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NEW Resource! Housing: A Practical Guide to Learning, Advocating and Building

A New Resource on Housing!

The United States faces a looming crisis in housing, the second in barely more than a decade. The job losses and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have many of us facing an increased risk of eviction and foreclosure; at the same time, there is a marked shortage of available housing within reach for most Americans. The problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are ongoing and growing. Solving them means developing sustainable solutions for the long term, rather than temporary fixes for a current crisis. This church has a clear imperative to help those of us experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The church also has a big opportunity to make a difference.

This new resource from ELCA World Hunger will help you get started in learning about homelessness and affordable housing, advocating on issues connected to homelessness and affordable housing, and even building affordable housing!

Download “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” from https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#New. Check out other resources from ELCA World Hunger on the same page and at https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#HungerEd!

Who Is This Resource For?

This resource is for congregations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing. For congregations new to this work, this resource will provide step-by-step guidance on how to build awareness and capacity around the root causes of homelessness, how to become an advocate for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and, finally, how to build affordable housing. For congregations already involved in this work, the resources in this guide can help with congregation and community education, training new volunteers, and refining your current project.

About This Resource

This resource contains three sections: “Learn,” “Advocate” and “Build.”

The “Learn” section contains activities and information to educate congregations and groups about the complex issues of housing and homelessness. If your group is just getting started, use the information and activities in this section to learn more about a wide variety of topics: common myths about homelessness, effective responses to housing insecurity, and the historical impact of the discriminatory practice of redlining. This section also introduces common terms used to describe housing insecurity and homelessness.

The “Advocate” section contains information and activities to help participants become effective housing and homelessness advocates. It includes helpful information on the roots of Lutheran advocacy, housing policy, insights from leaders and more.

The “Build” section contains a guide on how to build affordable housing, with helpful information about choosing a team, forming a nonprofit, funding a project and more. There are also checklists of the tasks necessary to create a successful affordable housing project.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about affordable housing, homelessness and learning from some of ELCA World Hunger partners about this important work? Check out the latest Hunger at the Crossroads webinar on Hunger and Housing here: https://vimeo.com/726168452

Get Connected

If you use “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” or have questions about how to use the guide, get in touch with us at hunger@elca.org.

Note: the housing guide is having some issues with sizing in peoples’ browser windows. If you have this issue, try downloading the resource to your personal device!

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ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants

 

The application period for 2022 Cycle 2 of ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is open until December 15, 2022!

Hunger Education and Networking Grants are one of the ways ELCA World Hunger accompanies congregations, synods, organizations, partners and local teams throughout the US and the Caribbean. We know that learning about the root causes of hunger and effective responses is key to ending hunger locally and globally. That’s why we are excited to share that our application for ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now open!

ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants support work that:

  • educates and engages ELCA congregations, groups, and/or synods;
  • provides leadership development for people passionate about ending hunger;
  • builds relationships locally, regionally and nationally; and
  • equips ELCA members and neighbors to work toward a just world where all are fed.

Previous grantees have included:

  • synod-wide bike rides to promote hunger awareness;
  • service learning events for youth and young adults;
  • online and in-person workshops;
  • community organizing training;
  • creation of new resources to help participants learn about hunger; and
  • local research projects to help others learn more about hunger, health, and housing in their community.

The work of grantees in the past has focused on a wide variety of areas, including climate change and sustainability, housing security, racial justice, worker justice, reducing food waste and economic justice.

Eligibility

To be eligible for an ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grant, proposals must be:

  • received through the ELCA’s online Grantmaker portal from August 1st to December 15th
  • submitted by a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization;
  • focused on education, engagement, and networking toward a just world where all are fed; and
  • consistent with ELCA World Hunger’s values and priorities (https://elca.org/domestichungergrants).

Interested in funding to host an ELCA World Hunger Vacation Bible School? Subscribe to the ELCA World Hunger blog on the left side of the screen or join the community-led ELCA World Hunger VBS Facebook group to get updates when the application opens!

