or miles can insulate us. The globalized, interconnected food system that each of us is a part of demonstrates politically and economically what we have always known theologically, namely that the safety and well-being of all God’s creation matters, no matter how distant the people involved might seem to be.

The stability of the food system depends on many factors: farmers, workers, bakers, herders and processors who produce food; truck drivers, rail workers, loaders and grocers who make food available; health care workers who tend to nutritional well-being; employers who provide wages to workers so that they can be consumers; utility workers who keep infrastructure running to ensure the safety of food; construction and road workers who ensure there can be adequate transportation of food; and even policymakers who negotiate trade agreements and aid to ensure that the food system is inclusive.

To paraphrase the philosopher Jacques Derrida, when we eat, we never eat alone. We are eating the fruits of God’s creation made possible because of neighbors around the world. And as we eat, we are mindful that the stability of this system on which all of us depend to some extent, depends itself on the truths we are called to pursue: peace and justice.

So, to return to the first post in this series:

The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine could echo throughout the food system for a long time. But we find courage and hope in God who “calls us to hope, even when hope is shrouded by the pall of war” and who, even now, is at work in, among and through peacemakers, supporting neighbors in need and “striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”

What can be done? Providing support to the work that has already begun by giving a gift to Lutheran Disaster Response is one way to help meet the growing need of Ukrainians, especially those who have been displaced by the conflict.

A next step after that is to consider ongoing support of Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger. Some of the long-term consequences described in these posts may be reduced by working with local communities around the world to reduce vulnerability, increase capacity and build resilience against future shocks. This won’t be the last violent conflict; but by working together toward a just world where all are fed – and safe – we can take steps to help prevent the many destructive ripple effects that we may see this year. Supporting food producers; investing in stable, sufficient livelihoods for all people; increasing the capacity of communities to respond to crises; and building a just, sustainable and stable food system will go a long way to ending both hunger and conflict. As António Guterres wrote last year,

We need to tackle hunger and conflict together to solve either.


Lent Reflection 1: Journey in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

Week 1: Journey in the Wilderness

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor”
(Deuteronomy 26:5)


  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9 -16
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13


We have a curious set of readings for this first Sunday of Lent. Biblical scholars believe that Deuteronomy 26:5-10 is a script for someone making an offering of what was called the “first fruits,” a religious practice for farming communities. Following the first harvest that the Israelites reaped in the Promised Land, they were to gather a basket of select produce from the fields and carry it to the priest. When the priest laid the basket at the altar, the person making the offering would then say the following:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me (Deuteronomy 26:5-10).

These verses fit well with this somber season. Lent is, if nothing else, a time of looking backward and a time of looking forward. In its 40 days, we remember how far we have fallen short of the glory of God. In it, too, we look ahead with longing to the breaking of the Easter dawn and the unveiling of the promise of God, who by grace offers us a future we could never earn.

With Lenten memory, we recall the journey of our biblical ancestors, the Hebrews led by God from slavery to freedom through generations in the wilderness, and we too reflect on what being descendants of oppressed slaves whom the Lord brought “out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” means for us today. The formulaic verses of Deuteronomy recall this history, reminding the worshiper with their produce just how far God has carried God’s people, from the “wandering Aramean,” Jacob, through Egypt, and to a new life and new covenant with God.

The danger inherent in this journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is difficult for us to capture today. Even without the threat of Pharoah’s army, to wander in the wilderness without permanent shelter, a stable source of fresh water or the means to grow food meant risking death from all sides. The lament of the people is understandable. They cry out to Moses, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt … for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3). The Hebrews, led by Moses, were dependent on God’s response to their complaint: manna, a bread-like substance, rained down at night to fill them.

For our ancestors, the wilderness may have seemed like a trial to be endured and, if lucky, survived.

Perhaps that trial isn’t as hard for us to relate to that trial as it might seem. How often do we experience life as having more risks than rewards or more trials than triumphs? With rates of hunger around the world skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, natural and unnatural disasters wreaking havoc, and conflict uprooting lives, the world can often feel like a wilderness to be endured and, if lucky, survived.

The witness of our biblical ancestors is critical for us during Lent. The history recalled in the ceremony of the offering of the “first fruits” in Deuteronomy reminds us of two important truths as we begin this season. The first truth is that God is not the source of suffering. Even as the wandering Hebrews saw their time in the wilderness, at times, as a grueling test administered by an exacting God, it was God who journeyed with them. God responded to their cries with sustenance and protection that enabled them to survive.

The second truth might best be summed up in the popular quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring: “Not all those who wander are lost.” Even when the way seemed uncertain for Jacob, the “wandering Aramean,” he was never alone as he sought a land to call his own. God was leading him somewhere as surely as God had greater things in store for the Hebrews than a mere flight from Egypt.

These truths lie at the foundation of the church’s witness today — even as so many of our neighbors face the uncertainty of survival in a world where as many as 811 million people are undernourished. In the Chiredzi District of Zimbabwe, Emma Mangwende gives voice to this uncertainty when she wonders, in her words, “how to survive as an old lady looking after seven grandchildren.”

What would being grounded in these truths look like for us — a church accompanying neighbors with challenges like Emma’s?

