Friday, January 30, 2009

"How to feed the hungry billion" -- the Christian Science Monitor

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor.

Before the global economic crisis, there was the global food crisis. Last year, soaring prices for basic foods sparked riots in about 30 countries. In June, the UN held a summit to tackle it. In July, the G-8 pledged to act. But in the fall, the floor fell out from the financial markets. Now, like a mountain of maize, countries' economic worries threaten to bury their concerns about rising world hunger.

Food prices have eased on global markets, but they remain high in many countries. Price volatility, the credit crunch, and shrinking coffers (both private and government) are making it harder for farmers to get loans to invest and plant.

At a follow-up conference on hunger this week, the United Nations announced that 40 million people joined the ranks of the "undernourished" in 2008, bringing the number of hungry people to nearly 1 billion – or roughly 1 in 7. Yet donor nations have delivered only a trickle of the $22 billion they pledged last year.

Meanwhile, food production must double by 2050 to head off mass hunger amid a global population surge from 6.5 billion to 9 billion, the UN said.

The world can solve this problem. In the 1960s, a technological "green revolution" in grain yields, irrigation, and fertilizers greatly increased food production, especially in Asia. Allowing communal farmers to earn and trade privately went a long way to alleviate hunger in post-Mao China. And economic growth and social programs have helped in Latin America.

But Africa stands stubbornly off the track of agricultural progress, and hunger still plagues many countries in South Asia. Climate change is expected to exacerbate production problems in these places, and once the world economy begins to recover, expect food prices to rise again as demand increases and more food is diverted to bio-fuels.

Once again, the world knows how to respond, but will it?

Tackling climate change, ending wars, and reducing agricultural subsidies that clog trade channels are three overarching needs. But they are also difficult to achieve.

Relatively quick and substantial progress can be made if nations rededicate themselves to international aid for agriculture, which has dropped from 13 percent of all development aid in the early 1980s to only 3 percent now. They must also better coordinate among themselves and with nonprofits.

Simply improving food storage could increase production by 30 to 40 percent in many poor countries, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Building roads could get more goods to market. In sub-Saharan Africa, just 4 percent of arable land is irrigated, compared with 38 percent in Asia.

Research needs a boost, too, as adapting pests, for instance, erode yields over time.

The FAO estimates that only $30 billion per year, invested in farm infrastructure and production, could eradicate the root causes of world hunger by 2025. That compares with the $825 billion stimulus package that the US Congress is debating.

Last summer, political momentum was building behind a UN effort to increase agri-aid, focus on small farmers, and better coordinate antihunger efforts. The momentum must be maintained.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Want to Volunteer?" -- by Meredith Bowen

Want to Volunteer?

I just read one of the recent blog entries and it reminded me that the whole purpose of Episcopalians’ for Global Reconciliation is to inspire people to do what they can – to find out What One Person Can Do and to revel in the amazing effects that One Person can have on the world.

I, in turn, felt inspired to offer some ideas about getting involved. I am currently the Volunteer Coordinator for the Foundation for African Medicine and Education. We have had a flurry of activity recently at the FAME Clinic in Karatu, Tanzania – with visiting doctors and nurses. These docs and nurses volunteer their time for a few weeks a year, helping to bring medical care to those in need.

Are you a doctor? A nurse? Have a few weeks to volunteer? Check out

Not a doctor or a nurse, but have some time to volunteer? Always wanted to volunteer in a foreign country? Or right here at home in the US? Then GO FOR IT!!! The internet is at your finger tips, waiting to offer suggestions. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Find a project that inspires you to jump in and help out!

As we embark on 2009, I challenge you to volunteer. Here are some of our recent volunteers – inspiring you to DO WHAT YOU CAN!!!

Meredith Bowen -is a student at law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, spending the fall semester in Arusha, Tanzania doing an internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Has volunteered in Tanzania with the Rift Valley Childrens Village (an orphanage) as well as with the Anglican Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Diocese of Tanga. Started the African Orphan Education Fund to award scholarships for secondary school and university.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Role of Government" -- by John Hammock

Up until just a few weeks ago, growth, spurred by the private sector and the market, was the centerpiece of development thinking. If you believe that growth in the economy will benefit everyone in the end, why would you need government services to serve the poor? Well, hand in hand with an unwavering faith in economic growth has been a move to “let the economy do it.”

There has been a full frontal attack on the role of the state—by those who believe that privatization is best and government should downsize. These suggestions have been made where healthcare has been concerned and it has not worked. The Millennium Project points out that for the last 20 years there has been a focus on the producer-consumer, privatized and fee-for-service model to improve systemic health care issues. Governments have asserted that there would be programs to help the most poor to procure healthcare, while others would buy healthcare services. However, this has not been effective at providing health care for all and one of the major barriers facing women who die due to maternal health issues continues to be access to affordable healthcare. Subsequently, the Millennium Project advocates making fundamental changes to the way health care reforms have been conceptualized by highlighting the importance of government.

