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New ELCA World Hunger Director!


Join us in welcoming Haemin Lee, the new director of ELCA World Hunger, who will lead the amazing team working with ELCA World Hunger’s domestic and international grants! Welcome, Haemin!

A Greeting from Haemin Lee

Hi, my name is Haemin Lee, and I’m super excited to serve alongside you as Director of World Hunger! I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. When I was little (probably around three), I came across a pictorial biography of the famous missionary Dr. Albert Schweitzer. His story somehow challenged me so much, and since then, I have always wanted to participate in God’s mission by sharing the love of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.

I completed my B.A. at Yonsei University, which was founded by Horace Underwood, an American Presbyterian missionary. During my college years, I had an opportunity to serve in England and Belgium through a global mission organization. Amid reaching out to Muslim neighbors with Christian friends from all over the world, I felt a strong call to serve God on a global scale. I came to the U.S. in 2002 with a dream to be better prepared to serve – without really knowing anyone in the U.S. and with my entire family back home in South Korea. It was a lonely journey at first, but by the grace of God I met some incredible friends along the way. I earned advanced degrees from Harvard (M.Div.) and Emory (Th.M; Ph.D) with a special focus on Christian Mission, Intercultural Studies and International Development. I was ordained in 2007 as a Presbyterian minister (PCUSA) and have served in various ministry areas, including congregational ministry, hospital chaplaincy and homeless ministry. During this time, God gave me a deep desire to serve the most vulnerable people around the world. This desire ultimately led me to engage in international evangelism and development mission through World Relief, Food for the Hungry International Korea, Presbyterian Mission Agency and Frontier Fellowship. Through these ministries, I traveled to more than 100 different countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and had the privilege of overseeing numerous mission partnership programs and teaching at Kumi University in Uganda.

I met my amazing wife Nicole in South Africa at a mission conference when she was serving in Tanzania. We got married in her home state of Florida back in 2014 and welcomed a baby daughter, Katie Hayoung (meaning Glory to God in Korea!) in 2019. I like traveling (backpacking adventures!), languages, hiking, playing music and most of all, making new friends while learning about different cultures.

I am very excited to make a collective impact for God’s Mission in our community and the world by collaborating with inspiring colleagues, churches, and community organizations through ELCA! 😊

Blessings, Haemin

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!”

Lenten Reflection 4: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“[The vision is] that we get to invest money in our families and in our community.”

The first reading for this fourth week of Lent is from the book of Numbers. The people have been on their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land for years, and the goal is nigh. They have received the law from God through Moses at Sinai and are now on the final leg of their journey. Yet, rather than be hopeful and eager, they are tempted by impatience (Numbers 21:4) and dissatisfied with the leadership of Moses and even their “miserable food” (Numbers 21:5). The exodus they thought would bring them to a new land has instead been a seemingly interminable journey in the wilderness. God’s response is swift and harsh: “poisonous serpents” sent by God “bit the people, so that many Israelites died” (21:6). The people repent, Moses prays andGod grants Moses a staff that will provide healing to all who are bitten.

It’s not the kindest of stories. The psalmist gives it a different sort of spin, omitting any mention of the venomous snakes and lifting up the healing of God, who heard the cries of the people and “saved them from their distress” (Psalm 107:19b).

Despite the psalmist’s sanitized take on the story, this pattern can be found throughout the story of the exodus. God rescues the people, they succumb to temptation, they repent, God shows mercy. Over and over and over.

These biblical narratives are often used to extol the merciful nature of God, who repeatedly forgives the people despite their sin. Truly, God does show mercy. But perhaps mercy is not the only lesson to be learned from the story of the people’s walk with God.

The exodus begins in Egypt, where God’s people are enslaved and oppressed. God seeks out Moses to lead the people, lays low the unjust Pharaoh and accompanies the people across the wilderness for generations, providing food, water and safety along the way, even when the going is tough and the relationship between the people and God is complicated.

