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For many of us, we live in a world of plenty, never having to worry about coming home to a completely empty fridge or not having enough money to cover groceries through the entire month. But what about those that do have these worries, that do have these experiences?

One great way to learn about their plight is to participate in a Hunger Meal.

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Isaac Updates
ISAAC’S SECOND IMMIGRANT OUTREACH CONFERENCE

The ISAAC Project is pleased to announce its Second Immigrant Outreach Conference.  It will take place in Houston, Texas on Friday, September 9 and Saturday September 10, 2011.  Pastor Johnnie Musquiz and Iglesia Bautista Houston will be our hosts.

The ISAAC Conference will have as its central theme issues of legal immigration relief to the most vulnerable and helpless sectors of society: women, children and victims of abuse, violence and crimes.

The roster of speakers will include immigration lawyers and federally accredited representatives of different non-profit agencies involved in loving, reaching and serving the immigrant community in Texas.

The topics covered will be:  family petitions, legal relief for women under the Violence Against Women Act, Temporary Protected Status, Cancellations of Removal, legal relief for minors under the Special Immigrant Juvenile provision, and “U” Visas for victims of crimes.

Details are being finalized for this conference.  There will be more information about registration fees and lodging in the weeks to come.

If you wish to know more details, contact
Email Jesús Romero,
or call 210-633-6257

World Hunger Updates

How you can help:
Helping the Hungry
Getting involved with the summer feeding programs

MAKE A DONATION IN MEMORY/HONOR OF SOMEONE

Would you like to remember or honor someone special this year? Instead of a gift that will just collect dust why not make a donation in their name to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger. Let your gift go much further in doing good work for those who are less fortunate.
Donate now!

5th Sunday Hunger Offering Videos
Next 5th Sunday Emphasis for World Hunger – May 29, 2011.  Prepare now.
Download 5th Sunday videos

Public Policy Updates

With just under a month left before its end, the 82nd Legislative Session is still in full swing. Many of the Christian Life Commission’s priority bills have made progress in both the House and the Senate, and the Austin office staff is working hard to ensure that the legislation we find ethical and meaningful gets to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

Food Policy

The Texas Food Policy Roundtable held an extremely successful “Farm to Capitol” advocacy day, where advocates, legislators and legislative staff were briefed about food-related issues around the state. The purpose of this special day is to brief legislators, legislative staff and other advocates at the Capitol about food-related issues around the state.Senator Lucio (D- Brownsville), Rep. Hughes (R- Marshall), Rep. Veasey (D-Fort Worth) and Rep. Rodriguez (D- Austin), spoke on food bills they have filed, as well as Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs and Assistant Commissioner of Food and Nutrition for the Texas Department of Agriculture Angela Olige. View an inspiring news clip from the day, including an interview with our director Suzii Paynter.

Of the roughly 18 food policy bills filed, some are making great progress in the legislative process.

  • SB 89 by Lucio (D-Brownsville), a bill that would expand USDA summer nutrition programs in the state, has passed through the Senate and is expected to be passed out of the House Agriculture and Livestock committee in the next couple of days.
  • SB 199 by West (D-Dallas), a bill that allows nonprofit organizations that partner urban school districts to apply for Texas Department of Agriculture grants, has passed through the Senate, through the House Agriculture and Livestock committee, and is now recommended for the House Local and Consent calendar.
  • SB 226 by Nelson (R-Flower Mound), a bill that would allow the Texas Education Agency to better analyze fitness data gathered by individual school districts to address childhood obesity, has passed through the Senate and has been referred to the House Public Education committee.
  • SB 796 by Nelson (R-Flower Mound), a bill that creates a statewide diabetes registry to measure costs of prevention vs. treatment, has been placed on the House Local and Consent calendar.

Human Trafficking

Bills to fight human trafficking in Texas have been extremely successful this session, with Governor Perry, the Attorney General, and Republican and Democrat legislators making this battle a priority.

