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A 24-page report (Detained and at Risk Immigration Detention.pdf) issued on August 25 by Human Rights Watch describes documented incidents of sexual abuse committed against people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The report calls for the government to go beyond policy and operation standard changes and issue “binding legal regulations” that would serve to prevent these incidents from happening.

In August 19, a contracted guard was arrested for sexually abusing several female detainees at the T. Don Hutto immigration facility in Taylor, Texas.  The guard allegedly groped female prisoners while he was transporting them to airports and bus stations in order to be deported.  The guard faces three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint.  (If you want to read a media release by the Williamson County Sheriff, go here: http://tdonhutto.blogspot.com.

Some of the details in the report are a reason for concern. Statistics and data on sexual abuse, assault and harassment against immigration detainees are collected in facilities run by ICE, but virtually no data exists on state and county jails where ICE rents bed space.

Immigrants who are detained do not speak out about incidents of sexual abuse for fear of being deported. The sad thing is that most of them are still deported, leaving our country without reporting crimes committed against them. Christians should be deeply concerned about these abuses, especially as so little data is known and these incidents may very well be the tip of the iceberg, as Human Rights Watch reports.

Immigrants who cross our borders in order to find work and end up being detained are human beings made in the image of God.  They must be treated with dignity and must be protected against crimes perpetrated against them as they await deportation in our federal jails.  These people find themselves in a very vulnerable state and are unable to defend themselves for fear that something even worse will happen to them.

Human Rights Watch includes key recommendations to ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress.  One of them is especially noteworthy:  “to require detention centers to facilitate on-site access for local community providers of support services for sexual assault survivors.”  If these recommendations ever translate into policy changes, pastors and laypeople who minister to the victims of sexual abuse would have an open door to connect with these victims and show them the love of Christ.

We pray that the door opens.

:: Read the report and Human Rights Watch’s media release

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Next 5th Sunday Emphasis for World Hunger – October 31.  Prepare now.  Download 5th Sunday video, Meeting Needs, Changing Neighborhoods, a snapshot of World Hunger ministries transforming lives in New York City.

HOUSTON – Jose Antonio Ramirez was born with a caring spirit.  Living at home with his mom and unemployed, Tony (a nickname given to him by his pastor) wanted to help out any way he could.  He realized he needed to seek help for the family from the food pantry at a local church, North Central Baptist, in northeast Houston.  Many families in his neighborhood were feeling the same economic hopelessness…no job, children at home during the summer…more mouths to feed with less.

The church food pantry became the brightest place of hope on the block for Tony and many others. The smiles that greeted them there made it worth it all.  “Not only do they give you some food, but the kind people there also offer a word of encouragement,” Tony would say.

North Central Baptist receives funds from the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger every month to buy food for their weekly distribution.  The doors open on Tuesday morning with a sign out front saying “A – G”.  The regulars know this means they are serving last names A through G that day.

“Of course, I never turn anyone away who really needs food,” says Nina Flores, Social Services Minister and Director of the Food Pantry at North Central.  “We pray that the food does not run out before everyone who truly needs it that day is served.”

The food does run out.  Nina and her staff must make a small amount stretch to feed 450-500 people every month.  She prays, and God stretches.

Nina noticed when Tony came to get food he would always hang back to see if someone else needed it worse than he did.  He would put others ahead of him in line.  Sometimes, even if the food ran out before he got any, Tony would offer to help.  Did the ladies need help cleaning up or loading the truck?  Tony was there to offer his assistance.

After awhile, Pastor Slagle and others noticed.  Tony was offered a job as a church custodian, helping Nina at the Food Pantry and is now one who serves rather than being served.

Tony was offered bread with love.  Now he passes it on.

Because you give, we are able to give back to those in need.

Donate now!

NEW DOWNLOADABLE VIDEO FOR YOUR 5TH SUNDAY PROMOTION

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Lone Star Stewards

On Monday, August 16, Suzii Paynter participated in a press conference with fellow members of the Clean Energy Coalition announcing the release of a new economic study.  The study, prepared by Billy Hamilton Consulting and produced for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is called Texas’ Clean Energy Economy: Where We Are. Where We’re Going. What We Need to Succeed (pdf).