Simply put, God is invested in this community. God has a vested interest in its future. The covenant inaugurated between them leaves both parties vulnerable to the other. By leading them from Egypt and entering into a covenant with them, God has tied their futures together. God has a plan and has invested much to ensure that the people are part of it. This people, this nation, is God’s future. The provisions God grants are not mere merciful gifts but further investments toward a shared future for God and the people that will become Israel.

Now, of course, the church is not God; we are spiritual descendants of the wandering Hebrews, dependent still on God’s promise of this future. Yet, perhaps there is something we can learn here about what it means to pursue a promise.

People often view the church’s work to end hunger in light of the virtues of mercy and grace. Food, clothing, shelter and donations might be interpreted as mercies showered on suffering people or as gifts given to neighbors in need. But the reality is that our response to hunger goes beyond a desire to meet immediate needs. Our response to hunger is nothing less than an investment in that shared future articulated in the tagline for ELCA World Hunger: a just world where all are fed.

What difference might it make for the hunger ministries of this church to see the work we do together as an investment in this vision?

In Washington, D.C., the Beloved Community Incubator is based on the idea of investing in the people and in the Logan Circle neighborhood. The project began with a listening campaign by Luther Place Memorial Church, with support from ELCA World Hunger. In this campaign, residents of the community expressed their desire for cooperatives that would allow them to use their skills and talents to build wealth and income that would stay in the community.

The first cooperative incubated by Luther Place was Dulce Hogar, a cooperative of women who provide cleaning services for homes and businesses. Together, the women learned how to run a business, pursue just employment and develop their own skills as leaders. As one participant describes it, “The vision of the cooperative is that all eight of us are well-paid and well-trained, and that we get to invest money in our families and in our community.”

The members of the cooperative were even paid for the times they spent in meetings and trainings. They learned together that their time and labor had value far exceeding the wages they had been offered before. And now, with an investment in them, they will be able to invest in others.

Projects such as the Beloved Community Incubator offer a counter witness to the policies and practices of disinvestment that have created communities with high rates of poverty and food insecurity across the United States. These policies and practices are rooted in the misperception that some communities are worth investing in and others are not. But the residents of Logan Circle know that, despite the challenges they face, their community is worth the investment and a better future is worth pursuing.

We know this, too, by faith. Every community is blessed by God with assets and strengths, even as the people face barriers to using or developing those assets. And we know by faith that the future we pursue together is a shared endeavor. The future God has promised is a future for us and our neighbors. We will get there together, or we will not get there at all.

To end hunger is to recognize that responding to need is a matter not of merciful intervention but of investing in a shared future and trusting that the work of God toward that end will be revealed in those very communities that the profit-driven economy so often leaves behind. If we are going to end hunger, we need to invest in one another by sharing resources, listening to each other and building the relationships that will ensure the justice God has promised.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when someone showed you kindness and mercy. What was that like? How did it feel?
  2. Think, share or journal about a time when someone used their time, skills and/or talents to invest in your growth. What was that like? How did it feel?
  3. Now compare and contrast these two experiences — one of kindness and mercy, and one of investment. How are they different? Which experience made a more lasting impact, and why?
  4. Does your community take time to invest in the long-term growth of its neighbors? How so? If not, how might your community begin investing in others? What might that look like?
  5. Where is there a need for the kind of investment that can end hunger in your community?


Covenant God, since ancient times you have led and fed your people through many wilderness journeys. In this time, give us strength to invest your gifts in our neighbors and communities, that all might be fed. Amen.

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

Lenten Reflection 3: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“The direct service of providing filter pitchers and the organizing work of bringing demands to our alderpersons, health department and mayor all lead us back to the font, where we stand with people at the holy water that makes us God’s children and sends us out to serve God’s justice.”


If we don’t listen carefully to Jesus’ words, we might think of him as meek and mild-mannered, the patient and perfect willing sacrifice, who admonishes his followers to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Some might even think we are called to be docile and, at times, subservient. In many forms of American Christianity, believers are encouraged to acquiesce to their circumstances, to accept their lot in life with, if not good cheer, at least indifference. In fact, for some Christians, protest or rage must be reserved only to chastise “sinners” for their “immoral” ways.

