Offerings Engage Young Activists, New Church Members
"Hunger is not a partisan issue."
Christina Starzack, a Bread activist and member of Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, CA, presented Bread for the World's 2011 Offering of Letters to Sunday school classes at her church in March. One class was particularly enthusiastic: the junior high group not only wrote more than 20 letters to their members of Congress, but volunteered to help with a church-wide Offering of Letters.
The next week, students set up a table with information and showed the 2011 Offering of Letters video, featuring stories of people in Haiti and Liberia who have been able to improve their lives with the help of U.S. foreign aid. Church members who stopped by the table wrote more than 100 letters.
Nearby, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church was also preparing for an Offering of Letters. Pastor Janet Hansted said that the church has been involved with Bread for a long time but there are many members who are fairly new, so "We were much more intentional this year about making sure everyone had a chance to learn about Bread and advocacy."
Holy Trinity congregant and Bread member Dixie Hanson invited Holly Hight, a Bread organizer for California, to speak during services and to an adult forum. "We learned more about the Offering of Letters for this year," Hansted said. "How it's important to look at what kinds of foreign assistance we're giving and how it's getting distributed, how we need to ensure it's used in the best way possible."
Hansted said that Holy Trinity members have a lot of friends who attend Ascension, "and there was a bit of playful competition on how many letters got written. So I think the combination of the two pushed up the total number of letters."
Pastor Tim Delkeskamp of Ascension said that one of the things he appreciates about Bread is its bipartisan approach. He added, "Our congregation has members who are conservative and members who are liberal, and sometimes they can be wary of each other. The Offering of Letters video and the presentations by Holly Hight really helped show that hunger is not a partisan issue, but an issue where we as people of faith are called to act."
Hansted said that most Holy Trinity letters went to the district's representative in the House. Members of the church are planning to meet with him to follow up the Offering, reiterating their hope that he will pay more attention to the needs of hungry and poor people.
Delkeskamp said the Offering was the first time that some Ascension worshippers had contacted their member of Congress. "It's easy for people to get disconnected from the political process and believe there's nothing they can do, except perhaps vote," he added.
Delkeskamp also thought that the Offering of Letters "came almost as a relief for some people. They might not have much money to spare, but they learned that there are still ways they can help hungry people, that their effort counts for something."