Among the major findings, the report concludes that the state has the resources and the opportunity to become a leader in the worldwide clean energy economy but to maximize these economic benefits we will need to institute coherent, long-term state policies that support and encourage this emerging sector of our economy. The report predicts that if the 2011 Texas Legislature were to raise the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 13,000 Mega Watts of clean power and set aside 3,500 MW for solar photovoltaic energy, Texas would gain 22,900 jobs per year, the gross state product would increase by $2.7 billion per year, and state and local tax revenues would increase by $279 million per year, or more than half a billion dollars per biennium.

:: View The executive summary of the report (pdf)

The CLC is working with the Clean Energy Coalition to support these efforts out of our commitment to be good stewards of God’s creation, and because we believe investments in clean energy will result in jobs and economic development for many Texas communities. Our role, in partnership with Texas Impact, is to engage and educate the Texas faith community. To do so, will be holding three regional meetings throughout the state of Texas this Fall.   All forums (LoneStarStewardsBrochure2010.pdf) are open to the public and registration is free.  You can register online at www.texasimpact.org/lonestarstewards or call 512-473-2288.

  • September 27, 2010 | 12:00 pm-5:00 pm (lunch & snack provided) | North Texas Regional Forum | Brite Divinity School of TCU, Ft. Worth, TX
  • October 25, 6:00 pm-October 27, 9:00am (Food & lodging provided; travel reimbursement is available upon request) | West Texas Regional Forum | Indian Lodge, Ft. Davis Mountains, TX

Texas Food Policy Roundtable

The Christian Life Commission serves on the steering committee for the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, a statewide coalition whose goal is to make Texas a food secure state. The roundtable will focus on four areas of food policy in the 2011 session: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Summer Food Service Program, obesity and nutrition issues, and sustainability & local food access.

The Steering Committee of the Texas Food Policy Roundtable has proposed the following draft agenda for the 2011 legislative session:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Improve access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps) to prevent hunger and help Texas families afford a nutritious diet by supporting legislation that -

  • Eases eligibility restrictions that prevent some needy Texans from receiving benefits.
  • Adequately funds the eligibility system with the appropriate number of staff and up-to-date technology.
  • Simplifies enrollment procedures by eliminating finger imaging.
  • Incorporates a streamlining enrollment system, like the Benefit Bank software program, statewide.

Summer Food Service Program
Increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program so that more children in Texas will continue to receive nutritious meals when school is out by supporting efforts to -

  • Address barriers, such as lack of transportation, that affect summer food access participants.
  • Develop alternative service delivery models and expand the use of mobile meal sites to address barriers to participation.
  • Improve coordination of federal, state, and local policies to remove barriers to participation.
  • Provide non-financial incentives for schools to serve as commissaries for summer food programs, and to expand participation in July.

Obesity and Nutrition
Promote policy solutions that increase nutrition, and reduce obesity by-

  • Increasing access to healthy food in low income communities, and exploring the Texas Enterprise Fund as a source of financing for growing and processing food in underserved areas.
  • Increasing the stock of fruits and vegetables in small, independent stores by supporting fresh food financing initiatives, particularly in underserved areas.
  • Simplifying and increasing participation in school breakfast and lunch programs, CACFP, and the Summer Food Service Program.
  • Increasing support for and recognition of healthy initiatives in schools.
  • Increasing accountability for the implementation of school coordinated health programs.
  • Maximizing federal child nutrition reauthorization in Texas.

Sustainability and Local Food Access
Create a local, sustainable, and accessible food system for all Texans by supporting efforts to -

  • Create incentives for local food production, urban farms and community gardens.
  • Assist farmers in transitioning to fruit and vegetable production.
  • Explore using funding for small business to increase food access.
  • Promote local and sustainable food production practices.

We value your input and suggestions.
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Summer Food Service Program

Increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program so that more children in Texas will continue to receive nutritious meals when school is out by supporting efforts to -

· Address barriers, such as lack of transportation, that affect summer food access participants.

· Develop alternative service delivery models and expand the use of mobile meal sites to address barriers to participation.

· Improve coordination of federal, state, and local policies to remove barriers to participation.

· Provide non-financial incentives for schools to serve as commissaries for summer food programs, and to expand participation in July.

