DALLAS – The Baptist General Convention of Texas will now be known simply as Texas Baptists, its Executive Board voted Sept. 29. Full Story »

WACO – Even though one in four Americans above the age of 18 suffers from a mental disorder – about 57.7 million people – many churches offer no support or are not adequately equipped to meet the needs of these people in their churches and communities. Full Story »

WACO – In an age where relief is the common church response to poverty, sponsors of the No Need Among You Conference held on Sept. 24-27 challenged participants to change current methods and incorporate a biblical approach of holistic ministry with the poor. Full Story »

What about the rule of law?

Libby Grammer Garrett has a well written article entitled On immigration: Do Baptists believe the Bible.  In the article, she gives the example of Lidiana, an undocumented immigrant, who married a legal resident. Her husband petitioned for her to remain in the country legally:

But in the meantime, her marriage became abusive, and Lidiana was forced to leave her husband. He withdrew the papers he had filed for her, making her ineligible to obtain legal status. Her only option to regularize her status was using novel legal arguments from a skilled attorney, but she still faced the possibility that the petition could be rejected. If rejected, she would be put in deportation proceedings, leaving her children with no mother and no income to support them in the only home they have ever known.

Ms. Garrett then argues that Baptists must respond more Biblically and choose to either “view them [illegal aliens] through the lens of our Kingdom citizenship — or our national xenophobia.” This provoked a comment from “Robber”:

So where exactly does the rule of law fit in with your thesis?… I don’t want them here because they entered the country illegally; and if they don’t have respect for our laws then what else might they do when they’re here? What you present is a sad story. If I were her neighbor, I would do what I could to help her. Make sure she was clothed, and fed. But it wouldn’t change the fact that she was here illegally; and she should return to Mexico. I’m having trouble making ends meet right now, but that doesn’t give me a right to break into my rich neighbor’s house and take money or food — no matter how desperately I might need it. It’s a matter of law (emphasis added)…

I would make this reply to Robber. It fits in perfectly. The fact scenario states that Lidiana did enter illegally but then attempted to adjust her status to that of a legal resident. She was trying to follow the law and the law allowed her to apply for an adjustment. Immigration law is not written on a postage stamp. The law, to which Robber so sacredly upholds, has many variables and alternative courses of actions for illegal aliens depending on the circumstances. That was what Lidiana was doing. So if Robber is upset that Lidiana had the option to apply for a chance to stay legally, then Robber’s quarrel is with the law and not Lidiana.

Please keep separating the wheat from the chaff!

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Water: Promise and Peril
It is an axiom of hunger relief and development that the safety and availability of water marks the upper boundary community health.  The health of a community never exceeds the abundance and purity of its water.

People in the developed world usually take water for granted, not giving the issue much thought until safety and availability just happens to become an issue with regard to their own water supply.  People in the developing world have no such luxury.  For them, water is a paradox—the source of both life and death.  No one can live without it, but millions upon millions of people are decimated by the microbes and chemicals which contaminate the only water available to them.

Addressing this all-too-common dilemma is the focus of the water and sanitation projects supported the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger for 2009 and 2010:

Port-Prince, Haiti: Haiti Baptist Mission, Sanitation Project–$20,000 (2009)

Haiti is one of the least developed countries in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world.  Eighty percent of the population lives in poverty, and the average life expectancy is 51 years.  Only 41 percent of the people have access to safe drinking water.  The Haiti Baptist Mission will help communities build sanitary latrines and cisterns in twenty districts.  TBOWH funds will help purchase building materials for the project.

Aksum, Ethiopia: Water Well Project–$20,000 (2009)

Despite recent economic growth and rainfall, poverty and hunger remain widespread in Ethiopia.  Millions continue to face chronic food insecurity and water shortages.  Much of the population, especially away from the major cities, lacks access to clean water, health care, and education.  Current Buckner ministries in Ethiopia include a foster care/kinship program in Addis Ababa and surrounding suburbs; vocational training and community development programs in Addis, Nazareth, Gulele and Debra Zet; a Baby Home and Adoption Center in Addis; and a Community Development Center and school in Bantu.  The goal is to expand foster care to Aksum in 2008 and to build a Community Development Center and school in 2009.  A new water well will be drilled on land for the Community Development Center and will provide fresh drinking water for the children attending the school and the surrounding community.  TBOWH funds will help underwrite the cost of drilling the well.

Arusha: Mount Meru University, Water Borehole Project–$25,000 (2009)

Formerly known as International Baptist Theology Seminary for East Africa, Mount Meru University was granted a certificate of full registration in 2003.  The university is currently working to achieve full accreditation and offers eight diploma and bachelors degree programs.  The educational opportunities afforded by Mount Meru represent a way out of poverty for Tanzanians, and as such, the student body is rapidly growing.  Because the present water supply has proved inadequate, plans have been completed for drilling a new water borehole.  By fitting an existing, abandoned borehole with a new pump and bringing the new well online, the needs of current and future students for adequate drinking water should be met.  TBOWH funds will be used to underwrite the cost of drilling and the purchase of new pumps and a storage tank.

