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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.


“The lifeline that never goes away”: St. Matthew Trinity’s Lunchtime Ministry


St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church’s Lunchtime Ministry offers a warm meal, hospitality and community to neighbors in Hoboken, New Jersey. This important work is supported in part by a Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Stanley Enzweiler is the Program Manager of St. Matthew Trinity’s Lunchtime Ministry and has worked with the ministry since 2016. Below, he shares more about what this ministry means to the people of Hoboken. To apply for a Domestic Hunger Grant to support your ministry, visit

Everyone’s life, at some point, takes an unexpected body blow. An accident, an addiction, the loss of a job or family member. These forces come out of nowhere, and for a while, it seems like the world is against you. However, eventually someone throws you a lifeline—a good lawyer shows up, a friend makes a job offer, or time spent in the stability of everyday life heals that wound.


Lots of people who have come back from having their feet kicked out from under them believe that those in the worst shape—people who are homeless or living in poverty—are either lazy or helpless. “I helped myself, so why can’t you?” moralizes one person, while another shakes their head, saying, “I’ve been so fortunate, and all these poor people are just down on their luck. No one actually wants to be homeless.”

As anyone who has worked in a social service will tell you, both perspectives take it too far.  Many people in poverty have gotten the wind knocked out of them, but, unlike those in more fortunate situations, they haven’t had lifelines thrown their way. They often don’t have a stable job to begin with, or their family and friends are unable to give them a loan or a place to stay.  On the other hand, many people have simply rejected or misused the lifelines thrown to them.  And yes, some people do want to be homeless.

What I love about St. Matthew Trinity Lunchtime Ministry, a soup kitchen and drop-in center operating out of St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church in Hoboken, New Jersey, is that we don’t care about that stuff. Of the 65 or so people we serve every day, some are looking for work, some are waiting on their benefits to come in, some are about to lose their housing, and some enjoy living on the streets. But we do not screen our guests based on why they are in need. We don’t ask for your fingerprints or your ID or your immigration status. Our only requirement is respect for the people and space around you. We’ll give you a warm meal, a fresh pair of socks, and a listening ear no matter what you did last year or last night. Whatever your story is, we will welcome you.

And here’s the really amazing thing. Even if you break the rules at Lunchtime Ministry and have to leave our community for a few days, we will always welcome you back. Everyone messes up a time or two, but no one is beyond forgiveness. We are one lifeline that never goes away.

Len (pictured at left), one of our longtime guests, was generous enough to share his story with us. Born in Jersey City in 1959, he attended technical school in Texas before getting deployed to California to work as a forklift driver for the U.S. Air Force. After his honorable discharge, he stayed in California until his father died, and he returned to New Jersey to take care of his mother. She died in 2011, leaving him with nowhere to go. Although he stayed at other county shelters, a few bad decisions got him kicked out of these for life.

Len came to Lunchtime Ministry as a last resort. Although we are not an overnight shelter, he is able to get a few hours of sleep on our benches or floor during our open hours. Like many of our guests, he helps out when needed by cleaning tables, taking out the garbage and posting event flyers. He also attends church services, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and Bible study. Most of all, he is known for encouraging our volunteers with one-liners such as “This is the best food in town…and I’m not just talking about the prices!”

Like many social services, we are a community effort.  We welcome volunteers from all walks of life and enjoy partnerships with numerous other social services. Our financial support comes from various sources, including ELCA World Hunger’s Domestic Hunger Grant, whose recent gift toward our food and supply costs will assist us in continuing to dish out delicious and filling meals every day.