Happy Birthday CLC! The CLC is sixty and just in time for its birthday we are receiving congratulations, accolades and gratitude.  Join the celebration!

:: Save The Date (pdf)

Just this month the CLC was celebrated: The US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack recognized the CLC leadership to fight hunger in Texas.  Literacy Texas (statewide coalition of Literacy Councils) honored the CLC with a Texas Champions award for effectively leading the State of Texas on behalf of adult learners and the CLC was recognized by the Baptist World Alliance for hunger ministries around the world. In all these celebrations the CLC was cited as “relevant  to the Kingdom-work  of God in the world today.“

Sixty and going strong. The CLC is blessed with champions from generations past and a host of new friends and colleagues who are serious about their kingdom mission.

When did you become aware of the CLC? A while ago the CLC Commissioners brainstormed about the six decades of work – we asked of each decade:  What was happening in the world at large? What was changing in the religious landscape? What was the work of the CLC?

1950’s – in a time of secular scientific expansion and nuclear threat, a major religious emphasis was on media and event evangelism (a million more in ’54). The CLC was championing religious expression and liberty, bringing an emphasis to faith in the workplace, and opening the dialogue on race relations in Texas. The CLC is formed and speaks with a prophetic voice.

1960’s – this decade saw the upheaval of many traditions and values in the streets, in culture and in the context of war. Rising rates of divorce, “just war” dialogue, civil rights legislation, even the “God is dead” announcements prompted study and action by the CLC in the areas of family life, war and peace and racial reconciliation.

1970’s – life was shaped by the US migration from the rust belt to the sunbelt, the defining women’s movement, Watergate and political cynicism. Religious factions began, the Jesus revolution and para-church organizations grew and the CLC was active in building the strength of the laity, clarifying the role of religion in schools, building bridges of trust for Baptists to other denominations and  other faiths, and bringing leaders in ethics to Texas Baptists.

1980’s – saw the rise of the Moral Majority, the fall of the Berlin wall, the beginning of the desktop computer and mobile phones,. Mega churches emerged and fractious Baptist disputes strained the fabric of unity in Texas. The CLC responded with dialogue and action to clarify Baptist principles, sustain historic institutions and mobilize leaders on the ethics front to resolve violence in families, lead the opposition to gambling in Texas.

1990’s – a decade characterize by consumerism and economic boom. At home celebrity culture and the strength of fundamentalism grew. Abroad, Europe, Africa & Asia all responded to the fall of communism abroad. Missions felt the strains of conflict from US Baptist bodies. Support from the CLC Hunger Offering sustained worldwide missions and projects. The CLC lead Texas in advocating for children, supported substance abuse ministries and engaged a robust ethical conversation about bio-ethics and the environment.

2000’s – Global concerns exploded:  terrorism, climate change, worldwide poverty. Technology and digital expansion changed the channels for conversation, communication and networking. Clergy scandals and religious pluralism stretched the fabric of faithful leadership. The CLC grew too, expanding its scope to international issues, adding an Austin office for public policy, beginning immigration ministries, advocacy to reform the criminal justice system, and a policy focus on hunger and poverty.

Sixty, they say, is the new….30? 40? This is certainly true for the CLC…Robust, strong, and committed to bringing conviction into action. The CLC is worth celebrating as a special ministry tool in the hand of a loving Father.  Our joy is service and we are led by Jesus’ example of a transforming faith. This mission is aptly authored by Joe Haag in the opening paragraph of the CLC brochure, so I’ll brag about his work:

“To follow Christ means that we allow his life to gain leverage against our lives.  Against our lust for power, he endures the cross.  Against our pride and arrogance, he washes the disciples’ feet.  Against our upward mobility, he preaches good news to the poor.  Against our self absorption, he has compassion on the multitudes.  Against our tight circles of family and friends, he reaches out to strangers.  Against our safe noninvolvement, he confronts the powers.  Against our violence and hatred, he demands that we love our enemies.  Against our self righteousness, he welcomes sinners.  Against our bigotry, he tells us about a Good Samaritan.  Against our frenzy, he invites us to trust God.  Against all the lies which enslave us, he tells the truth which sets us free.  How can we be transformed into the image of Christ?  One answer is that as we surrender our lives to God’s purposes, God changes us.”