We can start by responding to the realities of hunger and poverty now and working with companions and partners with a vision for the future. In Zimbabwe, Lutheran Development Services (LDS) embodies this vision, working with Emma and other residents of the Chiredzi District to implement new models of farming that conserve water, preserve soil and increase yields. This work reflects the LDS vision of “transformed, robust and resilient communities living a just, peaceful and dignified life manifesting God’s love.” It is a testament to the two truths revealed in the story of God’s journey with God’s people in the readings for this Lent.

As we respond to hunger in the world, we do so knowing that God has provided abundantly to meet our every need, even as inequities and injustice prevent so many of our neighbors from enjoying the fruits of God’s creation. Our response — and our Lenten confession of the ways we have fallen short in responding — bear witness to the truth that inequities ought not to be. Amid risk and uncertainty, the work of neighbors such as Emma and LDS and of congregations in the United States and around the world is a testament that, even now, God is giving life to a promise of “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a world in which hunger and poverty will be no more.

This Lent we look back, remembering the ways God has been with us in our journey, and we look forward, longing for the fulfillment of God’s Easter promise. And we work, trusting that the God of our wandering ancestors is being revealed still today in our neighbors as we find our way through the
wilderness together.


  1. Think of a time when a situation seemed particularly uncertain or challenging. In what ways was God present with you?
  2. How might the church’s work alongside people facing hunger and poverty bear witness to God’s promise for the future?
  3. Imagine you had to rewrite the offering prayer from Deuteronomy 26:5-10. What would you include? What moments or events from your life or the life of your community would be part of your prayer?
  4. How does (or should) being descendants of “a wandering Aramean” such as Jacob shape the work of the church today?


God of our yesterdays and tomorrows, you guided our ancestors through the wilderness to freedom, a new home and a future with promise. Turn our hearts toward our neighbors who face uncertainty, insecurity and risk today. Inspire within us compassion for their needs, gratitude for their gifts and a holy yearning for justice, that all may experience safety, security and hope in our world today. In your name, we pray, amen.

Learn more and follow ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of giving throughout Lent by visiting


Advent 2021- Week Two Study Guide and Children’s Sermon

Advent Week 2

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.”

-Luke 1:78

This advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2021 Advent Study and ELCA World Hunger’s weekly Sermon Starter emails. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here. You can sign up for the weekly Sermon Starter emails here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone.


Zechariah’s prophecy in the first chapter of Luke, our reading for this second Sunday in Advent, is sometimes overlooked in favor of the  Magnificat of  Mary in the same chapter. Mary’s song, which we will read later in Advent, is a theological ode to God, who “lift[s] up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Zechariah’s prophecy, however, is a cry of joy for the God who fulfills God’s promise. Both Mary and Zechariah have longed with their people for this moment, have yearned for

the fulfillment of the promise that we heard on the first Sunday of Advent, when “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jeremiah 33:16). Now, as Zechariah proclaims, “the dawn from on high [has broken] upon us” (Luke 1:78).

What does it mean for this new day to “dawn”? All too often, the church has tended to conflate metaphors of light and darkness with good and evil. The darkness of night is tied to fear, uncertainty and even despair, whereas the brightness of day symbolizes hope, joy and, in some cases, wisdom. But Zechariah’s proclamation of the coming dawn reveals more than the difference between light and darkness . Indeed, in much of Scripture the dawning of the day of

the Lord is far from a happy occasion. The prophets Micah and Joel both refer to it as “terrible,” and Amos chastises the people who long for it to arrive.

In the Bible and in life, metaphors of light and darkness are more complex than we sometimes assume. In life, the darkness of night can bring risk and uncertainty, as we heard in Charity’s story in the first session of this Advent study. Yet night can also be a time of rest, a symbol for the end of our labors. For the people of the Bible, living in hot, arid climes, the sun was necessary for growing food but its setting would bring a cool, restorative break.

For many of our neighbors who face housing insecurity, night and day each carry their own risks. As the sky dims, the need to find safe, suitable shelter intensifies. As the day dawns, the threat of eviction or displacement looms.

St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Cairo, Egypt, a ministry supported by ELCA World Hunger, accompanies vulnerable neighbors through these risks. The community­ based organizations supported by StARS are key partners in this work. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many governmental agencies to close down or scale back their support of refugees

in Cairo, these community-based organizations remained open, providing critical support.

Hala, a 37-year-old Sudanese mother, was one of these neighbors. Her husband passed away during the first wave of COVID-19 in Egypt, leaving Hala to care for their four children. Forced to support them on her own amid the widespread economic uncertainty of the pandemic, Hala soon fell behind in her rent payments.

Knowing she needed some support, Hala turned to Amal School, an organization supported by StARS. Amal School provided her and her family with an emergency grant so that they no longer had to fear eviction. The school also provided Hala with a caseworker who helped her find a job. Now, her family has stable housing, her job provides much-needed income and Hala has the resources she needs to care for her family. She no longer worries about what they will eat during the day or where they will lay their heads at night.

