August 31, 2014

through our hands

Make us worthy, Lord,

     to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger.

Give them through our hands, this day their daily bread;

    and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.   Amen

A prayer for those serving the poor by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

August 29, 2014

Stop Hunger Now responds to Ebola crisis

The following press release (unedited) was released today by Stop Hunger Now. Even though crisis relief is not the major thrust of Stop Hunger Now it still responds to disasters as rapidly and completely as possible. More information is available at www.stophungernow.org.

Stop Hunger Now Responds to Ebola Crisis in West Africa

Food and other aid shipped to Liberia, more assistance on the way

(Raleigh, NC, Aug. 28, 2014) - Stop Hunger Now is shipping a container of meals and and donated medical personal protection equipment to Liberia as part of relief operations in response to the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The first container with more than 228,000 meals departed Aug, 27, 2014,  from the Stop Hunger Now warehouse in Philadelphia, PA. The aid will be shipped to the Salesians of Don Bosco, missionaries working in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, who are committed to supporting the people in the region affected by the outbreak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the 2014 Ebola outbreak is one of the largest in history and affects Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 1,400 deaths are attributed to suspected cases of the virus. As a result, there are reported incidences of food shortages, starvation and a general increase in food insecurity in the region.

Stop Hunger Now has committed to provide more than one million meals to Liberia and Sierra Leone over the next few weeks. Last week, a shipment of meals was received by Salesian Missions in Lungi, Sierra Leone. Also included were 22 boxes of new children’s clothing and  4 boxes of new children’s shoes donated by Carter’s Childrens Clothing.

“Stop Hunger Now is acting quickly to provide life-saving food and aid to the families affected by the Ebola outbreak,” said Rod Brooks, Stop Hunger Now President and CEO. “We have committed an initial response of one million meals, and as the extent of the need becomes more clear, we intend to help as long as necessary.”

In addition to meals, Stop Hunger Now is organizing the shipment of other critical supplies such as first aid kits, medical gloves, face masks, hazmat kits, personal protection equipment.

Founded in 1998, Stop Hunger Now has delivered aid and disaster relief supplies in the form of food, medical supplies, clothing, school supplies, and more to thousands of disaster victims and other hungry and vulnerable people around the world.  More than 450,000 volunteers have packaged the highly nutritious dehydrated meals comprised of rice, soy, vegetables, flavoring, and 23 essential vitamins and minerals during popular community-supported Stop Hunger Now meal packaging events.

“We’re grateful for the many volunteers who have packaged meals with Stop Hunger Now. Their support has made this shipment possible. We encourage others to schedule meal packaging events and commit their donations to help us ship meals so that we can continue to provide much needed relief,” says Brooks.

Stop Hunger Now also has a track record of providing meals in response to disasters. After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, Stop Hunger Now shipped 3 million meals and more than $672,800 in donated aid for a response totaling more than $1.5 million towards relief efforts. The organization provided nearly 200,000 meals to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For more information or to make a donation,  visit www.stophungernow.org.

For more than 15 years, Stop Hunger Now has been creating a movement to end hunger with more than 140,000,000 meals distributed along with other aid to 65 countries. Driven by a mission to end hunger in our lifetime, the organization provides food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable and helps mobilize the necessary resources impacting millions of lives.

Stop Hunger Now meal packaging programs offer volunteers the opportunity to participate in a hands-on international hunger relief program and to become educated, engaged advocates for the world’s poor and hungry.  In 2013, Stop Hunger Now packaged 38.6 million meals in the U.S. and an additional 3.3 million meals were packaged by international locations.

 

In its efforts to respond to emergency needs around the world Stop Hunger Now receives and distributes significant donations of in-kind aid. These donations are large quantities of food, medicines, medical supplies and other such items as may be of use in fighting hunger and providing relief in a crisis. For more information visitwww.stophungernow.org.