How to Apply

Applicants must pre-register on ELCA GrantMaker in order to access the grant application. Approval of registration may take up to ten business days, so register now at ELCA.org/grants, and submit your application by December 15th.

For more information see the full request for proposal here: 2022 Cycle 2 Education and Networking Grants Announcement_Full

If you have any questions, please email Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education, at Ryan.Cumming@elca.org or hunger@elca.org

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

 

Advent week 3

“In reply [John the Baptist] said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.'”

-Luke 3:11

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.

Reflect

In December 2019, then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would have increased restrictions on eligibility and caused the loss of benefits for many Americans. In doing so, he told reporters that the changes would help move “more able-bodied recipients off of SNAP benefits toward self­

sufficiency.” His argument, like so many arguments against SNAP and other public assistance programs, was that these programs make people dependent rather than self-sufficient.

There’s nothing new in this (though one might wonder how “sufficient” the average SNAP award of $121 per month was at the time). For decades, self-sufficiency has been celebrated as the ideal marker of success. In 2019, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, famously altered the words of Emma Lazarus enshrined on the Statue of Liberty when he defended new restrictive immigration policies: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” he opined. His message was clear: self-sufficiency is not just an ideal but a prerequisite for being part of American society.

By contrast, our faith is rooted in the idea that we are not self­ sufficient but dependent and interdependent. Advent is the story of a dependent people being saved by God for the very reason that we could not save ourselves. We were and have always been dependent. From the first humans in Eden, relying on the gifts of the Creator, to our ancestors, wandering in the wilderness totally dependent on the protection and provision of God, Scripture is the story of God with us – because we can’t do it alone.

In the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent, John the Baptist chastises the crowd, calling them a “brood of vipers” and comparing them to chaff – the waste from processing wheat – that would be left on the threshing floor. When they ask what they ought to do, John’s response is intriguing. He doesn’t advise them to pray harder or attend synagogue more frequently. Rather, he urges them to restore their relationships with one another. In short: share and be fair. Share with one another (Luke 3:11) and be fair in your business dealings (Luke 3:13-14). John’s response is to recognize and respect our dependence on one another. When we are in need, we depend on the generosity of others. And in daily life, our well­ being depends on trusting others to act justly.

The early church took this to heart. In the book of Acts, we learn that the first Christian communities “had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). This kind of sharing distinguished Christian communities for centuries afterward.

For early Christians, dependence on one another went beyond just being nice. It was deeply rooted in the common understanding of property, human nature and God. Charles Avila, in his masterful book Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, describes how, for the early writer Clement of Alexandria, the purpose of property was twofold: autarkeia, or the ability to care for ourselves, and koinonia, the obligation to care for others in the community. Ultimately, Clement says, we are created for koinonia, for community.

Autarkeia, the “self-sufficiency” provided by property, finds its truest meaning in the freedom it provides us to care for each other. No one can live, let alone thrive, without help from others.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of this interconnectedness. Even as we kept physical distance, the deep needs that stemmed from the pandemic couldn’t be ignored. Hunger around the world increased dramatically. In the United States, food insecurity and economic insecurity led to massive spikes in the numbers of people using food pantries and other community assistance resources.

Ellie Puente saw this firsthand in her community in Fuquay­ Varina, N.C. When the pandemic hit, she worried about her son’s friend, Carlos, and his family. She knew Carlos’ family had trouble

making ends meet, and the pandemic only made the situation more challenging. Ellie met with a friend and a few teachers from the school where she volunteers. Together, they identified 20 families, including Carlos’, that were in need. They rounded up donations and started making daily deliveries of lunches and other food supplies to their neighbors. Every time they thought they would run out of money to pay for food, local supporters stepped in.

Abiding Presence Lutheran Church became a partner in the school’s program and provided food for the families with the help of a Daily Bread Matching Grant from ELCA World Hunger.

Their relationship with the families has been crucial during the pandemic. “Our food delivery program has been instrumental in meeting a physical need by providing food to our families,” says Ellie. “More importantly, our food delivery program has helped us create a deeper connection with families……………… [The] families know we

love them, and they know they belong.”