The season of Advent invites us to journey with our historical forebears, such as Mary and Zechariah, and with our neighbors today, such as Hala. This journey is no metaphorical shift between night and day, darkness and light, but a real, lived transformation from the vulnerability we know surrounds us to the promise we know includes us. For Mary, this meant seeing the proud brought low and “the lowly” exalted by God. For Zechariah, it meant seeing the dawn break from on high. For Charity Toksang, in our first session of this study, it meant seeing the sunrise over a health care clinic in Juba, South Sudan. And for Hala and her family, it means sleeping in a home they won’t be forced to leave the next day.

God meets us where we are with a promise – that we will be reconciled, that the world is being transformed, that we

will live safely, securely and abundantly. God also meets us with an invitation – to participate in this reconciliation and transformation in the world.

Where is God meeting you this Advent? And where is God calling you to be in the new year?


  1. What does it mean to be vulnerable? What are some ways Hala and her family may have felt vulnerable? What are some ways you feel vulnerable in this Advent season?
  2. What does God’s promise of salvation mean for us today? What will “the dawn [breaking] from on high” look like in our lives?
  3. The term “housing insecurity,” used in the reflection above, includes not just homelessness but a variety of obstacles people face in finding a safe, stable and affordable place to live. Consider the terms “housing-insecure” and “homeless.” What’s the difference? What does it mean to have a “home”? What challenges does your community face in ensuring that everyone is “housing secure”?
  4. Where is God calling the church to be this Advent? How does our faith call us to accompany neighbors such as Hala as they work toward a better future for their families?


God of promise, we thank you for the darkness of night and the brightness of day, for the change of seasons, the passing of time and the promised future toward which you lead your world. Be present with us and with our neighbors around the world, especially those left vulnerable by rising costs and declining opportunities. Inspire your church to be part of your work in the world, ensuring that all can enjoy the blessings of safety, security, peace and hope that you provide. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

Today the theme of “names” is noticeable by the Gospel writer. 

Bring in a bunch of, “hello, my name is” name tags and a sharpie marker.  You’ll need enough for each child plus enough for each child to take with them, with a few that are blank, and the rest filled in with “Lovely,” or “Beloved,” or “God’s Child,” or “Wonderfully Made.”

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Hold the name tags tightly in your hand out of sight. “Does anyone want to guess what I have here?” Give appropriate time for guesses “They are nametags!  Tell me look at one youth What would you like me to write on your name tag? It can be your name, or it can be any name that you really, really like.”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“Anyone else?” Call on another youth “What name would you like?”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag. Now, look out at the adult congregation.

“How about anyone in the seats?  Anyone want a name tag? What would you like on your tag?”

Call on an adult. Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“In today’s Gospel lesson the writer names all these names: Pontius Pilate. Tiberius. Herod. John the Baptist. Zechariah. They name all these names because they want us to know what was going on in the world and who these people are.  Names are important.  You all have names.  And God knows all of your names!  But you know what?  You also have other names given by God in your baptism, names you might forget.  I want to show them to you, but they’re a surprise, so come in close.”

Invite the youth in close and show them the name tags.

<whispered> “You are all Beloved.  You are all Lovely. You are all Children of God. And you know what?  They are, too. <point to the assembly>  “Each of you take a nametag to wear, and then take a name tag to give to someone out there, so that they can know what they are named by God, too.  Ready? Go!”


Celebrating Big Dream Grants in 2021!


We are excited to introduce the four recipients of ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021!

ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants, one-time gifts of $10,000 to $75,000, support ministries in the United States and Caribbean as they pursue innovative and sustainable approaches to ending hunger. Together, we celebrate the ways God is working through these ministries and their “big dreams” for their communities.

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic repercussions have brought into focus the weaknesses in the systems and structures intended to ensure that basic human needs are met. In the United States, unemployment, under-employment and healthcare costs are high, and hunger is on the rise. In 2021, ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants will support ministries that are boldly working to uproot, transform or re-envision the structures and norms that perpetuate disparities in access to resources and result in 77% of low-income Americans living without the savings to cover costs when an emergency arises.

Introducing the ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021:


Pueblo County, Colorado

group of people from PosadaFor 33 years, Posada has been providing shelter, housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless in Pueblo County, Colorado.  The focus of Posada’s service delivery is the provision of housing and supportive services, which includes referrals for food assistance, food banks and more, with a special focus on food items for youth. The mission of the agency is “to provide housing and supportive services that empower homeless individuals and families in Pueblo County to become self-supporting members of the community.”

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will help Posada implement and strengthen their Senior Housing facility through the creation of a safety net to support unhoused older adults. Posada addresses the needs of homeless individuals, families, youth, veterans and, now, older adults to break down barriers, reduce inequality and build strong relationships that move us toward a just world where basic needs of all are met.


Detroit, Michigan

MOSES is a faith-based, grassroots-led community organizing nonprofit serving residents of Detroit, Michigan, and its surrounding region. An interfaith, multi-racial and regionally-focused organization, MOSES especially emphasizes the leadership of laypeople and clergy from member congregations based in Black communities in Detroit and other southeast Michigan communities. MOSES identifies as a Black-led organization, and their overarching ministry is to develop the civic skills of marginalized residents so that they may act upon their values in the public arena. By focusing on grassroots leadership, MOSES remains rooted in their commitment to addressing needs that are directly expressed and identified by members of marginalized communities. To this goal, MOSES’ priority issues are based upon direct input from community leaders.