If there is a story from the Gospels that challenges this picture of Jesus and Jesus’ followers, it may be the story from this week’s reading of Jesus clearing the temple in Jerusalem. The man who would stand reserved before Pilate here is described by the author of John’s Gospel as angry, wielding a whip and overturning tables. Clearly, even for the normally peaceful Son of God, there are some things that are too much to bear in silence.

The temple was the center of worship for the community in Jesus’ time. Here, the faithful would gather for holy days, as Jesus did in the story, or to offer the required sacrifices. The temple was also a center of commerce, with merchants selling wares to travelers outside the court. Because Roman money bore the likenesses of Roman leaders, it could not be used in the temple and needed to be exchanged to pay the temple tax, a fee assessed on all who entered.

There is some debate about the fairness of the moneychangers. While some writers claim the moneychangers were greedy or predatory, others note that, in general, the moneychangers at the temple dealt fairly with their customers. In any event, they were a necessary fixture at the temple, as were the merchants selling animals for sacrifice. Wealthy Jews would purchase sheep or cattle whereas working-class or poor Jews would opt for cheaper animals, such as doves. To say that the system was necessary is not to say that it was fair. Even if the moneychangers did not engage in outright exploitation, the temple tax was especially felt by people living in poverty, for whom even a half shekel would have been more than they could afford. When added to the cost of sacrificial animals, the financial burden for people in poverty was high.

What drove Jesus to fashion a whip and erupt in anger was not the mere presence of commerce — after all, both the tax and the animals were necessary — but the unequal burden borne by the very people for whom the temple should have been caring. What inspired Jesus’ rage was not the temple or trade but the way these two systems combined to leave people in need at a disadvantage, day in and day out. This injustice is simply too much for anyone to remain docile. Docility in the face of injustice is complicity.

Still today, an unequal burden continues to be fostered by systems and structures that leave many communities bearing the marks of injustice — sometimes in the very bodies of the people.

We’ve known for decades the dangers associated with lead, a metal that for many years was used in plumbing and paint. This hazardous metal can cause severe, long-term effects, including stunted brain development, anemia and kidney damage. As older pipes corrode, lead can seep into drinking water, and particles from paint in older homes can be inhaled. It can become part of the very water we drink and the air that we breathe, making it hard to keep adults and children safe. Over the last decade, lead contamination has been found in water systems in Flint, Michigan, Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago and many other cities, both large and small. It has been found in homes, hospitals and schools and has been recognized as a national problem across the United States.

But that is not to say that the burdens of unsafe water are shouldered equally by all communities. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found, African American children are nearly three times as likely as white children to be exposed to lead. Some studies have found the prevalence of lead poisoning in some Black and Latino neighborhoods to be as high as 90%, which means that as many as nine in 10 children have tested positive. Children living in poverty are also at higher risk, with higher rates of exposure and fewer means to address lead poisoning to prevent long-term consequences. This can create a vicious cycle. Families living in hunger and poverty are more vulnerable to environmental risks that can lead to high health care costs, illnesses that keep adults home from work, and developmental delays that can inhibit children’s education — the very stressors that contribute to long-term, generational hunger down the road.

At Hephatha Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wis., a city with high rates of both poverty and lead exposure, leaders are working hard to keep children safe. The church, with support from ELCA World Hunger, provides lead-free kits with water filters, tape and mops. The tape can cover lead paint that is chipping, and the mops clean up dust from the paint so that children don’t inhale it. The church also helps adults learn about the dangers of lead.

But filters, tape and mops can go only so far. The issue of lead — and the crisis of unsafe water, more generally — is an issue of justice. Environmental policies, housing regulations and health care access are all woven together when it comes to keeping people safe from lead poisoning. That’s why Hephatha also worked with neighbors to start an advocacy group to talk with legislators about keeping the community safe. At a deeper level, access to clean water is not just a matter of what comes out of our taps but what goes into our laws. It’s about the community we live in and not just the water we drink.

Pastor Mary Martha of Hephatha links this work to the calling of the church. Advocacy and education “[lead] us back to the font, where we stand with people at the holy water that makes us God’s children and sends us out to serve God’s justice.”

