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Thankfulness is defined as feeling or expressing gratitude or appreciation, being conscious of a benefit received.

The Thanksgiving season is once again upon us! I have to admit that I am quite excited about Thanksgiving Day coming later this week since this is one of my favorite holidays. Full Story »

The ISAAC Project hosted a training seminar on legal relief for vulnerable people in our society this past September.  The seminar was hosted by Iglesia Bautista Houston, in Houston, Texas.  Bianca Dueñas, an intern at the Christian Life Commission, attended the event and had this to say about her experience:

ISAAC Project Immigration Law Training Seminar

By: Bianca Dueñas

As a first time intern with Christian Life Commission, I had the privilege of attending the ISAAC Project –Immigration Law Training Seminar.  It is a training I highly recommend to anyone with a willing heart who desires to help brothers and sisters through immigration counseling and aid.

The seminar is well equipped with information and resources for one to be educated on issues that affect a vast majority of our Texas population. Topics covered range from: permanent resident cards, citizenship, adjustment of status, hope for refugees, hope for battered women under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and more.  I gained a lot of insight and I am hoping to continue to attend other trainings in order to be able to provide “good” help and not ill-founded knowledge.  Immigration laws are changing and reform is not at the door as of today, through ISAAC trainings, one can stay up to date with changes and provide well-informed aid that can change someone’s life.

The training provided by the ISAAC Seminar is one that everyone should take advantage of, especially churches and their members.  After the completion of required training hours, one can become accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and help individuals through a BIA recognized agency, which the church can become if desired.  ISAAC Project provides “assistance in obtaining immigration law training and in completing the ‘recognition’ and ‘accreditation’ process.

It is a blessing to be a blessing. Take a look at the ISAAC Project

Orphan Samuel’s Miraculous Story

Myanmar…A couple of friends walking to work decided to take a different path along the railroad track. They were engaged in their usual early morning banter when a puzzling sound surfaced. It wasn’t a cry. It was more like a heavy wheezing. As they came around the bend in the road, they saw a small shape laying between a couple of railway ties. They quickly determined it was a child. Dirty and covered with insect bites, there was a little boy clinging to life.

They took turns carrying him as they made their way to the neighborhood clinic. As they entered the clinic, the wheezing stopped. They handed the little boy to the nurse fearing it was too late to save him. They went to work wondering how the little boy got to the railroad track.

They shared their morning’s experience with their co-workers and learned a sad truth about poverty in their country. They learned that sometimes parents would leave their children on the railroad track in hopes that their son or daughter would be killed quickly rather than experience the slow death of starvation because they didn’t have enough food for all the family.

The next day, they stopped by the clinic to learn about the condition of the little boy. They were surprised to learn that he was alive. A few days later, the little boy was taken by a director of one of our Christian orphanages. She had been contacted by the clinic staff who was aware of the good reputation of the orphanage, and knew it was the little boy’s only chance at long-term survival.

Through a combination of Christian-based nurturing and the food supplied by the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, our little boy, Samuel, continues to improve. Samuel is one of 17 orphans in this particular home. Although, one of our primary goals is to share and have them accept the wonderful news of Jesus, we must first meet their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Through the generosity of the Hunger Offering, Samuel and many other orphans are fortunate to have enough to eat each day. More importantly, as he matures within a Christian environment, he will better understand the love behind the meals, the caring behind the giving, and the purpose behind the saved life of a little boy discovered on a railroad track.

OTHER RESOURCES

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 –January 29, 2012.  Prepare now.
Download 5th Sunday videos.

SUNSET REVIEW of the TEXAS LOTTERY COMMISSION

The Texas Lottery Commission is currently being reviewed by the Texas Sunset Commission.  The Sunset Commission is a state agency that is composed of legislators and public members.   Over the next several months the Sunset Commission will determine if the Texas Lottery Commission is still needed, and if so what changes are needed to ensure that state funds are well spent.   This review of the Texas Lottery Commission includes an opportunity for public input and a review process that recently began and will end in mid-year 2012. Based on public input and the Sunset staff report, the Sunset Commission will adopt recommendations for the full Legislature to consider in January 2013.