The Big Dreams Grant will help MOSES achieve its long-term objective of reforming the ways in which water is sourced, delivered and billed in southeast Michigan, in order to end water shut-offs in low-income neighborhoods. This work is critical in ensuring access to clean water in a city that has experienced crises in access to water over the last decade or more.

MOSES is also working to counter the trend of divestment from Michigan’s public health system by building public demand for increased state investment in public health infrastructure. MOSES is doing this by working to make affordable access to clean water (water equity) and renewed investments in public health central areas of focus in the 2021 Detroit mayoral campaign. At the same time, MOSES is working to build capacity to drive increased investment in public health infrastructure. They are also working with a coalition to establish a graduated income tax structure in Michigan that will protect people living in poverty and create the opportunity for much-needed investment.

Church on the Street

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Church on the Street is a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC) of the ELCA and a vital ministry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a primary focus of being the church with people living with poverty and homelessness. Church on the Street (COTS) works towards equality, peace, justice and advocacy while offering a place at the table for everyone to be fed physically and spiritually.

Responding to the pandemic, the “small” ministry of COTS has served in big ways. COTS has deep, genuine, ongoing relationships that have enabled them to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in the community, especially when larger organizations have not been able to provide services to them. The Big Dream grant will enable COTS to double their work in the city, meeting the immediate needs of neighbors, advocating for justice and creating a system of change alongside community responders to best serve those in need.


Norfolk, Virginia

ForKids is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children in Norfolk, Virginia. Their integrated services are vital to the safety and well-being of families in their community.

When schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ForKids partnered with Mercy Chefs, local restaurants and individual donors to deliver over 8,000 meals to ForKids families in the region. Their Housing Crisis Hotline geared up to meet the unprecedented call volume which peaked at 935 calls in a single day. The Hotline now handles over 3,000 calls weekly, and ForKids is partnering with multiple cities to administer over $5 million in rental assistance to households experiencing a COVID-related financial setback, in addition to expanding emergency shelter placement. The team has been working diligently to keep families connected to social supports, academic support for their children and other vital resources.

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will support a digital storytelling campaign to help public officials and community leaders make informed decisions about the issues contributing to hunger and poverty in their region. It will also support the construction of the new Center for Children and Families slated to open in March 2021. The Center includes the Regional Services Headquarters, a 135-bed family shelter, an expanded 24-seat Housing Crisis Hotline which will double call response capability and an education center with the capacity to tutor up to 120 children in creative learning spaces. With a full-service kitchen, ForKids estimates they will be able to provide over 31,000 meals each year. The Center will connect more than 85,000 individuals annually to services when complete. The Center will also be the home of a long-awaited dream: The ForKids Research & Advocacy Center.

Even amid challenging times, we know that God is at work in new and surprising ways. Through these transformative, holistic and integrated ministries – and the generosity that makes Big Dream Grants possible – we can see the impact of this work, and be part of it, in communities near and far. Thank you for your support of ELCA World Hunger as we work together to respond to hunger and poverty in the United States and 59 other countries around the world. To learn more about ELCA World Hunger’s approach, visit


Big Dream Grants are part of ELCA World Hunger’s support of local and regional ministries. Through Domestic Hunger Grants, Big Dream Grants, Daily Bread Matching Grants, and Hunger Education and Networking Grants, we accompany partners throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Each year, several ministries that exemplify the values of transformative, holistic and integrated work are invited to apply for Big Dream Grants.



Advent 2020- Week Two Study Guide


This advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2020 Advent Study. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here

Advent Week Two



Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
II Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8


Even as we enter this season of anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, our focus for this year is on the nearness of God. While our biblical ancestors awaited the coming of God’s promised Messiah, they still knew that God was never far from them and their plight.

The Gospel of Mark, like the Gospel of John, does not include a story of Jesus’ birth. Instead, it opens with a very different scene — the appearance of John the Baptist in the wilderness, proclaiming the coming of the Promised One and baptizing disciples in the river. John declares, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (1:3). His message echoes the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 of the approaching dawn of God’s promise to set all things right.

Both the original prophecy and John’s repetition are clear about what we are waiting for — the “day of the Lord.” The preparations the gospel enjoins are not preparations made amid absence, like the preparations that might be made for a visitor. The prophecies, instead, are precursors to an event. The message is not that God is coming at some time in the future but that the day is on its way.

This is an important distinction. So often, we view the future with expectant hope that God will come and set all things right. This kind of forward-looking hope is important. But this yearning for the fulfillment of God’s promise must be tempered by the faith that sees God already at work in the world as it is. We are not waiting on God; if anything, perhaps God is waiting on us (II Peter 3:9). John’s message is a reminder that, even as we await the final fulfillment of the promise, God is already at work, weaving the threads of God’s promise for us in our midst. To “prepare” is to “make straight” the ways, that is, to be about the ministry of the church now, participating in the work of justice and the full and final reconciliation God is making possible, even as we long for the day to come.

This message of active anticipation can be seen in a story of communities living around two different rivers, thousands of miles from the Jordan. In El Salvador, families from eight communities are working to restore the quality of the water they depend on from the San Antonio River, the Nejapa Aquifer and the Jiboa River. Through a project of the Sínodo Luterano Salvadoreño (Salvadoran Lutheran Church), the families have joined together to decontaminate the water from the tributaries to the rivers so that it will be safe to use for drinking, bathing and farming.

