Children's Center
   In Memoriam


June 23, 2006

Offering of Letters addresses hunger

By Kelly Knox

Special to the Baptist Standard

WACO—Two-thirds of the people in the world live in extreme poverty, and Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco wants lawmakers to alleviate their suffering.

    For 20 years, Lake Shore has teamed up with Bread for the World, a faith-based advocacy organization seeking justice for the world’s hungry and impoverished.

    Lake Shore recently took part in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters, an event in which church members wrote legislators to express their opinions about international poverty.

Lake Shore Baptist Church member Jo Pendleton writes a letter to a legislator, expressing her views on how the United States should respond to issues of hunger and poverty.

    “Bread for the World has provided a way for Lake Shore members to actively participate in policy change, a level of change that could potentially affect large groups of people worldwide,” church member Kate Brennan Homiak said.

    “Bread for the World’s letter writing campaign engages church members of all ages to get involved. Children who cannot even write yet draw pictures to send to their representatives in Congress. Youth, alongside the adults, advocate through writing letters.”

    Jon Singletary, assistant professor in Baylor University’s School of Social Work and director of Baylor’s Center for Family and Community Ministries, said one of Bread for the World’s goals includes encouraging Congress and President Bush to keep the promises agreed on during the 2000 United Nations’ Millennium Summit.

    During the summit, 189 countries—including the U.S.—agreed upon a set of poverty-focused developmental goals to be reached by 2015.

    “These letters are symbolic of a tithe to God. They will help to shape Congress’ decisions, and they show our country’s legislators where our hearts and minds are,” Singletary said. “We must be mindful that we are part of a global economy.”

    Singletary, who has been a member of Bread for the World 10 years, led a group of Lake Shore youth to move from thinking about poverty to acting upon it.

    “What are the small things we can do here that could help make a difference over there” he asked the teenagers. “We could give food away, but we’d find the same people would keep coming back. So what can we do in the long run?”

    Last year, the United States had a federal budget of almost $3 trillion. A large percentage was spent on federal defense, Social Security and health care, he said.

    “But can you guess what percentage we spent addressing matters of international poverty?” he asked the teens.

    Guesses of 20 and 10 percent shot across the room until Singletary’s solemn voice broke the chatter.

    “We gave less than half of 1 percent,” he said. “In fact, of the 23 wealthiest countries in the world, we are 22nd or last when it comes to providing poverty-focused developmental assistance.”

    Singletary proposed the youth join with other Lake Shore members in writing Congress to encourage a $5 billion increase in foreign operations spending for fiscal year 2007.

    The $5 billion would go a long way toward establishing infrastructures such as clean water, basic sanitation, roads, schools and hospitals in the world’s poorest countries, he said. As a result, he continued, people in poor nations can strengthen their own economy and meet their own needs.

    Singletary discovered adults in the church also were concerned about poverty and injustice.

    “We have a mandate to care for the poor, and in that, there is no political boundary. Our government waves the flag and the cross interchangeably for political gain, but our policies don't always live up to our rhetoric,” member Emily Fau said.*

    Fau noted Lake Shore’s members long have supported Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters campaign.

    “The congregation is deeply invested in this project and ask about it if they think that the time is getting near but haven’t yet heard any information about it,” Pastor Dorisanne Cooper said. “And just when you think it might have slipped under people’s radar, you walk in to see the letter basket in our hallway filled with letters.”

    Since Lake Shore first began partnering with Bread for the World, members have noticed Christians are doing more to look at issues of global poverty and sustainable development.

    “We’re doing things in that we’re having these kinds of conversations and acting on them,” Singletary said. “People are coming together in new and exciting ways like with the ONE Campaign. Diverse peoples who wouldn’t want to be in the same room with one another are signing the same document to say, ‘Let’s make poverty history.’”

    Seth Wispelwey, regional organizer for the ONE Campaign for Bread for the World, said he has seen a tremendous increase in efforts to eradicate poverty since he came to work for Bread in November 2004.

    “People who participate find hand-writing letters empowering and exciting. It’s great to see the energy sparked so much last year continue in so many places rather than just fizzle out,” Wispelwey said. “It was really exciting at the end of last year to see Bread letters help turn the tide in stopping seemingly inevitable cuts to food stamp programs for the 2006 budget.”

    Cooper believes addressing international poverty is the church’s responsibility.

“We don’t see it as partisan work, but simply as one piece of our attempt to try and follow Jesus’ unmistakable call to care for the poor,” she said.

    For more information about Bread for the World’s 2006 Offering of Letters, visit www. bread.org.

Knox is a senior social work major and journalism minor at Baylor University.
*text in the original article has been corrected.


Lake Shore Baptist Church
5801 Bishop Drive
Waco, Texas 76710

Tel.: (254) 772-2910
Fax: (254) 772-2914


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