  • SB 24 by Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) has already been signed by Governor Perry, which is indeed a blessing for law enforcement and victim’s services units fighting human trafficking. This bill addresses a majority of the attorney general taskforce’s recommendations on prosecution of human trafficking, and it tightens up the by clarifying definitions and separating adult from child victims.
  • HB 1994 by Weber (R-Pearland), a bill that allows municipalities and counties to hold a first-offender prostitution program – better known as a “john’s school” – has been placed on the House Calendar for debate on the floor.
  • HB 2015 by Thompson (D-Houston), a bill that would place the offense of minor prostitution under the category of “Child in Need of Supervision,” has been voted favorably from the Senate Criminal Justice committee.

Environmental Stewardship

CLC priority environmental stewardship legislation, specifically energy policy that directly affects our congregations and non-profits, made great strides this session with bi-partisan support. Additionally, the CLC has historically supported the recycling and reuse of electronic waste and has been glad to work on the television recycling bill this session, building on past work on e-waste such as computer recycling. All three bills passed both chambers.

  • HB 2077 by Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Deuell (R-Greenville) creates a LoanSTAR Pilot Program for Houses of Worship and Community Based Organizations. This bill authored by Rep. Rodriguez, Austin will create a pilot program within the existing LoanSTAR program. The LoanSTAR program has been successful at giving low-interest loans to government entities through the State Energy Conservation Office since 1989.
  • HB 1064 by Pitts (R-Waxahachie) and Senator Eltife (R-Tyler), known as the ratchet bill, exempts certain customers from demand ratchet charges by utilities, and charges them based on their actual peak for a month rather than on a rolling peak which includes the last 11 months. This means that if your church has a low load factor your congregation will realize he benefits of energy efficiency and behavioral changes that month rather than waiting up to 10 or 11 months.
  • SB 329/ HB 1966 by Senator Watson (D-Austin) and Representative Chisum (R-Pampa), provides the infrastructure for a TV Recycling program in Texas. TV manufacturers create a recovery plan for collecting, reusing, and recycling televisions.

The end of school brings about many fun events for high school students and produces many happy memories.  Unfortunately, with prom, graduation and end of the year parties many students and families face pain and even tragedy when a fun event has an unwanted ending.  There are things that parents, youth ministers and caring adults can do to help the students make good choices and in turn life long memories.

It is important that parents and youth leaders clearly communicate to students the expectations, values and Christian principles that need to shape their decision making and actions.  In reality, peer pressure can be both positive and negative.  The end of school is a great time for students to make a stand for their values and faith by having a Christ-like response to their peers.  If a student has at least two other friends, who will stand with him or her then it is much easier to make a choice not to drink or do drugs.

The big events at the end of school also provide opportunities for churches to provide after party events where a safe environment and sponsors can be provided.

Equally important is that parents help their student make plans for the events with a structure that provides a fun but safe atmosphere and accountability with peers, leaders and parents.  Plans for events need to be agreed to and followed through with.  These plans need to include a budget that is realistic and where the student helps with the costs of the date and event.  With proper planning hopefully parents can ensure that the memories will produce smiles and laughter for years to come.

Suzii Paynter, Director, CLCA drama unfolded on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives this week. It was a parable of Biblical proportions – money, self interest, moral outrage and free market politics. If someone tells you that Christian ethics is irrelevant, dead or outdated, just provide them a link to the debate on the House floor from this week.  The debate begins at the 3 hours and 48 minute mark of video.

The bills – by Rep. Vickie Truitt (R-Keller) presented her bills to begin a disclosure and license process for payday lending and auto title loan businesses. The conflict of interest – Rep Gary Elkins ( R – Houston) owns 12 payday loan sites across Texas. He challenged the bills by defending his business; his desire was to eviscerate the payday loan bills by striking the “enacting clause” that makes them law. The parliamentary procedural gadfly – Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R – Dallas) continually tried to kill the bills with more than 5 parliamentary procedure challenges (points of order) and strong statements that these bills were massive government overreach and over-regulation of business. The loyal opposition – Former House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) opposed the bills because they were too soft on the industry and didn’t have enough regulation to truly help the consumer (like the Midland woman who paid endless fees on a burial loan). The auto dealer – Rep. Patricia Harliss (R-Spring ) another  small business owner who acknowledged the uncomfortable necessity of regulation, because she finances the family car only to see it repossessed by unscrupulous auto-title lenders who are not governed by the same rules. In the gallery were more than $5 million dollars of lobbyists for the payday industry and the coalition of payday reform lobbyists (seven religious and nonprofit groups).