Miguel Angel Calderón Barahona is president of the La Granja Communal Association, one of the community groups working on the project. For Miguel, the project has meant more than just improving the water. “My life changed from the moment I decided to be part of this project,” he says. As a leader, “I have had the opportunity to reach beyond my perspectives as a member of the community [and to] reach out to other communities, see the needs in those communities and be able to be part of [their] development, as well.”

Part of the success of the program has been the ability to organize the people in the communities. That work began with an effort to improve the road to San Salvador, a route beset by fatal accidents. In working to improve the safety of the road, the community laid the groundwork and built the relationships that will now help them ensure access to quality water. Through the current project, Miguel says, the community has organized itself even more strongly, and now “the community at large is going to take a different course, and hopefully, it will be the path of success in our community.”

Reaching their goal has meant doing the hard work of preparation: petitioning communities and schools, building relationships and forging partnerships. The “path of success” is laid by the many small steps the communities take now that will lead to big changes.

We, as church together, know this. What is more, we know that even as we yearn for the day when all will be able to partake in the fruits of God’s good creation, God is at work now, through the efforts of people such as Miguel and his neighbors in Nejapa, El Salvador and other communities working for access to clean water around the world.

Preparing for the day to come means more than hoping for the final fulfillment of God’s promise. It means seeing, even now, that God is at work among us, and joining in this work. While we anticipate the event, we are not alone. In fact, we have never been alone, even this year. As we physically isolated from one another, God never isolated from us, as was evident in the many creative and courageous ways ministries adapted to ensure that the work of the church would go on — and that all would be prepared for the day to come.


  1. Where have you found God at work through the ministries of your church this year?
  2. How is working to ensure that all have clean water, sufficient food and resources to meet their other needs part of the church’s “active anticipation” of God’s promises for the future?
  3. What is a “path of success” for your community? How is the
    church helping walk with neighbors on that path?


Ever-present God, through sickness, violence, discord and injustice we have yearned for the fulfillment of your promise. Make us, your church, a sign of the day to come, that we may reflect this hope to others. Knit us together with one another and with our neighbors, that none may feel alone or isolated from your life-giving love. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.


Welcome (Back) New Staff!


Join ELCA World Hunger in welcoming (back) former intern and current coordinator for network engagement, Petra Rickertsen!

Grateful for your warm ‘welcome back’ to the ELCA World Hunger team, I am elated to announce my graduation from 2018 intern to Coordinator, Network Engagement! My passion for working with the ELCA World Hunger began in high school at an ELCA National Youth Gathering, grew through creating educational opportunities at California Lutheran University, and blossomed through hands-on experiences spreading the news of our work as a Hunger Leader on my Synod’s Hunger Team. Along the way, I also worked with Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences for five summers (after many seasons as a camper), and Fit 4 The Cause throughout college, drawing camp and fitness close to my heart. Serving through each nonprofit fortified my joy for working with people diverse in their walks of faith and life.

Learning about God’s astounding creation from people to plants also piques my interest. It’s part of the reason why I eat vegetarian and feel so blessed to travel! Two great adventures included studying abroad one semester in Paris, then another semester at Oxford University (Balliol and Saïd Colleges) which included additional travel through Greece, Italy, and Israel. I find the most intriguing part of traveling to be learning about the relationships people create with their food and the communities that flourish around food’s journey from seed to body.

Though traveling abroad is brilliant, I’m just as excited for the adventures happening in my own backyard! As a people-person, everything is more fun with a buddy, whether that is skateboarding, camping, or simply staying in for homemade pizza and movie night. I’ll miss the mountains (and burritos).  However, I am curious about what it will be like to trade warm sandy beaches and palm trees on Christmas for dashing through the snow in Chicago. But, I am elated for the growth this change in scenery will bring! Most of all, I’m grateful to be here, supporting the incredible work you and our shared network is achieving through ELCA World Hunger ministries. I am inspired to be back working with you and this team until all are fed.

I’m excited to work with the ELCA World Hunger network in our shared mission to end hunger, from assisting to plan, manage and answer your questions regarding events like the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering, to sharing on social media the astounding work you’re achieving in your communities, and our companions and partners are working on across the world.


Walking Together During the Government Shutdown – How to Help


The shutdown causes worry and doubt about when I will be able to return to work. I wonder if this will continue – how will I be able to make ends meet? I think the church can walk with those affected by the shutdown by raising the concerns of those impacted to lawmakers. Let elected leaders know their communities are being negatively affected. Churches can also be part of providing emergency assistance and relief to those in need. -Richard, furloughed federal worker and ELCA World Hunger leader, Washington, D.C.

During this government shutdown, those affected are at the front of our minds – and we know you share in this care and concern, too.

The current shutdown impacts many of us and our neighbors – from furloughed federal workers waiting for paychecks to hungry families worrying that the help they need to purchase food may not be there next month.

ELCA World Hunger and the MEANS Database have put together this short, practical list of things to consider and do to help our neighbors. Read and share. But most importantly, remember all our neighbors facing the immediate effects of financial uncertainty during this critical time.