In the Gospel reading, Jesus recognizes the necessity of institutions such as the temple and commerce. But he also believes these same institutions should be held accountable for how people in need experience them. In Milwaukee, God is at work through a community driven by hope that things can change — and guided by the wisdom that what we need is not just clean water but justice.

As we continue in our Lenten journey, learning about the tools we will need to share in God’s work of ending hunger, the story of God at work in Milwaukee reminds us that the future we seek is a world where “justice will roll down like waters” — clean, safe, lead-free and life-giving waters accessible to all.

Reflection Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when you felt that something was unfair or that you were at a disadvantage. How did you react? What did you do to try and change the situation? What powers resisted attempts at change?
  2. Jesus’ display of anger in the temple is often categorized as righteous anger or anger over mistreatment, insult or the malice of another. When can anger or even rage be a productive emotion?
  3. How can you identify anger that is helpful and not harmful? How can you use anger in a productive way, to help your neighbors in need?
  4. Where is there a need for justice in your community? What will a “just world” look like in your neighborhood?


Gracious and loving God, at the font you wash us in water and the word, and name us all your beloved children. With that love, inspire our prayer, work and generosity, that all people may have an abundance of clean, safe water. Amen.

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

Lenten Reflection 2: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“For [God] did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; [God] did not hide [God’s] face from me, but heard when I cried” (Psalm 22:24).


When Kamini Dhurvey was just a child, her mother died and her father remarried. Her stepmother abused Kamini, and her father did not step in to protect her from his new wife. Unprotected and unsafe, Kamini left home when she was older and eventually found a place to rent and a job in a small shop.

Even out on her own, she did not feel safe. Kamini feared that the landlord who owned her residence would hurt her. The security she tried to find in leaving home eluded her. Through a door-to-door survey, Kamini learned about Naari Shakti, a project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh in India supported in part by ELCA World Hunger. Naari Shakti works for gender equality through advocacy for women’s rights, provides training in tailoring and computer skills, and offers emergency medical support to girls and women in vulnerable situations. The project also provides housing assistance and psychosocial support to those who need it.

At the Naari Shakti project office, Kamini found a safe space to tell her story and people who would welcome her. With counseling and support from the project, she was able to leave the place she was renting and move into a hostel for girls. The project later arranged for Kamini to stay in a women’s rehabilitation center, where she is living and pursuing her studies.

Before Kamini moved to the rehabilitation center, project staff tried to contact her father. But her father told the staff that he no longer wanted anything to do with her and that it was up to her to live her life as she wanted. She was no longer welcome in her father’s home. With nowhere else to go, Kamini has found a home at the center. The Naari Shakti program provides her a safe place to live, books and additional support for her education.

Around the world, 690 million people face hunger, and each of them has a story to tell. Hunger is rarely just a matter of lacking food. Rather, it is often a pernicious and persistent symptom of much deeper pain, of much deeper need. Unfortunately, stories like Kamini’s are not uncommon. For women and girls around the world, abuse, violence and inequality lie behind the higher rates of hunger they face. Globally, women are 13% more likely than men to experience food insecurity and almost 27% more likely to be severely food insecure. They are also more likely to be victimized by violence, more likely to do work with little or no pay, and less likely to have access to credit to start a home or business.

If we are going to end hunger, we have to start by being honest about the stories of pain, exploitation, injustice and violence that lie behind it. We must start with honesty about what hunger is and what it is not.

Hunger is not accidental. It is the result of inequality, marginalization and injustice that inhibit one’s ability to access the resources one needs to live.

Hunger is not merely the physical sensation of going without food. It is an insidious reality that affects the whole person — physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially.

Hunger is not merely a calculation of calories. It is a measure of the extent to which a person is constrained in the pursuit of their own well-being.

Ending hunger means being willing to enter into the sometimes painful stories of neighbors in need. It requires that we accompany one another down difficult roads with honesty about what we may find. Lent commemorates Jesus’ journey to the cross and thus demands of us honesty about the death-dealing pervasiveness of sin that would crucify truth in order to silence it. This makes Lent an appropriate season to consider what it will take to arrive at the vision of a just world where all are fed. Lent, after all, is about honesty. In this season, we are called to be honest about the depths of our sin, including the many ways that we, as the church, have fallen short in meeting the needs of our neighbors. Lent is about being honest with ourselves and with others about the depth of need in our world.