The sharing that John the Baptist called his early followers to practice, and that Ellie, Abiding Presence and the school practiced, is about more than the things we distribute. It’s about who we are created and called to be. As this Advent season reminds us, God promises not that we will be fine on our own but that we will be made whole in reconciled and transformed relationships with God and one another. From the joy of Zechariah in the second week

of Advent to the proclamations of John the Baptist this week, the message of Christ’s coming is that we can’t do it on our own – nor do we have to.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the ways we depend on one another and showed us just how effective we can be when we recognize that interdependence and respond to it in love.

Ask

  1. How are the terms “self-sufficiency” and “interdependence” related? How are they different?
  2. In your own life, how has the support, care or presence of others helped you? Thinking about it another way: in the story of your life, who else might play an important part?
  3. How might the work of Ellie’s school and Abiding Presence Lutheran Church have helped the families “know they belong”? How is your congregation helping your neighbors feel welcomed and supported in your community?
  4. In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic reminded you of our dependence on God and one another?

Pray

Gracious God, you have brought your people together into one community, reconciling us in Christ one to the other. Forgive us for the times when we have isolated ourselves or others, and inspire us with the love that binds us together. When we feel alone, remind us that we are loved. When we are estranged, remind us of your love for others. Bless us with the memory of our dependence on you and each other this Advent, that we may be part of the community you have created in our midst. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

In response to this coaxing work that God in Christ does upon us, follow the suggestion that ELCA World Hunger’s Advent Action Guide suggests on page 6 and debut one of the posters that gives testimony to what your gifts to ELCA World Hunger does in the world. 

Pre-order one of the posters ELCA World Hunger provides, and have it on hand, rolled up behind your back.

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Hold the poster out of sight. “Today we are introduced to someone very wild, very interesting, does anyone know who it is?”

Allow time to field responses.

“Yes! John the Baptizer. He was loud and proud and was baptizing people in the River Jordan. Come here, let me show you something…” Invite the youth to the baptismal font, keeping the poster behind your back. “John the Baptizer was baptizing people, just like we do right here at this font. He was baptizing them into a new way of life, reminding them that God loved them and invited them to live like they are loved.”

“And you know what loved people do?  They love other people!  Loved people love people.  How do you show your love to someone?”

Allow time for them to answer.

“Right, they do all those things.  Want to know one of the ways our congregation, all together, loves people?  We give part of our offering to ELCA World Hunger <unveil poster> and we help feed others around the world, or help them get jobs, or help them afford homes.  Being baptized reminds us that we’re loved by God, and loved people love people, and so we love people all around the world through giving support to ELCA World Hunger. I’m going to hang this poster out there <point to the narthex> so that we can remember how loved people love people the rest of the month, but I want to tell you a surprise. Ready?  Come close”

<whispered> “You are all loved, and loved people love people. And those people out there?  They need to remember that they are loved. Dip one finger in the font, and go up to them and draw a cross on their forehead, saying, ‘Loved people love people.’ Can you do that?  Ready? Go!”

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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.

Reflect

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?

Ask

  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?

Pray

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!”

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2021 Hunger Education and Networking Grants

 

The application period for 2021 ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now closed.

Hunger Education and Networking Grants are one of the ways ELCA World Hunger accompanies congregations, synods, organizations, partners and local teams throughout the US and the Caribbean. We know that learning about the root causes of hunger and effective responses is key to ending hunger locally and globally. That’s why we are excited to share that our application for ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now open!

ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants support work that

  • educates and engages ELCA congregations, groups, and/or synods;
  • provides leadership development for people passionate about ending hunger;
  • builds relationships locally, regionally and nationally; and
  • equips ELCA members and neighbors to work toward a just world where all are fed.

Previous grantees have included:

  • synod-wide bike rides to promote hunger awareness;
  • service learning events for youth and young adults;
  • online and in-person workshops;
  • community organizing training;
  • creation of new resources to help participants learn about hunger; and
  • local research projects to help others learn more about hunger, health and housing in their community.

The work of grantees in the past has focused on a wide variety of areas, including climate change and sustainability, housing security, racial justice, worker justice, reducing food waste and economic justice.

