The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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Former insurance exec tells how industry threatens elected officials

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Last Friday night, Wendell Potter, former head of Corporate Communications at CIGNA, told Bill Moyers of insurance companies’ tactics, and their fear of reduced profits should a Medicare-type system be enacted by Congress.
clipped from thinkprogress.org
BILL MOYERS:  [...] “Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats’ larger agenda.” What does that mean?
WENDELL POTTER: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, “Look, you don’t want to believe this movie. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you.”

BILL MOYERS: How?

WENDELL POTTER: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you’re running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.

[Saying he thought Moore's movie "hit the nail on the head," Potter describes it:]

[H]is movie advocated that the government-run systems of other western democracies produce better health care outcomes [...]

Potter said he was driven to speak out when “it became really clear to me that the industry is resorting to the same tactics they’ve used over the years [...]
The companies “biggest concern” is … “a broader program like our Medicare program” which “could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies.”
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See part 1 of the interview here.

Indeed.  And we’ll see if our Congressmen and women will use government to further increase corporate profits or to begin to decrease the cost of healthcare to ordinary people. The industry’s spending a million dollars a day. Our only hope is in letters and letters and letters.

There’s link in the right sidebar.

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G8 balks at fulfilling aid pledges; 10 million to die?

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May result in 11 million preventable deaths; only 2% of G20 stimulus package needed to keep promises. From an article by World Vision:
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com
Today’s communiqué from the G8 leaders contains neither an acknowledgement they are off track on fulfilling their aid pledges, nor any concrete plans to get them back on track. In fact, there is now no way they can meet their 2005 promise to double aid for Africa by 2010.
This year’s failure is particularly significant as the current economic crisis means up to 2.8 million more children could die by 2015. That’s beyond the 9.2 million who die each year of preventable causes
Any excuse from G8 leaders that aid is unaffordable in an economic downturn is unacceptable. The 2005 G8 pledge of an extra $50 billion by 2010 is just 2% of the G20 stimulus package
Over the 48 hours of this summit 50,000 children will die from preventable causes. At least 50% of these will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the absence of urgent action by the international community this means over 9 million child deaths between now and the next G8 in Canada.
when the G8 chooses [...]
it can make a real impact on child deaths.
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18,000 dead: The moral issues of health care

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It’s not just politics.

Jim Wallis at Sojourners describes three moral issues that live at the center of the health care debate.  Here’s an excerpt.  Read the entire article by clicking here:

The Truth

For decades now, the physical health and well-being of our country has been a proxy battle for partisan politics.

President Truman with

When Truman tried to pass a national health insurance plan, the American Medical Association spent $200 million (in today’s dollars) and was accused of violating ethics rules by having doctors lobby their patients to oppose the legislation. In the 1970’s when Nixon tried to pass a national health insurance plan, strikingly similar to what many democrats are proposing today, the plan was defeated by liberal democrats and unions who thought that they would be able to pass something themselves after the mid-term elections and claim political credit for the plan. In the 1990’s the “Harry and Louise” ads misrepresented the Clinton health care plan but was successful enough PR to shut down that movement for reform. [...]

What we need is an honest and fair debate with good information, not sabotage of reform with half-truths and misinformation.* [...]

Full Access

About 46 million people in our country today are uninsured and many more find themselves without adequate coverage …  Many of them are working families who live in fear of getting sick or injured. …  An estimated 18,000 people a year die unnecessarily, many from low-income families, because they lack basic health insurance. … Seeing your child sick is a horrible feeling; seeing your child sick and not having the resources to do something about it is a societal sin.

Cost

… An estimated 60 percent of bankruptcies this year will be due to medical bills. Seventy-five percent of those declaring bankruptcy as a result of medical bills have health insurance. … In the end, some are paying too much for care and others are making too much from these present arrangements. [...]

… special interests groups … will be promoting their own self-interests during this process. The faith community has the opportunity to step in and speak for the interests of the common good and those who would not otherwise have a voice. I am sure that every one of the 18,000 preventable deaths that will happen this year from a lack of basic health insurance breaks the heart of God. And, it should break ours too [...]

Amen to that.  People in this country are dying on our watch.   The life preservers have been kept under lock and key by special interests for a hundred years.  Profits are saved; human beings are sacrificed.

That’s a moral issue.


*As a resource for congregations, small groups, and individuals, Sojourners has worked with its partners to publish a health care tool kit [click here to download] to help frame and guide this necessary debate. This guide gives an overview of the biblical foundations of this issue and frequently asked questions about it.

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Feds offer lower payments on some existing student loans

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Today’s New York Times includes a story detailing a new payment plan available to people with lower incomes who are paying off student loans.

Perhaps it would be a help to you, or to someone you know.  Here are a few excerpts and links:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

New Plan Ties Reduced College Loan Payments to Income

For the first time in years, there is good news for college students who borrow to pay for their education.
Starting Wednesday, the federal Education Department will begin offering a repayment plan that lets graduates reduce their loan payments, based on their income.
While the interest rate cut applies to new loans, the new repayment option is available to borrowers who took out federal loans or who used a federal consolidation loan to combine their higher-education debts.
The extended payment program, called “income-based repayment,” limits what borrowers have to pay to 15 percent of the difference between their gross income and 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. After borrowers make payments on loans for 25 years, the balance is forgiven. (The Education Department already offered an “income-contingent” repayment plan, which was similar, but less generous.)
the Education Department has set up a Web site with a calculator
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Robt Reich: What you can do

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Excellent advice!
clipped from tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com

“What Can I Do?”

Someone recently approached me … asking “what can I do?” [...]
I soon realized the question was … what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?
People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters … and cynics [...]
In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president — even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama — can’t get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him.
As FDR said … “Maam, I want to do those things, but you must make me.”
We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.
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Just to the right of these words, under the heading “Contact” are links that will take you to your Members of Congress and the President. Go for it.

Yes, we can.

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Harkin: An Apology For Slavery

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Iowa’s Sen. Tom Harkin spoke on June 18th in support of a bill that made an official government apology to black Americans for slavery in the United States, and for the government’s long failure to act against it. I am proud that one of my state’s Senators was a key mover in the apology. Every time America honestly faces the dark sides of its past, we become a better people.

Does it end racial division? Of course not. But, as with all trauma, healing only happens in small steps. Words are always part of those steps.   Some may say “Talk is cheap, nothing is solved, this Senate didn’t cause slavery anyway.”  But we are responsible for our history, and I’ll take an apology over official silence any day.


Today, Senator Tom Harkin delivered remarks on the Senate Floor just prior to the passage of S. Con. Res. 26, which he introduced and co-sponsored. The transcript follows.

“Madam President, the clerk just read for the first time ever in this body what we should have done a long time ago. An apology for slavery and the Jim Crow laws which, for a century after emancipation, deprived millions of Americans their basic human rights, equal justice under law and equal opportunities. Today the Senate will unanimously make that apology. Read the rest of this entry »

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