5th Day of Christmas – The Gift of Sharing

(I’m following these prompts for the 12 Days of Christmas)

John 6:1-14

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

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This is one of the sumptuous spreads the Turkish Community in Dallas shared with us and many more of our Christian and Jewish friends. Their tradition of sharing food was one of the main reasons they were able to befriend those of us who were, to them, “the other”. It’s said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – Jesus knew that one of the ways to anyone’s heart is through feeding them. It’s hard to listen to a lesson or appreciate those around you when your stomach is growling. That’s why I support hunger programs in Tacoma, like Fish Food Bank and Nativity House, and also Bread for the World.

Provide

As you may remember, my one word for the year is “Provide”.

February was spent getting ready to host a gathering concerned with food insecurity here in Pierce County, Washington. It was held this morning, March 1, and I believe it was a success. At least I hope so.

One of the groups that I’ve been significantly involved in is Pierce County Hunger Advocates (if you haven’t “Liked” the page on Facebook, quit reading right now and go do it. I’ll wait).

We began as a local chapter of Bread for the World, and have since expanded to partner with Fish Food Banks of Pierce County, WA.

The steering committee, of which I am a member, has sponsored training sessions for representatives of various churches in the county, so they could conduct an Offering of Letters in their congregations. We have also visited the food bank locations and registered voters, so that those in need could advocate for themselves. Bread for the World was one of the leading voices in helping change the Farm Bill to minimize the cuts to SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). We didn’t get everything we wanted (still $8 billion in cuts over 5 years), but at least it wasn’t the original $20 billion.

Beth Elliott, the Executive Director of Fish Food Banks, was one of the speakers this morning. We learned that over 1,500,000 people visited various food banks in Pierce County, last year. Fish Food Bank, itself, served over 560.000.

We also heard from Matt Newell-Ching, the regional director for Bread for the World. We heard about this year’s focus, which is to streamline and improve international Food Aid. You can read about it on the Bread for the World web-site.

Our featured speaker was the Honorable Derek Kilmer, US House of Representatives, 6th District. He brought us up to date of the status of food aid internationally, the need for an adjustment to food aid in the United States, the pending immigration reform bill, and other matters happening in Washington, DC. He told us that the State of Washington ranks 15th in food insecurity in the country. He also spent time answering questions from the audience, and was very forthcoming about what we can and should expect from our representatives and senators.

By PROVIDING education to a group of people, and empowering them with facts to address some of the most pressing problems regarding food insecurity, I think I am doing my part.

Hunger Advocacy

My evening yesterday was taken up with a meeting of Pierce County Hunger Advocates. They are an ecumenical group who were inspired by the regional organizer of Bread for the World. They have been in existence for about 18 months, and have been meeting monthly during that time. I became affiliated with them in April, I think, at another visit from Bread for the World.

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They are a lovely bunch of people, but, unfortunately, about half of them are virtually computer illiterate, and the other half are very social media savvy. As the Blogmaster and Facebook page owner I have to keep reminding myself that these folks can just barely use email, and they are very wary of all the other social media (as well as not understanding the need for it).

Stacy suggested getting a QR Code for the Bread for the World website’s pre-written letters to Congress, and several of them just looked at her like she had snakes crawling out of her ears. (They were amazed, but really didn’t understand.) Today we got the regional organizer to send us a QR Code to be put on bulletin inserts, etc.

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You can try it out from the convenience of your own home! Let me know if it doesn’t take you right to the page.

At any rate, I sometimes feel like I’ve been pushing jello uphill by the time I get out of those meetings.

They keep coming back to “we need to print out sample letters and take them to people so they can write it out in their own hand and put a stamp on it.”

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Oh, the joys of living through a major social and societal shift.

Urgent Request from Bread for the World

Your members of Congress are writing the farm bill right now and they need to hear from you! SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid are critical programs governed by the farm bill. Both are at risk of devastating cuts.

Raise your voice and urge your members of Congress to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people. Tell them to:

  1. Protect and strengthen SNAP. SNAP effectively and efficiently helps 47 million low-income Americans put food on the table. As unemployment and poverty have remained high, the number of families at risk of hunger has not increased since 2008.
  2. Improve international food aid in ways that make the program more efficient while also targeting the nutritional needs of women and children in the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2. The emergency food aid program, Food for Peace, reached over 53 million people last year.

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Cuts to these programs will mean no food on the table for millions of our brothers and sisters. Call your senators and representative today at 1-800-326-4941 or send them an email.

A Lazy Sunday

I was up early to teach adult Sunday School at Bethany Presbyterian Church. Heard a great sermon by Pastor Sarah, and then home to get Big Al and off to Sunday lunch at a nice little neighborhood Italian restaurant.

Apparently my passion that was stoked at the workshop yesterday spilled over at church, because I have been asked to be the congregational representative to the local Bread for the World organization. The first meeting is tomorrow night.

My brother, Bill, called to say that he and his family will be coming out to visit in early August this summer. That will be great as they are, so far, the first to come see us on the left coast.

After our beautiful weather the last week, today is cloudy and VERY blustery.Capture

I think I’ll go start the fire-place going, and read a book while listening to the wind chimes tinkle.

A little less discouraged

I went to a workshop this morning put on by Bread for the World. They are a group that is dedicated to doing away with hunger here at home and in the world. Our current focus is on An Offering of Letters – a way for churches to effectively lobby congress for government programs to help with hunger of all kinds, but especially childhood hunger.

There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 1 in 6 families can’t afford enough food.

“Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when [we have] the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all [hu]mankind with the basic necessities of life? … There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will.”

Martin Luther King Jr., in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture.

Check out this little 4.5 minute video by Hans Rosling.

WOW! Huh?

So what can we do about the poverty and hunger and illness in the world? You’ve seen and/or heard me say that there is enough money in the world for every single person to have $1,000,000. How can we distribute it more equitably so no child goes to bed hungry and no parent has to make the choice between eating decent food themselves and feeding their family?

We support the local food bank in Pierce County, Washington. My sister and her husband tend a community garden that gave over 1,000 lbs. of food to hunger projects in Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas, last year. I usually give donations to organizations like Heifer, International, as Christmas gifts to my family.

BUT…

I know that it would be impossible for private sources to make up the difference if the government should cut back – even 6% – on the food support the government gives. And the sequester forces a 10% cut in things like Food Stamps (SNAP) and school lunches. Food banks supported by the community and private donations from churches, synagogues, and mosques are already stretched to the limit. There’s no way to make up the 10% cut from the sequester.

It seems to me the only possible way is for the government to get pro-active. Unfortunately, legislators are like teenagers. They want to do the right things, but they need to be constantly reminded what the right thing is. That’s where we come in, by writing letters and making phone calls and visiting our representatives.

One further thing you/we can do is go see A Place at the Table when it comes to a theater near you. Or you could see it on iTunes.

But I beg of you, gentle readers, get involved and DO something. Little kids are going to bed hungry – right now – on our watch – in our country.

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