Please read the attached investigative stories by reporter Eric Dexheimer of the Austin American Statesman about the failures of the Texas Lottery:

  1. Texas Lottery: A different game than State was sold two decades ago;
  2. Texas Lottery relies increasingly on the poor and less educated, studies show;
  3. Scratch-off beats Lotto as dominant gamble in Texas

If you feel like the citizens of this State were lied to when the Lottery was sold as the savior for education, please join me in requesting that the Sunset Commission fully investigate and report on  how the Texas Lottery Commission has failed the citizens in funding education for our State and how it should be abolished.

Please write to the following address:

Sunset Advisory Commission- Attn: Amy Trost
P.O. Box 13066
Austin, Texas 78711

You may also send your opinions/comments via email Attn: Amy Trost

Email: sunset@sunset.state.tx.us

No Kid Hungry in Texas

The Texas Hunger Initiative, a partner organization with the CLC in the fight against hunger in Texas, has launched a new campaign in conjunction with the national organization Share Our Strength. The No Kid Hungry Campaign officially launched on October 12, 2011 on the South Steps of the Capitol.

Over 150 elementary and middle school students from Austin and Waco met on the steps of the Capitol alongside Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a diverse group of corporate, education, nonprofit and government leaders. Speakers affirmed a commitment to the new partnership, aimed to end childhood hunger by utilizing existing nutritional programs and launching a breakfast pilot program in 10 districts across the state.

The Campaign’s focus during its first year is to connect more eligible low-income children to federally funded school breakfasts and summer meals, a project that the CLC has been committed to at both the policy and the community-implementation level.

North Texas Leaders to Tackle Childhood Hunger

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson hosted the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign’s Dallas Summit on November 9, 2011, which brought together local and national child hunger thought leaders, as well as key stakeholders in Dallas and surrounding communities.

The summit was held at the Dallas Farmers Market, and it touched on a wide range of topics related to childhood hunger in North Texas including new statistics, Dallas-area “food deserts,” the importance of fighting hunger in the faith community, and solutions currently being put in place through the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Suzii Paynter, Christian Life Commission Director, spoke to the group specifically about the action faith-based communities are taking to end childhood hunger. Other presenters included elected officials and agency leaders such as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlngs, Chief Administrator for Food and Nutrition at the Texas Department of Agriculture Angela Olige, and Bill Ludwig, Regional Administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Division. They spoke alongside community leaders like Holly Hirshberg, the Executive Director of DinnerGarden, a non-profit that seeks to end hunger through home and community garden programs.

An important announcement made during the hunger summit was the creation of a Dallas-Area Food Planning Association, which is currently underway as part of the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign. This group will consist of educators, elected officials, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, community leaders and local residents who will take a close look at where child hunger needs are greatest in the area, and will then work to implement programs there.

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays coming up, parents have a special opportunity to impact their adolescents with a commitment to Christ-like priorities.

Many times our adolescents get stuck in the materialism that is so often encouraged in the media.  They begin to focus on what they are going to receive and do instead of what they can give back to others.

One idea for families is to start a gratitude list.  As a family, you can focus on all of the things you corporately and individually have to be thankful for.  When adolescents are able to understand the depth of all of the things in their world that they have to be thankful for then they are more likely to be willing to give back to others.  As they turn their eyes outward instead of focusing on the inside, they become more compassionate to the needs of others.

During the holiday season there are many ways to volunteer.  As a family consider giving back by volunteering in a soup kitchen, a food or toy drive or a Habitat for Humanity project.  As adolescents actively give back, they change the way they view their world at school and peers.  Traditions are so important during the holiday season.  What an important investment in your kids to help them to learn to invest their time, energy and money in others.

We all aspire to show others our faith, the holidays are a great way to act out our faith to others.

Prevention Resources and Bible Studies are available for churches at the CLC website.

Check out the Addiction Ministry Education Network page on Facebook.  Become a fan and you will receive updates about events and links to important news articles.