Happy Birthday!

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In schools across Texas this fall, students and teachers will observe Red Ribbon week during October 25th -29th.  Communities will be planning prevention and education programs to communicate to students regarding the dangers of alcohol and other drugs.

The Christian Life Commission is sponsoring Recovery Sunday on October 24th to encourage churches in Texas to highlight the issues of addiction, recovery, and prevention.  In addition, Recovery Sunday gives Texas Baptists an opportunity to affirm and encourage our students and teachers in their ongoing struggle against drugs and alcohol.

Red Ribbon week grew out of an effort to honor the memory of a DEA agent named KiKi Camarena who died in Mexico investigating a major drug cartel.  Following his death, friends and family began to wear red ribbons to honor his memory.  This tradition has developed into a national campaign to address the issues of prevention and education.  Beginning this fall, the CLC will help congregations to promote Recovery Sunday by providing educational, sermonic, and promotional resources.

Please join us as we encourage churches across Texas to confront the issues of addiction in our congregations and communities.  We encourage you to wear your red ribbon during the week of October 25-29 to show your support as students and teachers take a stand against substance abuse in their schools.

WE ARE ON FACEBOOK

We are excited to announce that the Christian Life Commission Substance Abuse Ministry is now on Facebook. The Facebook page will provide information and promote ministry opportunities for those interested in Substance Abuse Ministry and recovery issues.  You can find the page on Facebook by searching “Addiction Ministry Education Network“.  If you are on Facebook designate that you “like” the page and you will receive updates throughout the month.

TRAINING OPPORTUNITY

The Substance Abuse Ministry is hosting a “Streaming Video” training event on Friday, September 24 at 10:00 am.  No matter where you are located, you can log on to view the presentation by going to www.texasbaptists.org.

Carrie Beaird, Substance Abuse Consultant with CLC, Jana Jackson, Community Ministries Director at Dallas Baptist Association and Heath Marion, pastor of the Oaks Church will be discussing the challenges of churches and staffs in dealing with substance abuse issues, recovery and referral questions.

There will also be the opportunity to send in your questions live through Facebook for the panel to discuss.

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Imagine a young person, a good kid who has caring parents, sitting in church on Sunday morning.  Last night, he was out with his friends, and the group started passing around marijuana.  For a year he has turned it down, but last night he tried it for the first time.  Sitting now in the worship service, he is afraid of his family finding out and even more afraid of what he might do the next time.  His concern is real, and he is a member of your church.

On the other side of the sanctuary, a business executive is worried that his social drinking is getting out of hand.  Last night, he got lost on the way home and was afraid that he would be arrested and charged with a DWI.  He is afraid of what could have happened and what might happen the next time.  His concern is real, and he is a member of your church.

The reality of addiction in the United States is that on any given Sunday morning, there are significant numbers of people in church who are dealing with substance abuse issues, either their own or a family member’s.  In a recent survey, an estimated 15.9 million Americans twelve years or age or older are identified as current drug users. In addition, almost half of all Americans twelve years of age or older (109 million persons) are current drinkers.  Behind every statistic is a person who is loved by God and who may be looking for answers.

What can a church do?  Most importantly, don’t pretend that substance abuse is not a real issue in your congregation.  Move from denial to action.  Create an atmosphere of loving acceptance which invites people in need to seek help.

This article is available to be used by churches as a bulletin insert for Recovery Sunday and can be downloaded from the CLC web page.

Recovery Sunday Ideas

  1. Pastor preaches a sermon on recovery.
  2. A testimony is shared about recovery in the worship service.
  3. The youth minister utilizes “Pathways to Prevention” and has a Bible Study about a prevention issue.
  4. The church could pass out Red Ribbons to the congregation in support of Red Ribbon week.
  5. The church could do a focus on Red Ribbon week and be supportive of students and teachers in the public school system.
  6. Hand out drug education fact sheets to parents of youth.
  7. Invite a counselor or drug prevention speaker to a special forum for youth parents.
  8. Include a bulletin insert about Red Ribbon week and/or Recovery Sunday.
  9. Have a copy of the 12 steps put in the Sunday bulletin.
  10. Provide drug prevention information in the hallway for church members

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Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.