You could hear a pin drop. Legislators usually buzzing around on the floor and hallways were in their desks riveted to tense, sometimes personal battle over payday lending reform bills.

Whether you are a Texas legislator or Joe Christian, our values are not played out in big sweeping statements or through bumper sticker quips. Our values are forged daily by the actions we take to promote Christian principles and Biblical priorities.

These questions, played out in Austin, are not that different than the judgment calls we are asked to make every day. If some law directly benefits you and your business, do you take the microphone and defend your position? Do you vote on the bill? Do you argue but don’t vote? How do you handle an obvious conflict of interest? If you have a direct advantage, do you use it? If you favor free market principles, does that also include allowing loopholes for financial products that are otherwise regulated? Payday loans? Auto-title loans? Mortgages too? If you favor regulation and consumer protection,, do you protect them to the extent that you take away their choice for short term help? do you take away the choice to do something totally adverse to their own financial future? What is fair? What is right? What is a bridge too far? In the heat of debate, what do you actually say about your opponent? How do you characterize them? as anti-business? as a schlep for the industry? as a liberal sellout? as naive? and when you have made your point, do you make it again and again and again?

At one pivotal climax in the heated debate, Rep. Truitt summed up her bills and gestured with arms raised above her head – pointing first to the payday owner, she said ” So I am regulating way too much,” and then pointing to the loyal opposition on the other side of the chamber she continued, “and I’m not doing nearly enough. Now you see what I have been up against during this whole process.” she finished with a tone of exhausted exasperation….soon after that, the vote was taken.

The vote, although important, was not the measure of the ethics that will shape our lives. The ethics of the debate was played out line by line, person by person all though this process…Values of thrift, not debt. Values of balance, not advantage. Values of personal respect even in the heat of debate. Righteous anger. Was there unfair treatment of other bills and negating colleagues and collaborative leadership? It is confusing and unclear. Ethical processes are not often lines in the sand, but a continuous series of small decisions and attitudes that loom large as a collective power.

The Thrift report (.pdf) that we are featuring this month is a document that emphasizes some of the guiding principles about thrift, prosperity and financial stability. It also emphasizes the principle of balance versus greed that is echoed in the parables of Jesus and the laws of the tribes of Israel. Relevant Christian ethics are a rudder to the ship of values as we continue to make decisions on this and other important issues for Texas. I am very thankful to God that as pastors, lay leaders or church members, your convictions find their way into the public square. Do not be afraid to speak up.

Senate Floor – HB 2592: Sen. Davis on Payday Lending – May 23, 2011

36 brave cyclists from all over Texas rode up and down the hills of East Texas for 6 days!  Grueling at times!  Exhilarating at others!

Bike Out Hunger is now history…but your opportunity to reward these cyclists by giving to the Hunger Offering in their name at www.bikeouthunger.org lives on. You can still honor them!

VIDEOS

Bike Out Hunger 2011 – Day 1: What we’re riding for
Bike Out Hunger 2011 – Day 2: Matt Robb, Green Acres Baptist Church
Bike Out Hunger 2011 – Day 4 Some pain, spiritual eyes, empty stomachs and hearing the gospel

Kaitlin Warrington’s Blog

Bike Out Hunger
Bike Out Hunger 2011 Day 2: Yoda, hills and suffering
Bike Out Hunger 2011 Day 3: It’s about the people, not the ride
Bike Out Hunger 2011 Day 4: A peanut butter sandwich and working together
Bike Out Hunger 2011 Day 5: Lamenting, 90 miles and helping the hungry

Guest Article

The Pull of The Road: What Bike Out Hunger 2011 taught me