The state is the only body that can look beyond private interests and keep an eye on the needs, rights and responsibilities of all citizens. It does not have a mandate to profit and should not become tired of serving the public. It is the responsibility of the state to regulate corporations and ensure that society is meeting the needs of all its members.

Government has a strong role to play in poverty reduction. This flies in the face of the dominant neo-liberal economic ideology that calls for government to cut services and to downsize. Some suggest that civil society can pick up the slack where governments have become inactive. That’s misguided thinking. Private charity, including Church charirity, is not enough—not enough money and not enough sustainability. NGOs do not have the resources that governments do. Additionally, they do not often have country-wide strategies for poverty reduction, rather they are locally based or focused. One NGO, with the best of intentions, may arrive in a country and build a number of clinics in one area and another NGO may come in and build a few clinics in another area. While it may be positive to increase the number of clinics in a country, this activity could be inefficient or scattered and thus ineffective. If NGOs are not working as part of a coordinated health approach that helps to meet an overall strategy for health care in the country, their activity may not be meeting the country’s needs. And this coordination must come from a national or state body has that has political legitimacy.

Additionally, if NGO, church, corporate or individual efforts to help others is based on benevolence or charity, it’s going to work for a day or two and maybe even a number of years. However, when that NGO, corporation or individual gets tired of giving, decides it wants to give for something else or its donors pull the funds, then the charity is going to end and those resources will leave. And then what? Do we just tell a community that its healthcare isn’t important enough to sustain? So the issue is how to build programs that are sustainable over time. The answer is to work to ensure that governments have the ability to strengthen and sustain their own systems and to provide the policy incentives and frameworks for private as well as public services. Yes, this is harder than just donating money to a local nonprofit. Yes, this is a mind change about working with governments rather than only putting our faith in the private sector—profit or non-profit.. And yes, it’s easy to say and incredibly tough to do. However, if real change is going to occur, it’s what we have to do.

Governments do not have to be wealthy to provide the context for human development and services that will cut poverty and help to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Money is important, but it is not the only thing required. Government will and policies are as important, if not more important, than funding.

Maternal mortality is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia and lowest in industrialized countries like the United States. However, one shouldn’t assume that just because a country is in the Global South, it is destined for a high maternal mortality rate. The case of Cuba, a country with 33 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, when other countries in Latin America are in the 100s, shows that it is possible for a developing country to successfully implement a maternal health strategy. It is hard to use Cuba as an example, since political ideology gets wrapped up into the discussion before one even finishes mentioning the country’s name. And we are certainly not advocating for the Cuban system of government. However, Cuba has done a good job at using limited funds in a way that responds to maternal health needs. In 1990, when the Soviet Union fell, Cuba lost its largest trading partner as well as a large amount of economic assistance, totaling an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Although the government cut its overall spending dramatically, it did not drop education and health completely and still considered health a priority for the country’s budget. It’s expenditure of 6.5% of GDP on health shows political will to keep the health system strong. Other countries that spend 6.5% of GDP on health include Canada and Switzerland. Political will and resulting government decisions on money, even in poor countries, can greatly impact maternal health and social services in general.

1 UN Millennium Project, Who’s Got the Power, 39-41.
2 Ibid., 109.
3 See Ibid., 102 for a chart on the renovations of country health systems that are suggested in order to make systems work better for maternal health.
4 See statistics for individual countries at UNICEF, Information by Country, Statistics Pages:
5 United States International Trade Commission. The Economic Impact of U.S. Sanctions With Respect to Cuba, Washington D.C., February 2001, USITC Publication 3398, 3-8 (78). (Accessed December 23, 2005.)
6 Acosta, Dalia. 2002. “HEALTH-CUBA: Maternal-Infant Mortality Down Despite Crisis.” Inter Press Service, January 16, 2002. (Accessed December 23, 2005.)
7 United Nations Development Program. Human Development Report 2005: International Cooperation at a Crossroads: Aid Trade and Security in an Unequal World. “Human Development Indicators: Table 6: Commitment to health: resources, access and services,” 236.
8 Ibid.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"The Millennium Village Project--Mayange Drought" -- Reynolds Whalen

Reynolds Whalen is living in Rwanda working for Millennium Congregation, linking congregations with the work of Millennium Villages Project in that nation. His work is chronicling the work going on there and he will be posting regular videos to this blog. Here's his first, about the drought in Mayange, Rwanda and the work of the Millennium Villages Project to address it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Inauguration Day" -- by Craig Cole

Sunday night I was driving back fromour church home group on Interstate 66 headed east from Haymarket to Fairfax, VA. The big neon traffic signs reminded all drivers that there would be delays on Tuesday because of the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barak Obama. On Tuesday all the bridges from Northern Virginia into the District will be closed and security will be tight. There is an exciting buzz of anticipation for change.