Cajamarca, Peru: Villa Milagro Ministries, Water Well Projects–$10,000 (2009 and 2010)

Since 1984, Villa Milagro Ministries has engaged in hunger relief and development projects in economically depressed areas of Peru, including water well drilling, road construction, youth scholarships, microenterprise development, medical and dental clinics, and school construction.  Several locations in the coastal valley north of Chiclayo do not have access to safe water supplies.  Residents have long recognized their major health problems were directly related to contaminated water, and health officials report that the overall health of the villages receiving new wells has improved by 80 percent or more.  The health benefits of potable water for these villages and schools where new wells have been placed are manifold.  Because accessible aquifers offer pure water in the proposed locations, boreholes will be drilled and wells established.  TBOWH funds will be used to help underwrite new well construction.

Bungoma, Kenya: Buckner International, Water Well Project–$20,000 (2010)

With a regional population of 1.4 million, the major economic activity in Bungoma is farming.  The population density coupled with rural unemployment has put pressure on land use and other natural resources.  Living standards in the Western Province are generally low, and social amenities like running water and electricity are not available to the majority of the province’s residents.  UNICEF reports that less than 50 percent of the rural population has access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.  In the past two years Buckner has drilled water wells in Busia and Kitale, also in the Western Province.  Both communities now have a healthier population, better crops, and more social services.  With the introduction of a new water well in Bungoma, other services and ministries will follow, the health of the general population will be enhanced, and crop yields will improve.  TBOWH funds will be used to underwrite the costs involved in drilling the new well.

South Sumatra, Indonesia: Water Relief–$7,500 (2009 and 2010)

Clean water is critically scarce throughout South Sumatra.  Villagers who live near one of the many rivers of the province typically use polluted river water for all of their water-use needs–bathing, washing clothes and dishes, brushing teeth, washing food, using the restroom, and water for drinking.  Those who do not live near a river often use shallow dug wells which draw from contaminated surface water.  Even in larger cities, the scarcity of clean water is a serious problem.  Providing clean water produces enormously positive results: less illness, greater opportunity to work and attend school, better standard of living and quality of life.  The project provides clean water through the construction of community sized, slow-sand water filtration systems in villages situated along rivers.  Each filter consists of a gravel-pre-filter, a slow-sand main filter, and a charcoal final filter.  No chemicals are used so as to keep the expense and difficulty of maintenance to a minimum.  In areas not close to rivers, hand-drilled wells are established.  In both the construction of filters and the drilling of wells, recipient communities are closely engaged so that they have a greater sense of involvement with and ownership of the final product.  TBOWH funds will be used to purchase materials for filter and well construction.

Read about the relationship between water availability and climate change. (pdf)

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Food Policy Roundtable
The Texas Hunger Initiative is a joint effort from the CLC and the Baylor School of Social Work with the goal of ending hunger in Texas by 2015. The project launched in February and we introduced you to their work and their Director, Jeremy Everett in the May edition of our E-newsletter.

Part of this effort will look to affect the policies or procedures that need to be enhanced on the state and federal level in order to achieve this attainable goal. In order to understand the policies and programs involved, discuss current problems and advocate for solutions, THI the CLC and have launched the Food Policy Roundtable. The CLC Austin staff will provide leadership and serve as facilitators and conveners of this group of nonprofit advocates, direct service providers, representatives from state and federal agencies and others. Our initial project has been to plan and host a one-day conference called, Texas at the Table: Baylor University Hunger Summit on November 19 in Waco. You will receive more information about the Texas Hunger Initiative, the Hunger Summit, and the Food Policy Roundtable and how you can get involved in coming months.

Lottery Commission and Gambling Update
As reported in previous editions of our E-newsletter, the CLC is opposing a proposed rule change at the Texas lottery commission. (See links to news articles for more info.) We are concerned, in part, because these new games will introduce a central determinant system to our state that is an essential element of video lottery terminals.  An identical computer system was part of previous legislative attempts to legalize VLTs. The expansion of legalized predatory gambling does not occur in a vacuum. In other states, we have witnessed small advancements resulting in full blown casinos. Many attempts at expansion in Texas have relied upon previous failed efforts. Many small steps to casino gambling are pushed by casino and game manufacturing interests. In an attempt to gather all pertinent information regarding the current lottery proposal we made several open records requests to state agencies. We are particularly interested in similarities to previous attempts to legalize VLTs and would like to know the individuals and entities behind such efforts.

In November the National Stop Predatory Gambling conference (pdf) will take place in San Antonio. The CLC and several of our partner organizations have been helping to organize this event and we encourage your attendance. The conference will be attended by predatory gambling opponents from across the country and will shine a spotlight on our state. Whether you are a passionate opponent of gambling expansion, a legislative staff member or would just like to learn more about the issue, don’t miss this opportunity.

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BEAUMONT – Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas is serving hope to people who eat in its facilities. Full Story »