And Lent is also a season to be honest about the God who calls to us. In the psalm for this second week in Lent, the psalmist rejoices that God “did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted … [nor] hide [God’s] face from me, but heard when I cried” (Psalm 22:24). In the Gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration, we hear the voice of God echo over the mountain: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

The honesty to which we are called compels us to confront the pain of the world with a vision to transform it. Both the pain of the world and the vision to transform it are clear in the stories of Kamini’s life and the Naari Shakti project. It is the difference between the father who rejects her and the God who welcomes her. To know ourselves as claimed, named and welcomed by God is an act of truth-telling about who we really are — and how much that may differ from who the world thinks we can be. Abuse and rejection are part of Kamini’s story, and accompanying her means being honest about that. But they aren’t the whole of her story, and accompanying her means being honest about that too.

The honesty formed by faith compels us to tell the truth about hunger — and the truth about the God who promises its end. God’s promise of a just world where all are fed pulls us into the world to confront sin in all its forms, refusing to hide from affliction and yet refusing to let affliction be the end of the story for ourselves, our neighbors or our world. It is the honesty of an Easter people, who can deny neither the reality of the cross nor the reality of the empty tomb. To end hunger, we will need to be honest with ourselves about both.

Reflection Questions

  1. How have you experienced or felt God sustaining your strength in challenging circumstances?
  2. What are some things you hunger for other than food (such as companionship, love and acceptance, or justice, clean air and water)? Does your community provide these things? How might you and your community better provide things that feed people in mind, body and spirit?
  3. In the Naari Shakti project, Kamini found the resources she needed to develop her strengths and make meaningful choices for herself and her future. How does your church create opportunities for neighbors to develop their strengths and make meaningful choices for themselves and your community?
  4. What kind of honesty will it take to end hunger in your community? Where is there a need for truth-telling and truth-seeking when it comes to the challenges you and your neighbors face?


Gracious and loving God, through the power of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb, you bring us the truth of your love for us and for all people. Help us to live into that truth and to share it with the world. Amen.

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

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.

Advent 2020- Week One 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 One

“Keep Awake” 


Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
I Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37


This year has felt like an awful lot of waiting already, and now here we are at the start of Advent, a season of … waiting. Many greeted the new year with expectant hope. Early reports signaled a strong harvest year for farmers. Economic news in the United States seemed to be largely positive, though critical issues of poverty and inequality remained present. The year, for many, looked promising.

But how quickly things change. By mid-March, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and economies started grinding to a virtual halt. Of course, the risk wasn’t the same for everyone, as we knew from the start. The lives of older adults and people with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions were at significant risk. Small-business owners, service industry workers and farmworkers faced increasingly dire consequences for their livelihoods. In the United States, communities of color saw rates of infection, hospitalization and death that were many times higher than those of white communities. As the disease spread around the world, the uneven risk was brought into sharper relief — between wealthy countries and countries with fewer economic resources and lower access to high-quality, affordable health care. The inequities within countries, including the United States, was also brought into sharper relief.

Perhaps never before has so much of the world been glued to statistical data, watching every release of new case counts, changes in positivity rates, and testing capacity. We waited together for stores to reopen, for furloughs to end and for the chance to visit loved ones. As church, we waited for the chance to dine together at the table of communion, even as the Spirit refused to postpone inspiring the people of God to worship in new, creative ways.

Together, we felt the inertia and anxiety of waiting for good news about progress on vaccines or positivity rates. On the other hand, some commenters encouraged others to view the pandemic and its accompanying shutdowns as a welcome “pause,” a slowdown of the hurried pace of daily life. And perhaps, for some of us, the pause has been an opportunity to take a break and reflect on which demands on our time and attention are truly valuable.