Living near Washington, D.C. there is this ever present aura of self-importance and power. In the end this can be a self-fulfilling delusion or illusion that keeps real change from happening. As individuals we become our own personal saviors. We believe we can make things happen on our own power. We make decisions based on measurable goals and become blind with ambition as we network with other high-powered people convincing them our plan is the best one. In this area of the world, we sometimes look at the government as an entity that bestows salvation. The government will fix the economic crisis, health care and education. With a few consultants and a lot of money, we start to believe the federal government will save us. Technology becomes another savior. A faster computer, a more energy efficient car, robots to clean the house and will be well with the world.

As Christians we can’t replace God with these false idols. Only God can save us. And it is through individuals that God performs this miracle using flawed sinners like Moses, King David, and in our time, Martin Luther King, Jr. In Acts 4, the Apostles are called uneducated and ordinary. Yet they changed the world!

The theme of Episcopalians for Reconciliation is What Can One Person Do? The reason I serve on the EGR board is that question is powerfully liberating. The follow up question is, “What is God Calling me to do?” It is a question we must ask ourselves this inauguration day

Are you being called to be the next Moses, the next Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or are you called to be the person who makes sure the elderly neighbors have enough to eat and heat in their homes on a cold wintry day.

This inauguration day is about change and a new future. Use this day to inaugurate change in your own life. Ask God through prayer and reading the scriptures to set a call on your life. So you may find out what you can do to further God’s mission and to change lives for the better.

Craig Cole is the Executive director of Five Talents International, an Anglican microfinance nonprofit, a member of Diocese of Virginia's Mission Commission and an EGR board member.

"Episcopal Relief and Development offers 2009 Lenten Devotional"

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has published its 2009 Lenten Devotional, Peace and Compassion: To Heal a Hurting World, which features daily meditations adapted from the Rev. Barbara C. Crafton's Almost-Daily Emos.

"The reflections lead readers to explore their spiritual connections to people living in poverty around the world," an ERD release said. "Focusing on Episcopal Relief and Development's efforts to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the devotional offers ways for parishioners to promote health, fight disease and save lives through the MDG Inspiration Fund."

For the first time, the devotional is available in Spanish and can be downloaded here.

Last year, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared the first Sunday in Lent, as the first annual commemoration of Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday. Jefferts Schori is again encouraging Episcopalians in congregations across the country to use the first Sunday in Lent to engage with Episcopal Relief and Development during this traditional season of almsgiving.

"As Lent begins, I encourage you to include Episcopal Relief and Development in your giving as you consider how to care more deeply for those in need," said Jefferts Schori. "Episcopal Relief and Development's work with disasters, from Gaza to Costa Rica, and ongoing development work, from Honduras to Tanzania, is care-filled and effective."

A bulletin insert with additional information about Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday, February 28, is available here.

"Lent is an ideal time for us to renew our commitment to our faith and each other," said Brian Sellers-Peterson, Episcopal Relief and Development's director of Church Engagement Programs. "During this season of prayer and self-examination we hope that the Lenten Devotional will encourage Episcopalians to reflect on the role of God's grace in our lives and how we may act as instruments of God's healing in a hurting world."

Lenten Devotionals and other resources should be ordered by Monday, February 16 to ensure delivery by Ash Wednesday. To order copies of the devotionals, call Episcopal Books and Resources at 1-800-903-5544 or visit

To help Episcopal Relief and Development achieve the Millennium Development Goals, visit, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development, "MDG Inspiration Fund" PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Maize in Mombassa" -- from the "One Dollar Diet Project"

Today's post introduces you to a wonderful blog -- the "One Dollar Diet Project." It's the chronicle of two social justice teachers who decided to eat on one dollar a day. They did it for one month (you can look in the archives for that month's posts) and have continued to blog on global poverty -- including their recent trip to east Africa. The blog also contains "dollar a day recipes" and a food cost index. They do not recommend anyone try this experiment, by the way, because "it isn't health and could be dangerous." Which tells you something about the people who have to eat on a dollar a day. Here is their latest post.

Having spent the last few days in the coastal town of Mombassa in Kenya, I have borne witness (once again) to the reality of third-world poverty. In speaking with teachers here, whose students receive nourishment twice a day in the form of a wheat based porridge, it is clear the poverty here is far different from that in the United States.

Jane Omondi teaches fifth grade at the Kelegeni Primary School, a place where over 1,000 students are taught by just under a dozen teachers. Most of the students are orphans, and what little food they receive comes from an outside assistance program.

“Kenya is not a poor country, it is a mismanaged country,” Omondi said.

This is evident by the fact that government leaders rake in an annual salary of 800k shillings, while children starve in overcrowded school rooms.