To be eligible for an ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grant, proposals must be:

  • received through the ELCA’s online Grantmaker portal;
  • submitted by a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization;
  • focused on education, engagement and networking toward a just world where all are fed; and
  • consistent with ELCA World Hunger’s values and priorities (https://elca.org/domestichungergrants).

If you are interested in applying, you can pre-register on ELCA GrantMaker to access the grant application. Approval of registration may take up to ten business days, so register now at ELCA.org/grants, and submit your application by December 1, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education, at Ryan.Cumming@elca.org.

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Hunger at the Crossroads: New Webinar Series

 

banner with title of webinar series

 

We know that hunger is about more than food. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more. In “Hunger at the Crossroads,” a webinar series hosted by ELCA World Hunger, we will explore these intersections and the ways we can be part of God’s promise of a just world where all are fed.

New webinar sessions will be posted below. Participants do need to register beforehand, so check back and register to attend!

Who

The webinars are open to anyone passionate about ending hunger and eager to learn more. In each session, we will dive deeply into the topic, with presentations from ELCA World Hunger staff and partners and time for questions and conversation.

Upcoming Webinars

“Conflict and Hunger” – November 3, 2022, at 1:00pm Central time

Violent conflict is one of the most significant drivers of hunger around the world. From wars between nations to ethnic and tribal violence, conflicts affect farms, markets, jobs, housing, trade and more. In this webinar, we will hear from ELCA staff from around the world, who will help us dive more deeply into the tragic and significant ways violent conflict impacts hunger.

“Health and Hunger” – December 1, 2022, at 6:00pm Central time

Hunger and health are related in complex ways. Hunger and under-nourishment can both contribute to long-term health problems, while health challenges can increase the risk of hunger through lost wages and expensive medical bills. In this webinar, we will be joined by experts from both the United States and overseas to learn more. We will also hear from leaders working to improve health in their communities and learn some effective steps that can be taken toward a just world where all are fed – and where all are healthy.

Register

Registration for both “Conflict and Hunger” and “Health and Hunger” is now open through one form! Visit https://forms.office.com/r/N1XnPD3r9D to register. You can register for one or both of the upcoming webinars through this form.  Follow ELCA World Hunger on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information, including dates and links for registration for future webinars. Questions about “Hunger at the Crossroads” can be sent to hunger@elca.org.

 

Previous Webinars

“Sexuality, Gender Identity and Hunger” with Rev. Heidi Neumark (Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York) and Rev. Joe Larson (Fargo, North Dakota) – August 12, 2021

“Climate Change and Hunger” with Ryan Cumming and Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) – October 27th, 2021

“Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers: Where Are We at Now?” with Ryan Cumming (ELCA World Hunger) – December 9, 2021

“Housing and Hunger” with Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) and featuring a NEW! resource on housing – June 29, 2022

Watch the recordings of previous “Hunger at the Crossroads” webinars here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8758461.

 

We hope to see you “at the Crossroads”!

 

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Hunger Policy Podcast: May 18, 2021

 

We know that hunger is not just a matter of food but a matter of policy. Public policies impact where our food comes from, the kinds of food we eat, how we acquire food – and what our options are when we don’t have enough. In this new kind of post for the ELCA World Hunger blog, John Johnson, director of domestic policy for the ELCA, joins Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education with ELCA World Hunger, for a conversation about hunger and policy, including important public policies that could impact people experiencing hunger and poverty in the United States. Links to both the audio and the video are below.

Interested in more conversations like this about hunger and policy? Are there specific public policy issues you’d like to hear about? Let us know! Email Ryan.Cumming@elca.org to share your feedback and ideas.

Subscribe to the ELCA World Hunger blog, and sign up to join the ELCA’s network of advocates.

(If you are one of our regular subscribers to the ELCA World Hunger blog and reading this via email, the audio and video files may not show up. Just click on the title of the post to head over to the main blog webpage to listen in.)

