From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Work To Make Ending World Hunger A Priority

Date Tue, 29 Jun 2004 16:01:45 -0500


June 29, 2004

Lutherans Work To Make Ending World Hunger A Priority

     WASHINGTON, D.C. (ELCA) -- More than 140 leaders of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) who are actively committed to making the
eradication of hunger a major priority in the United States and around the
world met June 19-22 for the 2004 ELCA World Hunger Synod Leadership
Gathering at Georgetown University here.
     Under the theme, "For Such a Time as This," participants representing
50 of the 65 synods of the ELCA focused on international and domestic
hunger relief, education and advocacy.	Participants also celebrated the
30th anniversary of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, which was established at
the 1987 Constituting Convention of the ELCA.  Churches that formed the
ELCA launched the original appeal in 1974.
     Through a program and an annual appeal for funds, members of the
church work to end hunger in the world.  The income goal for the 2004 ELCA
World Hunger Appeal is $16.25 million.
     Leymah Roberta Gbowee, a member of the Lutheran Church in Liberia and
coordinator of the women's peace-building network, West Africa Network for
Peace Building in Liberia, commended the ELCA for its efforts in ending
world hunger.
     "For someone who has experienced hunger, fighting hunger is really a
worthwhile cause," she said in an interview.  "We can spread the message
positively that hunger is bad.	Those involved in the ELCA World Hunger
Appeal should continue the fight.  They may not see the eradication of
hunger in their lifetime, but I'm sure their children or
great-grandchildren will see it and be proud that their families were
involved in the struggle for ending hunger in the world."
     In her keynote presentation, Gbowee brought "a message of hope" from
the people of Liberia, who have "suffered immensely" from 14 years of
civil war.  She shared personal experiences of being internally displaced
in Liberia, her home country.
     "Liberians are still struggling to rebuild [their] lives.	Most live
on less than one dollar a day.	As a nation, we've hit rock-bottom.  We
have two options, either stay down or rise up," she said.
     "We are determined to get back on our feet and move our lives
forward.  From the world's perspective our situation may look hopeless,
but we have a lot of hope that things will get better, and indeed they are
better," she said.
     A highlight of the gathering was "World Refugee Day" on June 20.
Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., president of the Lutheran Immigration and
Refugee Service (LIRS), Baltimore, delivered a presentation about the
situation of refugees in the world today.  LIRS is a joint ministry of the
ELCA, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Latvian Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America.
     "The situation among refugees in the world is mixed," said
Deffenbaugh.  Among the positive factors, the number of refugees around
the world is down, he said, citing that the fall of the Taliban has
allowed more than 3 million people to return home in Afghanistan.
     Today there are 11.9 million refugees in the world.  "In 1985 the
numbers peaked at 15.3 million refugees in the world," he said.
     Shortly following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, refugee settlement
had abruptly shut down in the United States, Deffenbaugh said.	This year
refugee settlement in the United States has moved back up, with more than
45,000 people expected to come to the United States, he said.
     "The prospect for refugees entering the United States in 2005 looks
gloomy," Deffenbaugh told participants.  Government funding for refugee
assistance and resettlement is proposed to be cut, he said.
     Another feature of the gathering included a conversation with the
Rev. Craig L. Nessan, author of the book, "Give Us This Day:  A Lutheran
Proposal for Ending World Hunger."  Nessan is academic dean and professor
of contextual theology, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.
     Nessan told participants that ending world hunger requires
     "The message of God's word in the Holy Scripture is very clear about
God's own compassion and concern for the hungry of this world.	We need to
imagine, beginning with this group of leaders, that ending hunger in our
world is a real possibility.  It's an act of bold, courageous imagination
to dream and to believe that there is enough food in the world and that
having access to food is a human right," Nessan said in an interview.
     Participants attended two sessions of workshops.  Topics ranged from
alternative gift-giving to using electronic communication to advocate for
people who are hungry, from the ELCA's public response to wealth and power
to utilizing ELCA resources on world hunger.  Resources featured included
"Granting Hope," an online  ( and print
resource that describes the ELCA domestic hunger grants program, and the
2004 Spring/Summer ELCA World Hunger Resource Packet
( which contains a "Top 30
ELCA World Hunger Resources Catalog," bulletin inserts, artwork and
reproducible stories about hunger ministries for use in congregations.
     The ELCA World Hunger Program is made up of "people who share a
common call to an uncommon mission," said the Rev. Howard E. Wennes,
Scottsdale, Ariz.  Wennes is a member of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal
staff and former bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod.
     Wennes invited synod hunger leaders to share ways in which they help
raise money for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and call attention to the
church's hunger ministries.
     Edie and Denny Lott, Truckee, Calif., are climbing Mount Whitney,
Calif., to raise funds for the church's 2004 appeal.  "We're asking people
to pledge one penny per each foot of elevation gain.  The penny-per-foot
is $60, because it is 6,000 feet of elevation gain," said Edie.  Edie and
Denny serve as chair of the synod hunger network, ELCA Sierra Pacific
Synod, Oakland, Calif.
     In celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal,
the Rev. David M. Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and a pastor
of the ELCA, told participants that "education and advocacy have been an
integral part of the Lutheran response to hunger."
     Bread for the World is a national Christian movement that seeks
justice for the world's hungry people by lobbying members of U.S. Congress
and other decision makers.  The ELCA is a member of Bread for the World.
     "Hunger kills more people than AIDS in the world," said Beckmann,
"but, we have made some real inroads in fighting hunger here and around
the world.  We've moved from one in three people to one in six people who
are hungry in the world."
     Participants also marked Bread for the World's 30th anniversary at
the National Press Club here June 21.  Lutherans and other members of
Bread for the World honored 30 "Hunger Heroes."  Among the heroes was the
ELCA World Hunger Program and its director, the Rev. John Halvorson,
Chicago; Cathy Brechtelsbauer, Sioux Falls, S.D.; and, Ed Payne, Maple
Grove, Minn.  Brechtelsbauer and Payne are members of the ELCA.  They are
longtime activists who coordinate Bread for the World activities in their
respective communities.
     On the last day of the gathering, Lutherans participated in "Lobby
Day" led by Bread for the World.  Lutherans met with members of Congress
to ask for a minimum of $2.5 billion for the Millennium Challenge
Account -- an effort to establish a new U.S. assistance program aimed at
reducing poverty in the world's poorest countries -- to provide $3.6
billion for global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria relief, and to make
no cuts in funding for ongoing humanitarian and development assistance
_ _ _

     Information about the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and Program is
maintained at on the Internet.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home