To make matters worse, a teacher’s strike looms. Primary school teachers here are underpaid, and unwilling to take the government’s raise offer of 250 shillings. To give you an idea of how pathetic the gesture is, Maize-flour (a staple here in Kenya) is 120 shillings a pound (about$1.50).

The idea that these folks could do anything to overcome the situation is more than far-fetched. The city is crowded, school fees for secondary education are high, and jobs are few. This situation leads to higher levels of crime, and is an obstacle to overall safety and security.

For those with money, Mombassa offers resorts and golf courses, movie theaters and large grocery stores. For those without, there is burning trash, and bare feet.

While our economy is hurting, being here puts things in perspective.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"AIDS battle burnishes Bush's legacy in Africa" -- Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - In her AIDS-scarred South African township, Sweetness Mzolisa leads a chorus of praise for George W. Bush that echoes to the deserts of Namibia, the hills of Rwanda and the villages of Ethiopia.

Like countless Africans, Mzolisa looks forward to Barack Obama becoming America's first black president Jan 20. But — like countless Africans — Mzolisa says she will always be grateful to Bush for his war on AIDS, which has helped to treat more than 2 million Africans, support 10 million more, and revitalize the global fight against the disease.

"It has done a lot for the people of South Africa, for the whole of the African continent," says Mzolisa, a feisty mother of seven. "It has changed so many people's lives, saved so many people's lives."

Mzolisa, 44, was diagnosed with the AIDS virus in 1999 and formed a women's support group to "share the pain." In 2004 she received a U.S. grant to set up office in a shipping container and start a soup kitchen from the group's vegetable garden. She stretches her $10,000 in annual funding to train staff to look after bedridden AIDS victims, feed and clothe orphans, and do stigma-busting work at schools and taxi ranks.

Hundreds of projects get funding

Hundreds of similar small grass-roots projects are being funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, alongside higher-profile charities and big state clinics.

Bush launched the $15 billion plan in 2003 to expand prevention, treatment and support programs in 15 hard-hit countries, 12 of them African, which account for more than half the world's estimated 33 million AIDS infections. The initiative tied in with a World Health Organization campaign to put 3 million people on AIDS drugs by 2005 — a goal it says was reached in 2007.

Congress last year passed legislation more than tripling the budget to $48 billion over the next five years, with Republicans and Democrats alike hailing the program as a remarkable success.

But the task remains enormous. More than 1.5 million Africans died in 2007 (the U.S. death toll is under 15,000), fewer than one-third had access to treatment, and new infections continued to outstrip those receiving life-prolonging drugs.

In most African countries, life expectancy has dropped dramatically, and only a few, like Botswana, have started to turn the corner again.

And with no end in sight to the global financial crisis, there are fears about whether all the funding approved by Congress will be delivered.

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"What's up with the myrrh?" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

"On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

We know the story so well we never stop to question it. The three kings come into the stable, kneel down before the baby and present the gifts. And Mary, beaming beatifically, nods in humble appreciation.

But I've gotta think that's not the way things really happened.

I'll allow that maybe Mary didn't completely freak out when three strange men burst into the room. You figure having lived through an angel surprising you while you're doing dishes makes you harder to faze than most.

And I'll even believe that Mary was pretty pleased with the first two gifts. This is not only a faithful woman, but a practical one. There's no way she would have made it as far as she had if she weren't.

So you can almost read her mind as she opens them

"Gold? I can use that. No more "no room at the inn" for us!"

"Frankincense? Hmmm. Not your traditional shower gift, but I can sell that ... and besides it spruces up the scent of this barn."

By now she's got to be excited. What's behind Door #3? The strange man gives her a box and she opens it to find?

Dried tree sap.

I'll bet anything the look on Mary's face wasn't beatific beaming, but that trying-to-be-polite-while-hiding-your-confusion-and-wondering-what-the-heck-this-is look. Perhaps the king, being wise, even sensed her confusion and said, "It's myrrh," which either didn't help this simple woman from Galilee at all or completely creeped her out because of its use in anointing the dead.

And with a sweet, polite, slightly confused smile, and while being grateful for the love and attention, she thinks to herself:

"What's up with the myrrh?"

EGR is a movement fueled by myrrh.

Let me explain. One of our organizational principles comes from the school where my wife teaches and my kids attend. It's called "You cant say, "You can't play.'" For us it means that we believe God calls everyone to this movement, and at EGR you'll find no gatekeepers saying your gifts aren't welcome here.

Everyone gets to play. Sometimes we have to work to find where the call is, what the gifts are and where they can be best used ... but we know that God has gifted everyone for mission, so refusing a gift offered is never an option.