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New! “River of Life” VBS At-Home Guide

 

We are excited to share that the at-home guide for ELCA World Hunger’s “River of Life” Vacation Bible School program for 2021 is now available for download! This at-home guide is a supplemental resource for the full “River of Life VBS leader’s guide and includes modified activities, suggestions for online and at-home VBS, links to new videos and tips for parents, caregivers and other adults leading VBS with children at home!

Learn more in the video below:

To download “River of Life” VBS, including the full leader’s guide, the at-home guide and the toolkit with images and graphics to use on your website or social media, visit https://elca.org/hunger/resources#VBS.

To watch the story videos or the “Meet Our Neighbor” videos from ELCA World Hunger’s partners and companions, visit the ELCA World Hunger Vacation Bible School collection on the ELCA’s Vimeo page at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7224146.

Share your story! If you use “River of Life” with your congregation or group, let us know! Email Hunger@ELCA.org and share your feedback, stories or pictures!

Looking for more ideas? Join the community-run ELCA World Hunger VBS Facebook group and chat with other leaders from across the ELCA about VBS in 2021!

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New! Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith

 

We know that ending hunger will take more than food. Addressing climate change is a critical step in this work. That’s why ELCA World Hunger is excited to share a new opportunity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Center for Climate Justice and Faith. The Center’s work focuses on helping leaders learn about sustainability, caring for creation and working for justice so that all can enjoy the abundance of God’s creation.

This Center’s new Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith offers a cohort-based, online trans-continental curriculum which empowers participants to cultivate moral, spiritual, and practical power for leadership in the work of climate justice in communities of faith and in collaboration with others.  Topics covered include theology, ethics, and spirituality; climate change knowledge; and social change practices that connect ecological well-being with racial, economic, and gender justice.

Lay and rostered leaders throughout the Lutheran World Federation communion and from other faith traditions are invited to complete an interest form if you are curious to know more about this inaugural, non-degree learning program scheduled for September 2021 – May 2022.  Long-term collaboration and networking are expected to endure well beyond certificate completion date.

Applications are now open and will be accepted until June 15, 2021. To apply or to learn more, visit https://www.plts.edu/programs/certificates/certificate-in-climate-justice-and-faith.html.

 

 

 

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Lenten Reflection 5: What Will It Take to End Hunger?

 

Action

“They are working together, united, to show the country and the world that this is the way to fight for peace.”

Thus far this Lent, we have heard stories of God working through this church, our companions and our neighbors to end hunger. We have heard stories from India, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., and heard of the stories that cannot be shared. We have learned that ending hunger means committing ourselves to a more inclusive vision of community, to honesty, to justice and to one another. Here, in this last week, companions from Colombia will help teach us about the final tool: action.

As much progress as the world has made to end hunger, we still have a long way to go. Nearly 690 million people around the world are undernourished, and more than 35 million people in the United States don’t know where their next meal will come from. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of hunger around the world was on the rise after a decade of decline. With the pandemic, we have seen historic levels of unemployment, and even the most conservative forecasts warn that hunger and poverty could increase with nearly unprecedented rapidity in the coming years as we recover from its effects.

In his response to the plague that reemerged in Wittenberg in 1527, Martin Luther addressed the question of how a Christian is to act in a pandemic. After highlighting the ways God shows concern for good health in Scripture and exhorting his readers to care for their neighbors, Luther writes that prayer, though important, is not enough. Christians, he proclaims, must do more than pray. They must act.

Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others.

Pray. Then act.

These past 40 days of Lent commemorate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and facing down temptation. In the first temptation, Satan placed the “famished” Jesus before a pile of stones and demanded that Jesus prove his power by turning the stones to bread that would end his hunger (Matthew 4:1-3). How tempting that must have been! How many parents with not enough food for their children would wish for such a miracle so that their family might be fed? How many of the 690 million undernourished people around the world would welcome the power to turn stones into the bread they need?

Yet the choice Jesus faced was not between stones and bread but between truth and lies. No sudden miracle will end the world’s hunger. Ending hunger is not about wishing or praying for the power to alter reality. Hunger does not end because of a miraculous intervention. It ends because of the persistent work of God with, among and through people striving for change. It is sometimes slow work, accomplished one step at a time. But it will not stop until we realize that vision of a time when we will hunger and thirst no more.

