Steve Beumer, St. John, Winter Park, writes about the World Hunger gathering in Chicago in July, 2016
Over 130 World Hunger leaders gathered in Chicago during mid-July for a national meeting to discuss, learn and grow in our work for world hunger throughout the church. The Florida Bahamas Synod was blessed to have Jennifer Bednarz-Lohr, Florida-Bahamas Synod World Hunger Advocate; Marcee Strickland from Women of the ELCA, and myself. The four day event pulled together resources from World Hunger, Global Missions and Disaster Relief under a theme of “We Are Church For The Sake of the World”.
The first day focused on the release of a new book, The Forgotten Luther, that begins a broader discussion on why we have constant hunger, despite the church and many civil society’s efforts to feed people through food banks and farming. The book drew on immense resources of the history of our church in pointing out the economic inequities and the historic underpinning of the “Common Good” philosophy that has grounded Christianity since Jesus first put this concept forward.
The following days were filled with workshops, presentations and worship on every aspect of our work in this area. We learned of the ELCA’s commitment to make World Hunger a critical area of the Always Being Made New campaign. The Florida-Bahamas Synod has stepped up to support this effort with total donations toward World Hunger of over $116,000 so far this year.
How this money is spent was dramatically driven home with an afternoon spending time with various missionaries that shared how World Hunger dollars were being used in hundreds of projects that have real and defined impact on people’s lives. There was not enough time to hear all the amazing work being done around the world but each session seemed to lend itself to an even more amazing success story due to our World Hunger efforts.
The domestic work was also a critical part of the program. Several of the projects and programs of the World Hunger program were highlighted through presentations. The Florida-Bahamas Synod was privileged to share two of those to the entire group, our Hunger Experience dinner at the Synod Assembly and the World Hunger grant that was received by “God’s Fruits and Veggies”. A key part of this work is the advocacy portion that includes a presence with ELCA Advocacy office in Washington D.C. and several states, and the work being done, mainly by youth and young adults, at the United Nations. These legislative efforts are paying big dividends as they influence food policy and programs that provide local feeding programs.
Two highlights of the time together were presentations by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and our last evening meal together with a presentation by Bishop Jenson Seyenkulo of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. He shared with us how World Hunger money allowed them to stand firm during the recent Ebola crisis. One of our Lutheran hospitals was the only hospital in the country to stay open, serving anyone sick or injured in spite of the toll that Ebola had taken on the country.
Everyone left with a much deeper commitment to make this work a central part of each Synod and our team put together a list of goals that we will pursue during the upcoming year here in Florida. More information can be found on the amazing work being done for World Hunger by our church at: https://storify.com/ELCAWorldHunger/elca-world-hunger-leadership-gathering-16.