When this filters down to the parish level it is even more powerful. You probably know the 80-20 rule ... 80% of the work, giving, etc. is done by 20% of the people. Part of that is we ride our good horses to death, but part of it also is too often someone offers a gift that seems strange (or someone who seems strange offers a gift) and we say "sorry, you can't play."

I heard Trinity, Wall Street rector Jim Cooper say once that you can do more to grow your church by changing 80/20 to 70/30 than by bringing in a hundred new people. He's right.

Mary probably didn't know it at the time, but as strange and borderline creepy as it was, the myrrh was by far the most valuable of the three gifts -- literally worth more than its weight in gold. Despite its bitter taste it was a key ingredient in some of the most beautiful and expensive perfumes. And being a smart and faithful woman, I'll bet she figured it out and put it to good use.

When you're looking to start or grow a mission of global reconciliation through engagement with the Millennium Development Goals in your congregation, look for the people who haven't been asked to play ... or maybe have offered their gifts and have been told "you can't play." God has gifted them, too.

And often the strangest-seeming gifts are the keys to the most beautiful and valuable results.

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Fuel prices have fallen back. Will we fall back, too?" -- by the Rev. Lauren R. Stanle. W

In the midst of this humongous economic mess, when all of us are fretting constantly about our futures, there’s a glimmer of hope in our lives: The price of gas has fallen to incredible lows, which means that at least one thing we have to buy won’t cost us an arm and a leg.

Just the other day, I managed to buy gas for $1.44 a gallon. If I had purchased fuel a few days earlier, I could have gotten it for $1.39 per gallon.

Every time I tank up – and I have to do that a lot, because I travel long distances, usually by car – I marvel at how cheap it is. I can fill the tank for less than $20!

And to think, just last summer, it cost me nearly $40 for the same amount of fuel.

Am I glad about this? Absolutely.

But I’m also somewhat confused and very worried.

First, the confusion:

Why, pray tell, did the price of gas, and of oil overall, skyrocket so much last summer? There were all kinds of explanations, but few wanted to admit that for the most part, speculation and greed were to blame.

Now, can anyone explain exactly why the prices are so low? Oil closed recently around $39 per barrel. OPEC, under the leadership of the King of Saudi Arabia, thinks that $75 per barrel would be the best price. They made that announcement and prices fell yet again.

So what’s going on?

Second, the worry, which is far more important:

What are we going to do about it?

I’m not talking about getting into oil futures. I’m talking about what each of us is going to do, now that gas is practically dirt cheap again. Are we going to go back to driving our cars far too much, without a care about the environment anymore? Are people who drive gas-guzzlers of all kinds, the ones that couldn’t be sold just six months ago, going to resume driving them, using way too much gas?

Or are we going to continue our gas-saving ways, walking more, using public transportation, thinking hard about where we need to go and where we want to go and how to bundle trips so that we aren’t wasting gas frivolously?

Good times are here again, at least when it comes to fuel prices, but that doesn’t give us the right to take it and run without thinking. When it cost us an arm and a leg to fill our tanks, we immediately went into environmental consciousness mode. We were energy conscious. We used less gas. We were, in a word, good to God’s very good creation.

But now, with ridiculously low prices at the fuel pump, we’re at the very least tempted to forget all we learned during economic hardship and go back to our wasteful ways.

We’ve had our warning. We’ve received our blessing.

Now the question is, what are we going to do with them?


The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy, Biblical Greek and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Millennium Development Goal #8 
Create a Global Partnership for Development" -- by John Miers

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, 
will draw all people to myself." 
- John 12:32
"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics," observed Plutarch, the 1st-century Greek historian. This was nearly 2000 years ago. Some attribute this quote to Plato, who also lived in that era.

It is very interesting how it is still true today; it applies to all imbalances – near and far, rich and poor, east and west, and over here and over there. Our planet is truly an “eco-sphere,” where the actions of one group will have ramifications upon many others. These ramifications may be immediate or widespread, or they may not occur for decades or may be tightly focused. Many are not predictable. It is important to look at any and all of our actions in the light of what they may cause – or not cause – elsewhere. This is not normally done; it requires a new way of thinking for most people. This goal realizes this, and calls on us to all work together.

Last month I wrote about the MDG goal #7, which is “Ensure Environmental Sustainability.” That goal is a perfect example of how we need to partner with each other, and how we as Christians need to look beyond our borders, and do what is right – for everyone. We are all inter-connected, in many minor yet powerful ways. With our world changing quickly, this inter-connected-ness can do nothing except tighten up. We are indeed going to be all together in the future.

I was struck by the book entitled “Six Degrees of Separation,” in which it is theorized that any person on the Earth can be linked to any other person through no more than six others. Each person has many acquaintances, and each of them knows many others, etc. There was also a video on TV (and downloadable) where multiple randomly selected people around the world were asked to get a package to a doctor in Boston. It shows how this occurs from the South Pacific, from Africa, from South America, from Europe. Sure enough, most make it to Boston on no more than six exchanges. It is explained that we all have multiple circles of acquaintances, and our acquaintances all have circles of their own. The way to really move a message – or a concern – is to move from one of these circles completely to another. This science is now known as “networking.”