Five Ways to Walk Together During the Shutdown

Check-in with your local food pantries, feeding ministries and other emergency shelters.

People facing food insecurity and the programs and ministries that help them are at significant risk during an extended shutdown. Federally-funded programs like SNAP, which help provide support to families facing hunger, have been able to send out payments for our neighbors in need this month and, thanks to a plan put together by the USDA earlier this week, through the end of February, too. But if the shutdown lasts into March or beyond, this funding will run out. Other anti-hunger programs are in danger, too. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides nutrition for pregnant women and children under age 5, faces the same lapse in funds as SNAP, as does TEFAP, which is a primary way food banks and pantries get access to affordable foods for their clients.

Does your congregation have or host a food-related ministry? Stop by and check-in; ask how things are going. What are they seeing and hearing from guests? Ask what the ministry or service provider needs most right now – the answer may surprise you.

If you’re a rostered leader, consider stopping by the space before opening and offering a supportive blessing for the space and those that will share time together today.

Host a “pop-up” food drive.

Once you’ve checked in with your local hunger ministry, host a food drive to help provide the resources they’ve told you they need most. ELCA World Hunger’s “Road Map to Food Drives” resource can get you started.


Pray personally and publicly for those who govern, those experiencing hardship due to the shutdown and those who walk with them. As the nation waits for agreement on a new spending authorization, pray that God will guide legislators in their work and will be with our neighbors affected by the government shutdown.

Make a monetary donation to a feeding ministry – locally or globally.

Providing physical food resources through a drive is good, but cash is often better. Cash in hand for your local pantry often means more cans on the shelf than you can buy at the grocery store.

Reach out and support those directly feeling the strain – listen and help make those voices heard.

Who in your congregation, school and community might be affected? Reach out, send a text, let them know you care. What do they need? If you are directly affected yourself, speak that truth and share your story as you can. Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or website, sharing a temple talk in church or letting your elected officials know your experience.

For updates, follow ELCA World Hunger and MEANS Database:


ELCA World Hunger

MEANS Database





Advent Study Series, Session 1: Just Food


Session 1

Alppha Banda, Irene Banda, Kristina Stephano, Dorothy Ngamira and Martha Kamphata all have children attending the Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School, operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. This school has 42 students and, with support from ELCA World Hunger, is the base for a feeding center for children.

Every school day, Alppha, Kristina, Dorothy, Irene and Martha show up as volunteers to cook for nearly 70 children aged 6 months to 5 years who travel to Chibothel from the surrounding 10 villages. Pooling resources, the women prepare food that has been donated, cup by cup, from the families of the children.

Whether it’s daily meals of sustenance or occasional feasts of celebration, there is something special, something intrinsically communal about preparing a meal. In the 1987 film “Babette’s Feast,” the title character is a French refugee as a live-in maid and cook for two sisters. Dutifully, she prepares their austere, simple meals day-in and day-out, until one day, Babette learns she has won a lottery, making her a wealthy woman. In celebration of her newfound fortune and in thanks to her two hostesses, she prepares an elaborate meal featuring the complex and sophisticated dishes of her native French cuisine. The meal itself is almost comical, as the modest diners nervously try turtle soup, quail and caviar.

The meal is the climax of the film, but the story is as much about the preparation as the eating. Gathering the ingredients requires substantial planning and expense, including arranging for shipments of meats and cheeses from Paris. Babette has labored in the sisters’ kitchen for months, but the work she puts into preparing the feast is different. It is a performance of art, a labor of love and a pouring out of herself. Each dish reflects an aspect of the life she left behind and an element of her history that she will share with the dinner guests.

To prepare a meal is to conjure elements of our own selves and our history of family recipes and cultural tastes and to share these in the creation of something new — a new table, a new experience for guests. It is to invite them into our past, to experience our memories of family dinners from years gone by, and into our present, to see part of who we are. Sharing a meal is sharing a piece of our stories as a gift to others.

For the fictional character Babette, the meal is an invitation into her past and an expression of love and welcome to the other characters in the film. For the women of Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School, the pooling of ingredients from across the community and the careful preparation of the students’ repast is a witness to the love for and support of the students. As Dorothy describes it, “Each and every child here is everyone’s child through the bond of love.”

For many of us, Babette’s feast is a luxury we cannot afford. Juggling unpredictable work schedules and limited finances often means family dinners are more functional than formal. Without access to the food we want, we must use what we have — or what we are given. Meals eaten in the many households facing food insecurity may  meet caloric needs, but they often leave other needs unfulfilled — the need for self-expression through cooking, the need to share and to share in our own history, and the need to pass on our traditions.

The privilege of making meaningful choices about our food is one way hunger affects more than just nutrition. Without adequate access to food, we lose a key avenue for sharing part of our history and our story. On the other hand, by supporting ministries to end hunger with an eye toward the importance of food as a symbol of our history and community, we can create opportunities for real feasting.

The women at Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School know this. Their morning routine meets the nutritional needs of the children, but as anthropologist Pat Caplan points out, “food is never ‘just food.'” The meals at the nursery school are a symbol of the care, love and concern of the community for its youngest members. The promise of God for the day when we will all feast together at the banquet is more than a promise of adequate nutrition. It is a promise of a time when God will reconcile our stories, our histories and our communities together.