But something is missing in this picture of the pandemic as a restorative period of reflective waiting. So many of us this year, and every year, do not have the privilege of uninterrupted self-reflection. The service industry workers and gig workers who immediately lost their jobs, or whose continued employment meant entering a scary field of person-to-person encounters, did not have the privilege of merely “waiting it out” in hope that the pandemic would ease. The millions of people in the United States and around the world who face severe food insecurity could not merely wait for sustenance or stability.

In a letter earlier this year, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton wrote of the converging of two deadly viruses — COVID-19 and the ongoing virus of racism that continues to infect our communities and institutions. The distress named by Bishop Eaton in her letter is a more visceral and accurate description of what so many of us felt this year. The cries of people raised in supplication during the pandemic and lifted in protest are the cries of those who can no longer wait.

This Advent season opens with a story of another people sick of waiting. The Gospel of Mark, most likely, was written to the community of early Christians living under the shadow of empire in first-century Rome. This early community faced persecution and violence. They were no strangers to suffering.

Amid this suffering, Jesus, using what is often a general reference to humanity in Hebrew, promises them a future in which the “Son of Man” will come “with great power and glory” (13:26) to set all things right.

In the meantime, he tells them, “Keep awake” (13:37). To “keep awake” is to grasp the kind of hope that inspires and to renounce the kind of hope that incapacitates. It is to feed on the hope that propels and to starve the hope that paralyzes. It is the gospel hope that tells us not to “wait and see” but to “come and see.”

Em Musa, a grandmother in Ramallah, Palestine, knows that “just waiting” is a luxury she and her community cannot afford. Married at 20, mother to four children, Em Musa had more than enough responsibilities to occupy her time. But she also knew that her community in Palestine could not wait for progress. So, she chose to work toward justice for her people by becoming active in the Palestinian resistance movement. To this day, she bears the scars of this decision. In her time as an activist, she was wounded on her forehead, shot in her left thigh and imprisoned for almost a year and a half. Her husband passed away after her release, when their youngest child was just two-and-a-half years old.

Today, Em Musa participates in a Meals on Wheels project in Ramallah that is supported, in part, by ELCA World Hunger. The aim of the program is to help people isolated by health, age or circumstance experience a sense of community in addition to the food provided. The weekly gatherings help participants build connections with one another and with volunteers and staff, while home delivery of food meets the needs of people unable to come to the Arab Women’s Union due to health or limited mobility. A physician is available once a week, and the Meals on Wheels program helps distribute some of the medication needed by participants such as Em Musa.

Em Musa’s thirst for justice led her to costly activism, and now her hunger, for both food and community, has led her to the Meals on Wheels program. The ministries and programs supported by ELCA World Hunger are driven forward not merely by a deep awareness of the need in our communities but also by an even deeper awareness that, amid struggles for justice and wholeness, God will “strengthen [us] to the end” (I Cor. 1:8) — and what an end it will be!

As we enter this season of Advent, may we do so knowing that to hope in God is not to wait but to “keep awake,” not to lose hope when faced with challenges but to confront them together. To hope is to know that the coming of Christ happens amid daily life and all its struggles. It is amid those things where relationships are birthed and renewed and where God is, even now, at work.


  1. Where have you found hope in the past year?
  2. How can or has hope for the future motivated you to work for justice in the present?
  3. What is your hope for the future? How is God calling you to make this hope a reality?
  4. How is the church called to “keep awake” amid the suffering and injustices uncovered by the pandemic and all that has happened this year?
  5. What can we do to make sure that our Advent discipline of “staying awake” does not become passive waiting?


Gracious God, you sustain your people through seasons of change and challenge. Breathe into us your Spirit, drive us from our waiting places and into the world to be part of the promise you proclaim. Inspire us with hope and courage to confront our needs — for justice, for health, for liberation, for one another and for you — and restore our relationships with one another and with all of creation. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starter- Ash Wednesday


These reflections are a part of ELCA World Hunger’s Sermon Starter series which is published via email every Monday. You can sign up for the weekly email here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone. Pastor Tim Brown is the writer of these reflections. Pr. Tim is a Gifts Officer and Mission Ambassador for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a pastor and writer out of Raleigh, NC. You are invited to use the message below for personal devotion as well as prompts for sermon writing. 