It is powerful to get the same message from different directions, and it lends credence to the opinion. It also gets distributed much more broadly, and faster. All of these desirable qualities are enhanced by this networking. Today’s blog is about MDG #8, which is to “Create a Global Partnership for Development.” Having these Global Partnerships are doubly important: first, these partnerships ensure that multiple viewpoints and needs are considered when decisions are made. Some of them may not be immediately obvious, but they are none-the-less important. Secondly, the partnership will also ensure that the decision will be carried wherever it is needed and necessary. This networking will not only gather the information about the various needs, but it will get the answers to where they are most needed.

Having this done through a partnership and not just some hierarchical system will also help ensure that the right decisions are made and properly implemented. This is truly and example of where more is better: The more eyes that have considered a problem or goal, particularly ones as important as the MDGs, the higher will be the probability that the goal will be met or that the problem will be solved. The more partnerships and people who are involved will ensure that the maximum number of issues will be considered, from the maximum number of perspectives.

Creating this “Global Partnership for Development” goal was a very wise decision. While the other issue-specific goals are important, the fact that this process-specific goal is the final one implies that the others all need to be implemented, and it was clearly believed that a global partnership was the way to do it the most effectively.

This is the way that we reach out to one another, working together in sharing what has been given to each of us. Networking will allow many voices to be focused on these issues. Working together will allow us all to work on these problems. It also says in the book of Matthew that “What you have done unto the least of them, you have done to me.” We can solve these problems.

John Miers is from Bethesda, Maryland, where he was employed at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 2005. He serves on the board of St. Luke’s House, a halfway house for persons recovering from mental illness and also serves as Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Washington. He was a member of National Commission on Science, Technology and Faith for the Episcopal Church and is active in his local church, where he is in the choir, worship committee, pastoral care committee, and the prayer team, and he also visits patients in a local hospital on behalf of the Chaplain.

"This morning's GOE question -- how would you answer it?"

This morning's open-resource question for the General Ordination Exams asks to choose a MDG ...

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger .
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Create a global partnership for development with targets for aid, trade and debt relief.

and give the biblical and theological foundations for addressing it ... as well as to talk about the
contributions TEC can make toward it and what political, economic, and cultural factors need to be taken into account at the parish and the diocesan levels?


Be sure and check out this page from the EGR website and also the links above to all the individual MDG pages.

For an excellent exposition of how the MDGs are a natural 21st century incarnation of the mission trajectory of the church, click here and read the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas' excellent piece Why Should We As Christians Care About the MDGs.

How would you answer this question?

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Harbingers of Truth" -- by the Rev. Becca Stevens

I was walking in the beautiful woods in North Carolina when a crow's caw caught my attention. The crow has a distinct and familiar song,but this old crow, sitting in a low branch sang a strange new song. It had more notes, and it sounded almost backwards. It was startling and brought me from my day dream into the power and presence of the woods I was walking in.

The crow is known as a harbinger of truth, so to hear him sing a new song made me think about hearing a new truth that shifts the other truths that live in us to make room for a new one. It is similar to the heart shifting and making room for a new baby. The new truth becomes part of all the other truths we have already let sink into our hearts. There are many thoughts in the world, only some sink in past our thick skin, a smaller amount moves past our cynical thoughts, and only one in a million make it beyond the boarders of our guarded hearts and take residence in the sacred place that is our moral ground. That is the place that influences our actions and moves us to act in faith without fear.

The old crow with the new song reminded me of the great gift of new and deep truth that broadens and expands our horizons. Learning new truth is what makes the gospels a living world and our faith such a joy. The truth comes to all of us, not like a nice finished piece of art, but like a tapestry, made from the thousands of threads sewn together from fragmented memories and bits of insight. It takes a patience and prayer to weave the pieces together into a work of art in progress. Each tapestry is as unique as the fingerprints on the hands of the weaver. The piece,if made well, gets more intricate and bigger for the truth seekers. To be such a truth seeker is a high, artistic pursuit, it is not for the faint of heart or hand.

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus has finished his time at the temple, he has confronted the religious authorities who claim to hold the truth, and he knows the plot to kill him has begun. He is two days from his arrest after the Passover and he goes to the Mount of Olives with his disciples to conclude his teachings. He is preparing them for the lives they will have to lead without him in their presence. They will kill him for all the new truths he is speaking with authority and for all the people he is drawing towards himself. So he speaks to them in parables and tells them stories to assure them that he is with them, that they should not be afraid even though they don't know what is coming, and that they need to go back out into the world, trim their lamps, carry more oil, share their talents, and rejoice in the new spirit that will lead them into truth.