As we anticipate the coming of the Christ-child this season, with all the opportunities it carries for preparing food together, we look forward to this day, preparing family recipes, mixing familiar ingredients, and plating dishes for a meal whose “significance can never just be nutritional.”

Questions for reflection:

  • What types of food or meals bring up special memories for you? How do they reflect part of your “story”?
  • What other needs — besides nutrition — can meals shared with others help fulfill?
  • How can ministries responding to hunger address needs beyond physical hunger?


Gracious God,

in your loving care, you bring forth good things from the earth to sustain and nourish your people. We give you thanks for these gifts and for the community that you gather to feast together this season. Open our hearts to our neighbors facing hunger that we may with love remember both those at the table and those absent from it. Preserve us and accompany us this Advent season as we await with eager anticipation the salvation of the world.

In your name,



To download this entire study, or to see some of our other congregational resources, please visit


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Building the Good Life for All: A New Book from a Familiar Voice


Many folks passionate about hunger issues are familiar with Shannon Jung’s work. He has written extensively on the topics of food and eating from a faith-based perspective. His books include Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating (2004), Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment (2006), and Hunger and Happiness: Feeding the Hungry, Nourishing Our Souls (2009). In addition to his perceptive writing on these topics, Dr. Jung is a Presbyterian pastor and professor who has taught at Concordia College (Moorhead, Minn.) and Wartburg Theological Seminary (Dubuque, Iowa) as well as Dubuque Seminary and Saint Paul School of Theology. Below, Jung introduces us to his newest book, Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities, available this year from Westminster/John Knox.

We hear a lot about the gap between the economically secure and those just getting by. What we wonder is, “How can we transform this gap in our communities?” We know that this is the sort of neighborliness Christ commended. But still the question: How can we build the good life for all?

Sometimes that neighbor is working hard to get by but seems to be falling behind and going further into debt. Many times, a single expense (doctor’s bill, car accident) will shatter a tight budget and force a family to choose between food or medicine or a house payment. “Getting by” can often be a pretty precarious way to live.

We see the devastation that natural disasters can wreak on vulnerable communities. Yet the income inequality we see now can leave communities vulnerable as well – to hunger, poverty, homelessness, and disease. What can we do about this?

In this new book, Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities, the focus in on those who are working but find themselves struggling to get by, including those whose income already leaves them living in poverty.

As I contended in Hunger and Happiness: Feeding the Hungry, Nourishing our Souls, I argue here that our own happiness depends not on the quantity of goods we have stored up, but rather on our efforts to eliminate hunger and to ensure that all have access to the resources for a “good life”. Indeed, our own flourishing is tied into the flourishing of our neighbor. Thus, alleviating suffering and enabling long-term well-being is spiritually uplifting for the receiver, but even more so for the giver.

Building the Good Life for All maintains that our work at enabling all our neighbors to enjoy a good life will enrich our spiritual life. We are interdependent. God creates us like that. Striving to empower all people to have a sufficient and secure life–free from hunger and want–is one step towards recovering what God intended for the world.

This isn’t an attempt to harangue Christians into “doing more.” Instead, the book moves by way of stories from one strategy to another. People and churches are already working to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. They are also engaging in efforts to help people develop skills and abilities that will enable them to feed and clothe themselves. So, what the body of the book contends is that this effort is already underway and that Christians could enrich themselves by joining them or initiating similar efforts in their communities.

The beginning focus is on the specific community of Manatee and Sarasota counties in Florida, but many of the efforts there (advocacy, food pantries, tutoring programs, congregational-based community organizations) have branches around the country. So, the question is, “What fits your community?” There will be other similar efforts in your community. Many of the chapters in the book focus on one of four strategies:

  1. Relief: This is the sort of program that a crisis like a hurricane calls for–feeding the hungry, finding clean water for the thirsty, making sure people are free from illness.
  2. Self-Development: Here, churches can come alongside the working class and poor to assist them to learn English, to learn household management, to develop job skills, to get a job or to get a better job. People are thus able to feed themselves.
  3. Public opinion formation: The church’s hunger ministries are efforts to shape public opinion in such a way as to see hunger as a scandal in the land of the free.
  4. Public policy advocacy: This is the sort of work that ELCA Advocacy does with its partners, including Bread for the World, to influence legislation that will guarantee an income floor for all people and to support the rights of workers. It also includes such efforts as Fight for Fifteen – the movement to raise the minimum wage, and working to make affordable housing more accessible.

I strongly hope this book will be used by adult Christian education groups in churches. Each chapter has a list of discussion questions to spark conversation, and the last chapter encourages churches to develop or extend their own work. It is helpful that the operating assumption is that churches and other organizations are already doing this and the encouragement is to develop efforts that fit one’s own context.