It’s easy to list the things that make Lunchtime Ministry unique—the food donations from restaurants as diverse as Qdoba Mexican Grill and Schnackenberg’s Luncheonette, the free haircuts on Mondays, the cardboard barn in which we collect spare change for ELCA World Hunger, the “billritos” that our chef Bill makes from scratch on Wednesdays, the guitar music half an hour before we close. But when we’re asked why our program is necessary to Hoboken, there’s only one answer: respect. For many people in town, we are the one place where they can spend a peaceful morning, the one place where they have a forgiving community, the one place where they can go when they have burned all their other bridges.  In Len’s words:

“A little respect goes a long way.  A lot of respect could be eternal.”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Matthew 25


37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40)

This is probably going to sound odd coming from someone who works for an anti-hunger ministry, but I cringe nearly every time someone cites Matthew 25. It’s impossible to avoid, much as I try. It isn’t that I have anything against the author of the Gospel (though, really, isn’t Mark more exciting?) But the chapter is cited uncritically so often that it becomes tedious, like the cloying relative who corners you at every holiday, leaving you searching for distractions anywhere and everywhere. Yet, in the last month, I have heard not one but two presenters draw on this troublesome chapter and, through their words, force me to re-think my distaste for it.

Some of the problems with the passage are intrinsic to the words themselves. “The least of these”? Really? We should feed people who hunger, clothe people who are naked, give drink to those who thirst and fellowship to those ill or imprisoned because they are “the least”? The “least” what? The least deserving? The least important? The least powerful? No one in their right mind wants to be considered “the least of these.”

Then, there’s the whole problem of whom Jesus is talking about. Most often, modern uses of Matthew 25 seem to imply that “the least of these” includes anyone in need (or, anyone who might be considered “least” by any measurable standard, however idiosyncratic it might be.) But there are some reasons to believe that Jesus didn’t mean “anyone in need” here. Many biblical scholars point out similarities between Matthew 25 and Matthew 10, noting that Jesus may be referring here to how people are to treat his disciples. So, this passage might have more to do with how we are to treat followers of Jesus than it is about how we are to treat neighbors who are hungry, thirsty, naked or imprisoned. (Or, it might not. That’s how biblical interpretation rolls.)

Still, even these are not the things that trouble me the most when I hear Matthew 25, especially among Lutherans. The biggest problem I have is how quickly we turn from the gospel message of grace back to the law. Matthew 25 is too often set up as a legalistic charter for determining who gets saved and who doesn’t.

The passage itself seems to set this up – you’re either a sheep or a goat. And as the old children’s song goes, “I don’t wanna be a goat – nope…I just wanna be a sheep – baa.”

Matthew 25, a visual interpretation


The goats are destined for afterlife apart from God, while the sheep will enjoy eternal fellowship with the Savior and Creator. Which side we’re on will be determined, it seems, by how or whether we do the stuff Matthew’s Jesus tells us to. How quickly we slide from saying that the Christ event reveals God’s grace to us, who have been convicted by the Law and freed by gift, to saying that there still exists a litmus test of obedience that determines our salvation.

We don’t get to have it both ways. We don’t get to say we are saved by grace and then say that if we don’t act in a certain way, we won’t be saved. It doesn’t work like that.

But does that mean that none of the works listed in Matthew 25 matter? Of course not. Jesus is clear that as we encounter the neighbor in need, we are encountering the Christ. There is something here about how we see the face of God, how we serve God, how we participate in God’s being in the world. And that’s worth paying attention to, though maybe not in the ways we have paid attention to it in the past.

Being saved by grace, as Martin Luther made clear, doesn’t free us from works but from false ideas about works, namely the false idea that works can save us. Too often, we lose sight of this when it comes to Matthew 25, and we start tossing it around as a new law. But it isn’t a new law or to-do list for the anti-goat crowd. Matthew 25 is not a Carnegie seminar for getting into Heaven. It’s a treasure map for finding God. If we are to stay true to the message of the gospel, indeed, the message of all of Scripture, the key is that God is to be found in places of need and among people in need. Maybe “least” here means “least expected.”


“Well, I’ll be! God’s right there in that neighbor.”