He tells them not to have the attitude of the Sadducees about religious tradition that refuses to change, develop or grow. They bury the truth in the ground, with no light and no growth and so it will miss the joy of growing and flourishing in the world. It is written on stone, not on hearts of flesh that change as they beat in the world. We cannot hold on to what we feel comfortable with, or what reassures in changing times or a hard economic forecast, this is when we have to listen to the gospels anew, hear the song of the crow again, and make room to learn new things and share the message with the world that needs to hear it.

Howard Thurman, a wonderful theologian of the 20th century, talks about the loneliness of the truth seeker that keeps moving beyond all boundaries and boarders to larger spaces and places where we are challenged again to hear God's calling anew. The crow's new song is a great symbol of the gift of allowing new truth to weave its way into our broad tapestry and share it as part of the unfolding story of the truth of our lives.

This week Roy stopped me in the hallway. Roy is sometimes homeless, sometimes living with a friend, and he has graced this community for several years now. I have known Roy for a long time, but mostly we just talk in passing, and he always reminds me that he prays for me and my family. Sometimes he tells stories about the police or his health or some injustice that has occurred in his life. And sometimes I don't pay attention; it's like the crow's voice that drowns into the noise of the woods themselves. But this time when he was walking by he said, "Becca, do you know what to pray for?" And like the strange song of the crow in North Carolina, I was startled and stopped in my tracks. I almost didn't understand the question, but the clarity of the question coming from my old acquaintance, made me take it very seriously. "I don't know Roy; I don't know what to pray for sometimes." "You need to pray for truth. Then you need to preach the truth you learn. If you pray for God's truth and then teach us what you learn, we all grow. You don't remember how young you were when you started" he said, "but I remember, you didn't know what you were doing. God has been kind to you. You need to keep praying for God's spirit to lead you."

I am grateful to the crow and I am grateful to Roy and I am grateful for Howard Thurman, all reminders to be open to new truth in our lives and to be reformed in God's love. I want my tapestry to grow and be a more loving piece. I want your tapestry to weave new images so that you can love better. It means we have to take the truths we know, and risk them and seek new truth. Pray for truth, let it take root and blossom in your heart, let it weave into the fabric of your life in practical ways, and then preach it, so we all grow and share in the joy of the kingdom.

The Rev. Becca Stevens is a priest, author, rector of St. Augustine's Church in Nashville, TN and founder of Magdalene House. She has worked with her parish to found a school in Ecuador and with the women of Magdalene to build relationships and cottage industries in Rwanda. Read her bio here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

“Millennium Villages in Rwanda are turning the page on poverty” by The Rev. Jay Lawlor

When most people think of Rwanda they recall the tragic genocide of 1994. The genocide should never be forgotten and we must always be looking to how we can foster greater justice, compassion, and reconciliation in our world so such tragedies can be avoided. Nonetheless, Rwanda has spent the past 14 years journeying from the genocide to become a nation of reconciliation and one deeply committed to eradicating poverty. Rwanda's President Kagame and its Parliament have made significant commitments toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. A critical component of Rwanda's MDG strategy is their partnership with the Millennium Villages Project.

The Millennium Villages Project was founded by Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his team at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is managed by the Earth Institute and the Millennium Promise Alliance (Millennium Promise). The Millennium Villages Project is based on a single powerful idea: impoverished villages can transform themselves and meet the Millennium Development Goals if they are empowered with proven, powerful, practical technologies. Millennium Villages offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to ending extreme poverty as they explicitly address all eight of the MDGs in every village. By investing in health, food production, education, access to clean water, micro-enterprise, and essential infrastructure, these community-led interventions are enabling impoverished villages to escape extreme poverty once and for all.

Rather than a “hand-out,” Millennium Villages are a “hand-up.” Once these communities get a foothold on the bottom rung of the development ladder they are equipped to propel themselves on a path of self-sustaining economic growth.

In November 2008, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a leading British think-tank, released the results of an independent review of the Millennium Villages project (the full report is available on ODI's website) In its report, the ODI states that the MVP has achieved “remarkable results” and has “demonstrated the impact of greater investment in evidence-based, low-cost interventions at the village level to make progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.” In response to the report, the Financial Times declared on its front page “Village project thrives.”

Also in the news, on November 11, 2008 the New York Times ran an article about Millennium Promise in its special giving section. In highlighting the Millennium Villages’ work to end extreme poverty, the article opens by saying, “Even amid widespread angst over withered portfolios and a rocky economy, some Americans remain committed to helping the poorest of the poor.” In the article, one of the projects most visionary supporters, George Soros, says about the MVP, “It can be a model for bringing about systemic change,” and “if it can be scaled up, it will make a very big difference.”