In addition to the discussion questions in the book, there will be a video series to accompany the text, to help facilitate use by congregations.  Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities is now available on sale from the Presbyterian Church (USA) store at


A Time for Everything: Planning Your Garden


In this new series by guest writer Ethan Bergman, we will consider the 5 P’s of gardening – planning, planting, perspiring, picking, and putting to bed – over the course of the next few months. Ethan is a Master of Divinity student in the Distributive Learning program at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Bergman is also the associate dean in the College of Education and Professional Studies and professor of food science and nutrition at Central Washington University, Ellensburg. He was named CWU Distinguished University Professor in 2001-2002 and was named by the Washington State Dietetic Association as Outstanding Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2000. He is a past delegate and past President of the American Dietetic Association as well as speaker of the Academy’s House of Delegates. He has served on the Academy’s Educator’s Task Force on Education Reform in Dietetics Education and on the Evidence-Based Practice Committee. Bergman earned his doctorate from Washington State University.

Pointing Forward

I’ve always loved Ecclesiastes 3. Maybe that is because I am a big Simon and Garfunkel fan. Or, maybe I am a Simon and Garfunkel fan because I love Ecclesiastes 3. In any case, by quoting Ecclesiastes 3 in their cover of the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” Simon and Garfunkel point out that there is a time for everything. That includes planting and harvesting. Seeds are planted, and the fruits of those seeds are harvested. But there is a lot of time leading up to that planting; and there is a lot of time between planting and harvesting. And there is time after the harvest.

So let’s consider the 5 P’s of gardening:




Picking, and

Putting to bed

So what time is it now? It is time to plan your garden!

Independent seeds professional Ed Merrell has offered his seasonal tips for gardening on the ELCA World Hunger blog for Fall and Spring.  Building on Ed’s work, here are some more questions to help guide your gardening.

Why do I want to grow a garden?

It takes a lot of time. You hear people say, if you factored in the time it takes, it is much cheaper to buy produce in the store. But then you hear others say, it is so great to get your hands in the dirt and help make things grow. From a spiritual perspective, it is wonderful to participate in growing food that helps meet the needs of those around us.  It is always awe-inspiring for me to participate in the miraculous rhythm of plant and garden growth.

What is the growing season in my area?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderful website that provides you with specific information for your growing season that is precise and detailed.

When should I start seeds inside or plant outside?

Check out what I discovered about planting dates for Ellensburg, Washington. If you don’t live in Ellensburg, not to worry. It specializes the information for your local climate.  Here’s the link: This site provides exact information about when I should plant different produce. For example, if I wanted to plant Swiss chard in Ellensburg, Washington (and who doesn’t want to plant Swiss Chard!), I could get it started inside in mid-April, plant it outside the first of May, and harvest it throughout the winter.

What grows well in my area/climate?

Every climate has limits related to what grows well. I live in a dry climate in central Washington state. I have apple, cherry, pear, and prune trees in my yard. The neighbors would laugh if I planted an orange tree. It gets too cold in the winter. See the site above for more detailed information.

How much space do I have?

When you consider early, indoor starts, you will need to determine how much indoor space you might want to dedicate to indoor planting, germination, and early growth.  Also, keep in mind how much space you have outdoors and how you can best use that space. You may want to think of crops that work well together, as well as what crops may be planted multiple times during the growing season.

What am I growing for my own use and what will I plan to donate to a local food bank or pantry?

Call your local food bank to determine what produce they distribute well to their customers before you plan and plant your garden. That way, you can set aside enough space for the well-distributed produce that you plan to donate. If your church has a food pantry, ask some of the participants in that ministry what fresh produce they would like to see on the shelves.

Linking Back

Now let’s link back to what we produced from last year. As Ecclesiastes 3 and Simon and Garfunkel remind us, there is a time to harvest. If we had a good harvest of potatoes and onions from last season, how might we use that in our meal preparations today? We could store our potatoes and onions in a cool dark closet throughout the winter.

If you are looking for a recipe, here is an idea from the publication, Cooking Light: Mashed Potato Soup!  It is healthy and nourishing, tastes great and is quick to make. It takes about 30 minutes to produce from beginning to end. You can also specialize it with toppings, such as green onions or grated cheese. Hold the bacon and substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and substitute pureed silken tofu for the yogurt for those who follow a vegan diet. See the full recipe below.

If you grew garlic and thyme in your garden, you could also use those in this recipe. We grow our herbs in pots on our patio. We also arrange them in a fashion that reminds us of another Simon and Garfunkel song, “Scarborough Fair” – “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!”

Until next time, remember,

There is a Time for Everything, and a Season for Every Activity Under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Mashed Potato Soup Recipe


Cooking spray

3/4 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 thyme sprig

1 (25-ounce) package unsalted chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (24-ounce) package refrigerated mashed potatoes

1/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup sliced green onion tops

1.5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/3 cup)

3 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled


  1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and thyme; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock; simmer 20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme sprig. Place half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining stock mixture.
  2. Return stock mixture to pan; add pepper and potatoes, stirring with a whisk until combined. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in yogurt and dill. Ladle into serving bowls; top with green onions, cheese, and crumbled bacon.


Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup soup, about 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons bacon, and about 2 1/2 teaspoons green onions)

Total time: 30 Minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories 200

Fat 9.7 g

Saturated fat 5.8 g

Monounsaturated fat 1.4 g

Polyunsaturated fat 0.3 g

Protein 10 g

Carbohydrate 19 g

Fiber 2 g

Cholesterol 31 mg

Iron 1 mg

Sodium 588 mg

Calcium 117 mg