February 26- Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

It’s curious how Jesus will use soil to heal things.

Like the man Bartimeaus, who is blind. He gets mud rubbed in his eyes to help him see. That makes no sense.

Or, how Jesus will draw in the sand as the woman about to be stoned is held on silent trial. Why would he turn to the dust to draw as charges are being brought up?

Or, consider the resurrection itself. How could the ground, the earth, the grave, bring about eternal life?

And yet soil is how Jesus seems to choose to heal.

If you want further thought on the healing properties of soil, consider this Irish idea about the healing properties of dirt. I’ve felt something like this, actually. Every time I put my hands in the earth of my yard, as I toil away growing and pruning and planting, I find my soul as improved as the soil.

What is it, Beloved, about dirt that helps to heal things?

We embrace this notion on Ash Wednesday. As we pull the dust of our lives and have it placed on our brows; as those burned Alleluias of praise become marks of humility (as, ultimately, all words of praise, should), we hold tightly to the belief that this dirt will, by God, heal us.

Matthew’s Gospel warns against practicing our piety in public. But on this day we hold that advice loosely as, though our piety is marked on our brow, the reasons themselves stay mute inside of us.

Because, honestly, we all come to Ash Wednesday with different, specific reasons: those moments we thrust needles into our veins to feel something; those moments we lashed out in rage, cursed out of fear, or judged out of prejudice; those times we cheated to get ahead, or because we are born ahead and denied someone their God-given dignity with impunity.

We all come to Ash Wednesday with a personal confession on our lips.

And yet we all, no matter our confession, receive the same sign of redemption: a dirt cross that intends to heal.

And note that the symbol on our brows is not just any sign. It is not a money sign, as if that can save and redeem us. And it is not the sign of this political party or that political party, as if our politics can save us.

All these things we rely on in life to save us: money, status, politics…they all blow away, like dust, as that dirt cross is smudged into our brows as an act of redemption.

On this day, though our piety is public, we don’t wear it with any sort of pride, Beloved. Because we all know, deep in the recesses of our hearts, that those things we bring to the altar on Ash Wednesday are not a moment of pride, but implicit acknowledgments that we cannot do this thing called life without the kind of redemption that our God in Christ gives.

Soil heals.  Perhaps it does every day, if you believe the websites. But even if you don’t, you know it does on Ash Wednesday, by God.


HUD’s Rule Change Ends Proactive Anti-Housing Segregation Measures


Brooke De Jong is the author of this post and the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger. Previous to this position she worked managing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a housing agency in Chicago, IL. 


The work towards economic and racial justice has never been easy. Making long-term sustainable and transformative changes is even harder. This is especially true in the areas of housing and homelessness. According to the latest Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data collected in January 2019, Chicago alone had 5,290 people without homes. But what is more concerning is that 1,026 or 19% of persons without homes in Chicago were white but 4,674 or 88% persons without homes in Chicago were people of color.

As we emerged from the holidays and rolled into the new year, news broke that HUD is proposing to repeal a 2015 fair housing rule, or the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, that could make this disparity worse.

What is the proposed change and why does it matter?

The proposal to repeal of the 2015 AFFH rule repeals a definition of fair housing that actively sought to reverse the effects of housing segregation and changes the definition of fair housing to “advancing fair housing choice within the program participant’s control or influence.” Under Secretary Ben Carson, HUD would now define fair housing as the ability to choose one’s housing and end proactive measures that sought to reverse the effects of housing segregation. Without the proper tools, training and financial support, many communities will not be able to continue the hard but important work towards ending housing segregation.

Housing segregation is a serious problem in the United States. In short, where someone lives is important. Where someone lives determines the quality of education, jobs, medical care, access to supportive services, food quality and more. Ultimately where some lives can impact a person’s ability to thrive. In segregated communities, like that of Chicago, often what happens is a concentration of the above items in more white and affluent areas and a decreased density of these crucial services in areas that have higher rates of poverty and large populations of people of color. Housing segregation has many devastating effects but the most sinister is the ability of housing segregation to create a never-ending cycle of poverty. If we  are serious about our mission to create a just world where all are fed, ending housing segregation is an important piece of the puzzle.