CLC Substance Abuse Ministry Podcasts

Pathways to Prevention:  A Substance Abuse Resource

www.hazelden.org

FIRE!

Suzii Paynter, Director, CLC

We had a major fire in our home on October 14 while I was in Africa….several of you have asked, here are my recent thoughts:

There is nothing but an endless stream of tedious and sad work to clean up after a fire at home. Smoke, ash, smell and tracking the dusty residues of fire are ever-present. Little wisps of feathered charcoal work their way between pages of books and into the graceful fibers of silk scarves; they settle everywhere as if to remind you of the laws of nature that provide that air itself can be the carrier of destruction.

The work of a fiery mess is enough, but today we are entering an even more daunting and frightening territory. Arson. Someone deliberately set this blaze. Someone took a match or lighter and held it to the corner of our lives until it caught ablaze. Someone lit two simultaneous  fires in our house from a plan they hatched to make double sure it burned. Did they doubt themselves or were they just habitually thorough? They used items that they either carried in or found to build a fire with us in mind. With us in mind. With us in mind. This thought is terrifying.

There is no known perpetrator at this time, but there is an ongoing investigation. The mystery of it all lends to the feelings of fear and frustration. We are blessed nevertheless with cooperative insurance agents and adjusters and a number of service providers helping us put the pieces back together. Cleaning and restoration is a mountain of work itself but with a welcome “next chapter” end in sight.

Besides exhaustion and frustration however is another very strong impulse. An impulse to outshine the destroyer and neutralize the feeling of violation by overwhelming it with the strength of love in sheer record numbers.

The prayers, kindnesses and generous friendship of so many have surrounded us with – well, joy.  In the light of this crisis, we are the fortunate ones to be surrounded by the love and hope that are the hallmarks of God’s grace in our lives.

So in the very shadow of the footprint of a destroyer, I feel like a party. I want the more the merrier. I want FBC Austin and CLC and a hundred footsteps to step where the destroyer stepped. I want to bury the intent to destroy with the promise of love. This is the cleaning process that is beyond ashes and soot and tedious days. I don’t want to wait for new paint and sheet rock to bring the blessing of joy. Before it’s all pretty again, side by side with ashes, I already have the blessed assurance that makes the journey through the crisis a sure journey.

I NEED to put out the fires of retribution and open up my own channels of grace. I want to make visible the life giving community of our family love, the resilience of friendship, the support of our church and Christian friends. I want my children, my neighbors, my universe to see love in action. That’s a party.

Reducing the Electricity Bills for Your Congregation

Churches across Texas are experiencing increases in their electricity bills, not just because the price of electricity is rising, but also because the way electricity bills are calculated can often be at a disadvantage to churches. Churches have unique usage patterns, and they tend to use a lot of energy at one time, but often only once or twice a week. Many utilities base a great deal of their non-residential customers bills on demand, the greatest amount of energy used at one time during the month (for some customers, during a longer period, such as 11 months). This makes it difficult for churches to reduce their electric bills dramatically without learning how their specific equipment works and making efficiency changes geared towards lowering demand.

Environmental stewardship goes hand in hand with financial management when managing the energy use of your church facilities. When you use less electricity, not only are you being conscious of the environment and the necessary externalities of the electricity industry that you can lessen, such as water use and public health, but you can save money and direct those funds to community ministries. One of the best starter tools a congregation can invest in is a programmable thermostat that allows the heating and air conditioning system to ramp up and down slowly rather than causing a shock to the system when run only periodically.

Some of the best partners we have are actually the utility companies themselves. Here in Texas we have state mandated energy efficiency programs that are administered by the utilities.  Information about these programs can be found at Texas Efficiency.

In the Oncor service territory specifically they have a matching grant program for houses of worship to complete energy efficiency projects.  Information about that program can be found at Take a Load Off Texas.

Energy Star also has great resources about how to reduce your energy costs by investing in energy efficient equipment, building upgrades and maintenance.  Energy Star provides congregations with free information and technical support.