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August 29, 2014

challenging “the Challenge”

I love a good challenge. And obviously so does everyone else. How many thousands have already doused themselves with buckets of icy water on behalf of ALS? Drenching oneself in gallons of ice water has become the “fad de jour.”

Don’t get me wrong. ALS is a wonderful and worthy cause, and it’s one I totally support.  But is the ice bucket challenge really the best way to raise awareness over a serious illness? Some would say it is. Just look at all the challenge has already accomplished.  And I myself am fond of pointing out that I like the way I am actively doing something far better than the way you are doing nothing.

Yet, every time I see those untold gallons of clean pure water being poured over someone I cannot help but think of those of our family around the world who would cannot even imagine such a sacrilege. Wasting clean water, wasting any water, who can conceive of such a thing?

I have watched women and young girls walk for hours to scoop water out of muddy clay pits in eastern Chad. I have been honored to be offered water so thick and turbid I could strain it with my teeth. I have been to places where water is a commodity so limited as to be fought over.

Water is precious. Water is life. We need to honor it. We need to conserve it. And above all, we need to use it wisely, even reverently.

Support ALS. But do it without thoughtlessly wasting a limited and precious resource. My challenge is for all of us to find a better way to do the good we all seek.

August 28, 2014

taking the bone away from a dog

People who love soft words and hate iniquity forget this, that reform consists in taking the bone away from a dog. Philosophy will not do this. — John Jay Chapman

There are times when I have to remind myself that I need to take a deep breath and move more slowly. But, then there are other times when my frustration at the lack of of caring and compassion I see around me almost drives me into despair.

Nowhere is this more true than in the church. Platitudes and prayers for the poor and oppressed flow from our lips in unending streams as long as we are well hidden behind our stained-glass fences. But once we go through the gate into the street all we can say is “good doggie.”

All of us daily pass by the big dogs cracking the bones of the poor. It’s not as if we don’t see the iniquity that crushes the oppressed in our midst. But, soft, smooth words whispered in a sanctuary are both safe and respectable. Attempting to take that bone away might mean stitches.

The hungry will never get fed, the poor will never get justice, until we care enough, until we love enough, to start taking the bones away from the dogs. When will we be faithful enough that we hunger more for justice than respectability? When will our love for each other trump our love for safety and ease? When will the headlines finally read “Man Takes Bone Away From Dog”?

August 26, 2014

my first lesson plan

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It’s the day I begin teaching at George Mason University. And yes, I am excited. GMU is now the largest university in Virginia, with an enrollment of over 34,000 students.

Teaching at the college level is something that I have wanted to do for a number of years. I have taught dozens of classes at various colleges and universities and I always walked away from those experiences wanting more. I always leave those classes wanting the chance to do more, to interact more deeply with the students. Now I have been given the opportunity to do exactly that.

So for the next 15 weeks I will be commuting up to Fairfax, VA every Wednesday to teach Sociology 352: Social Problems. Not surprisingly, the class will focus on global hunger.

I am not exactly excited about the drive, but I am thoroughly pumped about spending 3 hours a week engaging young people in learning about ending hunger. I have already been enjoying the challenge of learning to fully integrate the internet as a teaching tool.  (And I used the word “challenge” intentionally. Those that know me best know my abilities with electronic media)

But the reality is that this semester is a tremendous opportunity for both me and the students in the class. Together we get to figure out how our spirituality, our values and our lifestyles all merge together in the midst of a hungry world. And hopefully, by the time Christmas rolls around, we will all have learned how each of us can make a real and lasting difference in that world. I want us all to leave the class knowing that by working together we can end hunger in our lifetime.

At least that ‘s the lesson plan.

August 24, 2014

a prayer for those in greatest need

God of grace and God of glory, we pause this morning to offer you praise and thanks for the truly awesome creation we call home. We cannot begin to fathom love so deep that you would send you only son to make sure we remained in a perfect relationship with you. Thank you for such love. Thank you for such mercy. Thank you for such grace. Help us to live in that love, Help us to walk in that mercy. And help us to share that grace with all those we meet.