What is the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” Rule?

Let’s start first with what a rule is, why we have them and how they come about. Rules are created and used by United States government agencies, like HUD, to help staff and related programs effectively interpret and implement laws passed by congress. Often, laws passed by Congress leave a lot of room for the agency to determine how to put a law into practice. So, rules are created to guide the work of the agency, evaluate its grant programs and to prioritize spending.

In the case of the AFFH rule, the US Congress has passed several laws that govern how HUD does its work and spends its money. All of these major laws contain language directing HUD to prevent discrimination in its housing programs and create programs that actively implement fair housing practices. While the laws are clear that housing discrimination is illegal, it is not clear from these laws how HUD is supposed to go about developing fair housing programs. Therefore, it is up to every administration and HUD secretary to define what these affirmative sections of our housing laws look like in practice.

In the case of the 2015 AFFH rule implemented by then-HUD Secretary Julian Castro and the Obama administration, this looked like taking proactive steps to reverse the effects of decades of housing segregation created by redlining, discriminatory and predatory mortgage lending practices, and community disinvestment. This involved defining fair housing as:

taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws creating new sophisticated mapping and data tools for communities requiring extensive reporting on systemic housing segregation.

When this definition went into effect in 2015 as part of the AFFH rule, HUD had a new mandate: create new mapping tools and training programs to help communities understand the effects of systemic segregation and begin evaluating grant programs based on how effective they were at reversing systemic segregation. Communities and housing authorities that did well were awarded more money and others who failed to meet the new standards would see their funding cut or the program would find themselves under HUD monitoring.

Why would HUD propose this change?

HUD is proposing this change because it says, among other things, the 2015 rule is too burdensome on communities and programs.

As a former HUD grants administrator, I can see why HUD might be choosing to repeal such a complex rule. Because the thought of a regulation change still makes me feel a deep sense of dread. It is difficult to convey the amount of work and stress that comes with managing HUD grants. But I think it is important to try in order to better grasp and evaluate HUD’s stated reasoning for this rule change.

Many housing agencies administering HUD programs and funding, including the one worked at, are greatly understaffed and underfunded. As the grants manager, it is your responsibility to know HUD rules and regulations inside and out and make sure staff are following them. The bills and regulations that govern a single type of HUD funding can number into the thousands of pages. A violation of those regulations can result in loss of funding and mass eviction of those your agency serves.

Changes in how data is collected and how HUD defines different terms, both of which are part of this proposed rule change, can affect your ability to house people. In short, working on HUD grants and implementing rule changes means the lives of the most vulnerable depend on you doing your job well. That is a heavy burden that many grant administrators and other HUD program administrators carry.

Nevertheless, this burden is one I often carried with pride. The work my agency did to provide housing and supportive services to the most vulnerable populations in Chicago, was a direct result of the funding I was able to secure and manage. HUD rules like the AFFH rule, which it is proposing to repeal, made sure we were making long-term transformative and sustainable changes in the communities we served. That made a difference to me when I was up until 2 am trying to make grant submission deadlines.

In Summary

It is true the 2015 rule did place a heavy burden on HUD programs and administrators. Many programs reported to HUD that the current AFFH process required lengthy report submissions ranging from 200 to 800 pages. Many communities also had to hire outside contractors and spend vital funds on the completion of these reports. It is important and right that HUD should listen to their feedback.

However, HUD also needs to take a look at themselves. HUD never completed the mapping tools and training it promised these communities. These mapping tools and training would have been vital to the success of the 2015 AFFH rule.

So, if something is not working or is difficult and you have not made the proper investment, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. In other words, despite some of the failures and difficulties of this 2015 AFFH rule, HUD should not ignore or give up on its mandate to make a positive impact on communities in the realm of fair housing and housing segregation. And HUD certainly should not give up on this mandate because it failed to provide the adequate funding and support these communities and programs needed.


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.