Carolina Camargo, a nurse from Villavicencio, Colombia, knows that this is what it will take. Carolina is part of the work God is doing through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO) and the church’s Justicia y vida (Justice and Life) initiative, which is supported by ELCA World Hunger. Together with others, Carolina works toward future reconciliation in Justicia y vida’s “From War to Peace” project, which weaves ties of solidarity between the church and communities in Colombia that have been beset by violence for many years.

Carolina and other volunteers are at work in the area of Urabá, which means “promised land” in the Indigenous Embera Katío language. Since the 1990s, Urabá has witnessed a war involving the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), insurgents, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and paramilitary groups. The conflict led to more than 103 massacres in the region and 32,000 people displaced between 1998 and 2002. Today, social leaders remain at risk from paramilitary units over disputes involving land.

The peace process has been a long road for Colombia, and IELCO has been traveling it for many years. In San José, former combatants and their families are given a chance to start again through the work of the church. In San José de Léon, they are able to build and maintain homes and resume their former lives raising fish, pigs and chickens. It’s a chance to rebuild some of what was lost in the years of conflict.

Addressing conflict and working for peace are central to ending hunger. Conflict is one of the most significant reasons for hunger increasing around the world. When people’s lives are threatened, they do not feel safe going to work or staying home. Many are forced to migrate to protect their families. Land may be stolen or destroyed, and markets are closed or empty. Parents and workers may be injured or killed in the violence. The United Nations estimates that up to 80% of humanitarian needs around the world are caused by conflict.

Building peace is a critical step in ending hunger. But it is a difficult step to take.

Carolina has learned this through her work with IELCO. “There are people who believe that you can close your eyes and yearn for peace without making an effort towards it,” she says. “What God allowed me to know is very different from that idealism, the reality I could observe and live, expressing hope in all the people who are part of this change.” The idealistic belief that peace means simply transforming swords into plowshares ignores “the struggle against negative feelings associated with the traumatic experiences” of the people with whom Carolina works. Yet together they “walk towards the goal of peace and reconciliation.

“They are working together, united, to show the country and the world that this is the way to fight for peace.”

We know that we cannot merely declare or call for “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Building peace and ending hunger take action within community and are fostered by the hope and trust that, with each step, God is moving our world closer to that goal.

In this study, we have read stories of people at work around the world. Their situations may differ, their needs may differ, but what unites them is the commitment to an active hope that refuses to stagnate or stay silent. It is the hope of the vulnerable guests seeking care at clinics and shelters, of women and girls in India, of advocates in Milwaukee and of peacemakers in Colombia.

It is the hope of Lent, which propels us on this arduous journey to — and beyond — the cross. This hope empowers us see a number such as 690 million hungry but to refuse to despair. It can be sustained only by our trust that God is with us in each small step, guiding us toward a promised future. In hope, we expand our vision of what it means to be “we.” In hope, we are honest about the challenges we face. In hope, we invest in our shared future. In hope, we speak up for justice.

And in hope, we act, knowing that a just world where all are fed is not just possible but promised — and knowing, too, that we are called to be part of building that future. This is not the idealistic prayer spoken but a realistic prayer lived in solidarity with one another in cities, towns, shelters, clinics, classrooms, gardens, statehouses — all the places where God is at work.

This is the prayer of an Easter people, and this is our prayer — that God will not merely turn stones into bread but build a new world on that rocky soil, a just world where all are fed.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when you acted and it created a positive change. What did you do? What happened? What did it feel like?
  2. Where have you seen God turning prayers into action?
  3. Think about the prayers you share during worship. Bring one prayer to mind. How might your community turn this prayer into action? What small or large steps could you take?
  4. Where is there a need for action to end hunger in your community? What will it take to move this action forward?

Prayer

God of promise, God of hope, God of fullness, God of peace, guide us, your people, to be your hands and feet, to work together as you build on our rocky soil a new, just world where all are fed.

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

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