Let each moment of our lives reflect to those around us the same love you have given so freely to us. May every day of our lives bring us ever closer to you. And may those in greatest need, those who feel most alone, those whose hunger is the deepest, those who are most oppressed, those who have nowhere left to run or nowhere left to hide, those who you loved enough to allow your son to die for, may each  one of them feel your presence in a special way this morning. 

And may your presence so move us this morning that we would seek out those we know are in need. Allow us to be your love incarnate to bathe the dirty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless, and above all, forgive us our indifference and lack of compassion, and  grant us the grace to simply be your disciples in a broken world. In your son’s name, Amen.

August 19, 2014

Pope Francis does the right thing

 

The following article is reprinted in its entirety from Huff Post Religion.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) – Pope Francis opened the way Monday to a quick beatification for Oscar Romero, saying there are no more doctrinal problems blocking the process for the slain Salvadoran archbishop who is one of the heroes of the liberation theology movement in Latin America.

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels.

Francis told journalists traveling home from South Korea that Romero’s case had previously been “blocked out of prudence” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but has now been “unblocked.” He said the case had passed to the Vatican’s saint-making office.

  The congregation launched a crackdown on liberation theology under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, fearing what was deemed as Marxist s excesses. The movement holds the view that Jesus’ teachings imbue followers with a duty to fight for social and economic justice.

Francis said of Romero’s case that “it is important to do it quickly,” but that the investigation must take its course.

He declared that Romero “was a man of God” and suggested that he wanted to expand the church’s concept of martyrdom to include a broader field of candidates.

Unlike regular candidates for beatification, martyrs can reach the first step to possible sainthood without a miracle attributed to their intercession. A miracle is needed for canonization, however.

Traditionally, the church has restricted the martyr designation to people who were killed out of hatred for the Catholic faith. Francis said he wanted theologians to study whether those who were killed because of their actions doing God’s work could also be considered martyrs.

“What I would like is that they clarify when there’s a martyrdom for hatred of the faith – for confessing the faith – as well as for doing the work for the other that Jesus commands,” Francis said.

Questions over that distinction have been at the root of the theological debate over whether Romero was killed by El Salvador’s right-wing death squads for professing the faith or because of his political activism in support of the poor.

Readers of this blog know my feelings about spirituality and standing alongside the poor. You also know how often I quote the words of the martyred Oscar Romero.

The archbishop of El Salvador was living out his witness during the early years of my ministry, and his deep faithfulness was a strong inspiration to me that we can make a real difference in the world. His words still continue to make me want to live more faithfully on behalf of the poor and hungry. And for me, well, that’s enough for sainthood.

Oscar Romero lived and died faithfully, and he demonstrated that faithfulness by his unwavering support and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. Thank you, Pope Francis for recognizing a man of true faith.

August 17, 2014

a prayer for new vision

Thank you, O God, for the wonders of your creation. Thank you for the perfection of the world which your grace has provided for us. Thank you for your constant and sustaining presence in our lives. Yet, even as we praise you for your goodness and your mercy, we must ask your forgiveness, as well.

Forgive us for taking your perfect creation for granted. Forgive us for wantonly destroying the irreplaceable  beauty that surrounds us. Forgive us for  our unrelenting greed for more and better while ignoring the cries of our family who have little or nothing.

Grant us new vision, O God. Open our eyes wide enough to see our world even as you do. May our hearts be melted with the grief you feel for those that are forced to needlessly suffer want in a world of plenty. Help us to love each other, even as you love us. And may you so fill us with the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit that our hunger for justice  would force us to act on behalf those of our family whose hunger for bread overshadows all else.

Let your justice fill the earth, O Lord. And grant each of us the grace to be a part in making it happen. In your Son’s name. Amen