A shining example of this amazing project is the Millennium Village in Rwanda, headed by Dr. Josh Ruxin. The Millennium Village cluster in Rwanda is located in Mayange, a sector of Bugesera District located about 25 miles south of the capital city of Kigali. In a country known as the “pays des milles collines” (“land of 1,000 hills”), the terrain around Mayange is flatter and drier than most of Rwanda. The area suffers from sporadic rainfall and declining soil fertility, leading to endemic poverty, illness, and a lack of economic opportunity. The project began working with an initial 5,000 people in Kagenge, one of Mayange's five subdivisions, or cells as they are referred to in Rwanda, in early 2006. The population was facing impending famine because of failing rains and a poor harvest the year before, and the health center was severely lacking in staff, medicines, equipment, and supplies, and had no electricity or running water. Today, the Millennium Village in Rwanda is turning the page on poverty.

By applying targeted, science-based interventions and maximizing community leadership and participation, the villagers of Mayange went from chronic hunger to a bumper harvest in 2006. Malaria incidence has been almost eliminated, the health clinic is booming with patients who know they'll receive good care and treatment, and children now have electricity and a computer lab at school. In under three years, Mayange is being transformed. PBS' FronlineWorld has produced a segment on the MVP's success in Rwanda (watch the rough cut online here).

It is because the Millennium Village model is proving so successful in achieving all eight of the Millennium Development Goals that I have founded Millennium Congregations to help communities of faith learn about, advocate for, and partner with Millennium Villages in Rwanda. The excitement and interest around Millennium Congregations' work with Millennium Villages is building. As you may have read in his recent blog entry, Reynolds Whalen arrived in Rwanda this past December to document the stories of the people in the Millennium Village for Millennium Congregations. The videos will become powerful witnesses of all that is being achieved and all that is possible. The good work of Millennium Villages in Rwanda offers communities of faith a very practical, proven, and concrete way to develop partnerships in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Please visit the Millennium Congregations website to learn more and sign-up for news on how you and your congregation can support our work and partner with the Millennium Villages Project in Rwanda.
The Rev. Jay Lawlor is a priest and economist. He has worked with Jeffery Sachs and the Earth Institute on the MDGs and is currently living in North Carolina and founding an interfaith nonprofit aimed at getting faith communities involved in the Millennium Villages Project.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Let’s savour our successes in the midst of bad times" -- by Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs

This article was published on the website of Business Daily Africa.

At a time when the headlines are filled with financial crises and violence, it is especially important to recognize the creativity of many governments in fighting poverty, disease, and hunger.

The point is not merely to make ourselves feel a little better, but rather to confront one of the world’s gravest threats: the widespread pessimism that today’s problems are too big to be solved. Studying the successes gives us the knowledge and confidence to step up our shared efforts to solve today’s great global challenges.

Hats off, first, to Mexico for pioneering the idea of “conditional cash transfers” to poor households. These transfers enable and encourage those households to invest in their children’s health, nutrition, and schooling. Mexico’s “Opportunities Program,” led by President Felipe Calderón is now being widely emulated around Latin America.

Recently, at the behest of the singers Shakira and Alejandro Sanz, and a social movement that they lead, all of Latin America’s leaders committed to step up the region’s programs for early childhood development, based on the successes that have been proven to date.

Norway, under the leadership of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, is maintaining its tradition of creative social and environmental leadership. The government has put together a global alliance to prevent maternal death in childbirth, investing in both safe delivery and survival of newborns.

At the same time, Norway launched an innovative one billion dollar programme with Brazil to induce poor communities in the Amazon to end rampant deforestation.

Cleverly, Norway pays out the funds to Brazil only upon proven success in avoiding deforestation (compared with an agreed baseline).

Spain, under the leadership of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has given a major stimulus to helping the poorest countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Spain created a new MDG Fund at the United Nations to promote the cooperation needed within the UN to address the various challenges of the MDGs.

The Spanish Government rightly proposed that true solutions to poverty require simultaneous investments in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure, and then the Spanish put up the funds to help make that integrated vision a practical reality. Spain will host a meeting in January 2009 to launch a new fight against global hunger.

Once again, Spain is proposing practical and innovative means to move from talk to action, specifically to help impoverished peasant farmers to get the tools, seeds, and fertilizer that they need to increase their farm productivity, incomes, and food security.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has similarly surged to the forefront of global problem solving, putting forward a bold action plan on climate change and proposing new and practical means to address the MDGs. Australia put real money on the table for increased food production, along the lines that Spain is proposing.

It also champions an increased program of action for the poor and environmentally threatened island economies of the Pacific region.

These efforts have been matched by actions in the poorest countries. The landlocked and impoverished country of Malawi, under the leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika, has doubled its annual food production since 2005 through a pioneering effort to help its poorest farmers.

The programme has been so successful that it is being emulated across Africa.

Read the entire article here.