The following is from guest writer Brandon Reed. He writes about how ELCA World Hunger grant money is being used to involve kids at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp (CO) in issues of world hunger.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For you have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
Jack Riemer’s inspiring words from his poem “We Cannot Merely Pray to You” serve as a reminder that we as Christians are called to action in our unjust world. At Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Colorado, we are trying to foster a spirit of service in campers with our new Stewardship program. This program emphasizes global hunger issues as well as other aspects of being good stewards of all that God has created. Our approach centers on raising awareness, because without appropriate information and understanding of complex issues such as global hunger, action can be useless and even detrimental.
Rainbow Trail hosts ten one-week camps throughout the summer, including two junior camps (4th through 6th grade), two junior high camps, two confirmation camps, two senior high camps, and two family camps. In the past, confirmation campers experienced a traditional hunger meal where they were divided into groups to represent the state of the world hunger crisis. Feeling especially adventurous this summer, we decided to switch it up and try something completely different.
Our new Tastes of the World Lunch operates with similar goals in mind as the hunger meal, but takes a more uplifting approach. In small groups with their counselors, campers “visit” five countries where they sample a native dish. At each country’s table, staff members serve campers and talk for a few minutes about hunger issues in that country as they relate to the economic, social, political, and religious situations there. While eating plantains sprinkled with cinnamon sugar in Cameroon, campers learn about Islamic culture and talk about African stereotypes. In India, campers eat chole with flatbread and talk about the poverty and hunger that runs rampant through the country. When campers visit Colombia, they try hominy cheese patties and discuss the impact that deforestation and illegal crops have on hunger and poverty. After a scoop of peach mango salsa, campers hear about the uneven wealth distribution in Mexico and Rainbow Trail’s Bridging Borders program, which takes trips to Juarez to build houses for families. Finally, snacking on cheese pizza in the U.S., campers learn that our prominent economic status in the world does not immunize us from hunger within our own borders.
Although the campers oftentimes hesitate to try new foods, they are usually pleasantly surprised. While the impact of such a lunch may not be as dramatic as a hunger meal, it has the benefit of engaging campers in a new way. The menu for the lunch will change every summer so that returning campers experience an entirely new meal when they return the next year.
In addition to the Tastes of the World Lunch, we are actively working to reduce food waste. We measure food waste from dinner every day and present the weights to the campers. We offer some statistics about global hunger issues, and encourage campers to think about what actually constitutes food waste and why it is important to act responsibly with food. Emphasizing that some food waste is inevitable (i.e. chicken bones), we set goals for how much food waste we should have at the end of every dinner. And it seems to be sinking in; the other day I forgot to post our food waste number from the previous night, and a handful of fourth graders came up and asked me where we stood.
Overall, we are taking steps to ensure that campers leave with a few more tools than they came with to address hunger issues at home and around the world. The ending of Riemer’s poem embodies the light we hope to shine at Rainbow Trail this summer:
Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.