Grace impels us to seek God in our midst. St. Augustine characterized love as the pursuit of the object of our love. We pursue what we love. The beloved draws the lover to it. Love of God means being drawn to God – and to all that God loves. We moderns then ask the question, “How can we love what we cannot see?” Matthew’s answer is rather straightforward: you can see God! You see God every time you see your neighbor, especially when you see your neighbor in need. In a strange parallel to the preteen Jesus, I imagine the resurrected Christ saying in exasperation, “Didn’t you know I would be out on my Father’s streets?”  Where else would we find the crucified God than among the “crucified people”?

Seen this way, the passage makes much more sense to me. It stops being about whether we’re sheep or goats, or whether we’re “least” or “more.” Those kinds of hierarchies make it difficult to envision ministry as mutual. It also makes it difficult to encourage authentic service of our neighbors that goes beyond begrudging obedience. But if we start with grace and then do our interpretation, there is so much more to be gained. (Ain’t that always the truth?) Grace changes our service from begrudging acceptance of a task to joyful embrace of a mission. It transforms the neighbor, too – from a tool for our own salvation to a complex reflection of Emmanuel (literally, “God with us.”)

If we read Matthew’s chapter through a lens of grace and allow it to shape ministry in such a way that we see our neighbors as visible manifestations of the living God, maybe there’s hope for this passage yet. And maybe there’s hope for us, as we learn ever-deeper ways to live out our faith in an increasingly needy world.


Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the (often ornery) program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger. He can be reached at

Shobi’s Table – St. Paul, Minnesota

Fellowship, a nutritious meal, and a time of prayer are offered weekly at Shobi’s Table – a food truck that serves people experiencing homelessness in St. Paul, Minn. Meet the team at Shobi’s Table as they feed and are fed by sisters and brothers in St. Paul. This ministry is supported in part by ELCA World Hunger.

Martin Luther’s Top Ten Quotes about Ministry among People in Poverty



“According to this passage [Matthew 25:41-46] we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”

-Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague (1527)



“Christians are to be taught that the one who sees a needy person and passes by, yet gives money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.”

-Ninety-five Theses (1517), #45



“Let us also be generous [as Abraham was], and let us open the door to poor brethren and receive them with a joyful countenance. If we are deceived now and then, well and good.  In spite of this our good will is demonstrated to God, and the kind act…is not lost on Christ, in whose name we are generous.  Hence just as we should not intentionally and knowingly support the idleness of slothful people, so, when we have been deceived, we should not give up this eagerness to do good to others.”

-Lecture on Genesis, Chapter 18



“Therefore, we should be guided in all our works by this one thought alone – that we may serve and benefit others in everything that is done, having nothing before our eyes except the need and advantage of the neighbor.”

-Freedom of a Christian (1520)



“But in times past, [Holy Communion] was so properly used, and the people were taught to understand this fellowship so well, that they even gathered food and material goods in the church, and there – as St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 11 – distributed among those in need.”

-The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods (1519)



“For this reason, true theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ…God can be found only in suffering and the cross.”

-Heidelberg Disputation (1518)



“Now there is no greater service of God than Christian love which helps and serves the needy, as Christ himself will judge and testify at the last day, Matthew 25.”

-Ordinance of a Common Chest, Preface (1523)



“The rule ought to be, not ‘I may sell my wares as dear as I can or will,’ but, ‘I may sell my wares as dear as I ought, or as is right and fair.’  Because your selling is an act performed toward your neighbor, it should rather be so governed by law and conscience that you do it without harm and injury to him, your concern being directed more toward doing him no injury than toward gaining profit for yourself.”

-Trade and Usury (1524)



“We do not serve others with an eye toward making them obligated to us.  Nor do we distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or ingratitude.”

-Freedom of a Christian (1520)



“If your enemy needs you and you do not help him when you can it is the same as if you had stolen what belonged to him, for you owe him your help.  St. Ambrose says, ‘Feed the hungry: if you do not feed him, then as far as you are concerned, you have killed him.’ ”

-Treatise on Good Works (1520), reflecting on the seventh commandment