Joey Ekburg, Executive Director of the North Park Friendship Center, was never one to mince words. “We pay almost twice the amount for food, and we have more clients than ever before.” It took awhile for the words to sink in and the math to play out in my head. I was never great at math, but the implications were pretty obvious.
I looked over at the people sitting near the entrance, waiting to pick up food to make it through the week. I wondered what would happen if this food pantry were to run out of food or if the unthinkable were to happen — the Friendship Center suddenly shutting its doors.
The Albany Park neighborhood in Chicago has served as an entry point for generations of immigrant families, including my own. Many of them come to America looking for a fresh start. Sometimes that search becomes reduced to finding a fresh meal.
Food pantry volunteer Shirley Sears patiently walked a young woman through a series of questions on an application for emergency assistance. After they complete the form, Sears told the woman she has one more question.
"Is there anything," Sears asked, "that you would like us to pray with you about?"
Yes, the woman replied without hesitation. Reaching across the small desk that separates them, Sears grasped the woman's hands and began to pray.
That scene has been repeated thousands of times over the past 15 years inside this small, southern Indiana food pantry operated by non-profit Community Provisions of Jackson County.
This month, the practice was found to be against federal policy, leaving the pantry's founder with a Solomon-like choice: Stop the prayers or give up truckloads of free food provided through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.
On November 23, the Congressional Super Committee appointed to reduce the national deficit must decide where to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.
Many of their proposed cuts the Super Committee is contemplating strike fear in my soul -- a visceral forboding of injustice.
That's because the proposed billion-dollar cuts will affect after school tutoring programs, job training for unemployed adults, Head Start and child care programs, energy grants that help low-income families afford heat and many other programs that benefit the least of those among us.
It is for this reason that many organizers, parents, students, community leaders and people of faith will assemble across the nation at noon (in every time zone) on November 16 to form human circles of protection around the buildings of organizations and agencies that have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and are in jeopardy of losing essential funding from the federal government.
You don't need a ton of proof to know that more and more churches are struggling to survive. It seems churches that are in this predicament have one of two options: revive or die. There are a lot of books, seminars, and workshops given on how to go about reviving a church. However, there is not one cookie cutter, full-proof, and effective strategy in reviving a church. Having said that, it doesn't mean that it is impossible. There are many examples of struggling churches that have successfully revived the congregation, increased the health of the church, and expanded their ministry.
My family, while I was growing up, was not much for spring breaks. As other families we know flitted about preparing for palm trees and sand, my sister and I would pout and lament to my mother that we had the worst lives on the planet because we were not going to Florida. My Mom (and I now love her for this) really didn’t care. Her basic attitude was that we had more than enough adventure in our lives so suck it up and stop whining. Call another friend who stayed home and get out of the house.