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Brazilian City Eliminates Hunger

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For only 2% of its budget!
clipped from www.treehugger.com

Belo Horizonte People's Restaurant Photo
Restaurant Popular (People’s Restaurant) by Bruno Spada/MDS
Back in 1993, the newly elected city government of Belo Horizonte, Brazil declared that food was a right of citizenship. At that time, the city of 2.5 million had 275,000 people living in absolute poverty, and close to 20 percent of its children were going hungry. Since the declaration the city has all but wiped out hunger and only spends 2% of the city budget to do so.

Article continues: Brazilian City Makes Food A Basic Right And Ends Hunger
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My friend Lexica over at Clipmarks took up this discussion with someone who wrote in about food banks. A quote from the food banks commenter is first (emphases are mine): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Pres. Obama’s Inaugural Address

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President Obama, perhaps the premiere American orator of our day, could have thrilled the million on the Mall to goose-bumps.  That he chose a different approach suggests to me that he was after something deeper: words of substance rather than words of emotion alone.  Let’s see how they read.

The Speech
Image by Kaptain Krispy Kreme via Flickr

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…

(APPLAUSE)

… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

Obama Inauguration
Image by john w via Flickr

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

January 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

5 former slaves who are changing the world

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Five astonishing stories.  Click the link for the details.
clipped from razoo.com

Iqbal Masih was sold into bonded labor at a carpet factory in his native Pakistan at the age of four[…] At ten, he ran away […] refused to return to the factory, and began to travel the world, visiting rallies, meetings, and even elementary school classrooms, to tell the story of the abuses he had suffered as a child slave, imploring others to help fight for an end to human trafficking […]

Hadijatou Mani was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for $500 […] [At 24] Mani brought a lawsuit against the Niger government, claiming that they hadn’t enforced their anti-slavery laws to protect her […] Mani won the case—a landmark ruling in the human trafficking world. A regional tribunal forced the government to pay Mani $19,000 in damages […]

in southern Sudan, Simon Deng was abducted at the age of nine […] Deng, now 47, is a United States citizen who works as a lifeguard on Coney Island. But his primary mission is raising awareness of human trafficking in Sudan, both through speeches and as the leader of the Sudan Freedom Walk, a 300-mile trek from the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City to Capitol Hill […]

Somaly Mam, a Cambodian orphan, never knew her parents. She doesn’t even know how old she is […] Around the age of 16, she was sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh […] When she finally escaped the brothel at age 21 after a friend’s murder, Mam vowed to devote the rest of her life to helping other sex slaves go free […] Since escaping the brothel, Mam has helped more than 4,000 former sex slaves to go free […]
Given Kachepa from Zambia, was a member of a children’s choir […] a charity organization asked the child singers to move to Texas and perform there […] he would receive an education and a salary […] [Once in Texas] they were forced to perform up to seven concerts a day, and were forced to go without food when they misbehaved. […] the boys never saw a penny for their work. […]the INS removed the boys […] Today, Kachepa is committed to speaking out against slavery […]
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Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

“I’LL KICK THE S**T OUT OF YOU!”

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I spent a memorable afternoon Thursday, beneath a tree on a corner in the little town of Conesville, Iowa, learning about a world that I hadn’t known before.

Melissa Regennitter/ Muscatine Journal

From left: Migrant worker Hector Manuel Cardona-Ramirez sits next to Monte Asbury, a Washington, Iowa, pastor. To Asbury’s right are two other migrant workers who bunk with Cardona-Ramirez and more than 600 others from Mexico in a migrant worker camp in Conesville. On Thursday, Asbury listened to a group of migrant workers who said they’d been unjustly fired and complained of illness. Asbury, an online blogger who writes about immigration and human rights was there to give moral support. Photo: Melissa Regennitter/ Muscatine Journal

My friend Carlos Rich (he’s a community organizer who works on immigrant health issues for the Center for New Community) had phoned, that morning, to tell me of some fellows who’d been fired from their jobs detasseling corn and picking melons.  Some had talked to a reporter the previous day, and Carlos wondered if that was connected to the firing.  Off we went.

We met eight men in a very hard spot.  They’d come to Iowa from their homes in Colima and Durango, Mexico.  Up at 3:30 A.M. each morning, they jockeyed for position on the buses taking workers to the fields. After a day in the blistering heat, they’d be back  – at 9:30 P.M. – for a quick meal and shower, then to the bunkhouse for 10:30 lights-out. Seven days a week.

Carlos invited reporters to join us (see Melissa Regenitter’s article in the Muscatine Journal).  While they made their way to Conesville, the boss drove past several times, sometimes stopping to pleasantly ask who we (Carlos and I) were, and to ask the men if they were going to work this afternoon.  It was a puzzle, given their certainty that they’d been fired. Carlos was cell-phoning what seemed like a dozen people – the Governor’s Office in Colima, some legal advisors – and the general drift I got was that it was a good idea for none of us to say much if we were questioned.

In the distance, the massive bunkhouse

In the distance, the massive bunkhouse

Which proved to be a handy thing to know.   For in a bit, an office worker drove up, eye-poppingly irate.  To the men, soothing mother-hen reproaches:  “How could you boys do this to [the bosses] after all they’ve done for you?  You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

In my mind, a window opened up and history blew in.  How many times had that siren-song seduced workers through the years?  Hadn’t it been sung in the dangerous factories of the north – the stifling cotton fields of the south – the brutal vegetable harvests of California?  It seemed like the timeless, place-less essence of the struggle of workers:  You  “boys” should be ashamed of yourselves. (Some were close to her in age.)  How could you be so ungrateful? What’s gotten into you?  We’re friends, you know we are!  What have they been telling you?

Endless line of portable toilets

A vast collection of portable toilets

The men were politely, firmly quiet.

To me, she gave a mildly derogatory “some kind of pastor” talk:  “What are you telling these boys?  They’re good boys!”

But to Carlos, venom:  “Shut up! … I’ll kick the s**t out of you!

It’s hard to imagine how trapped foreign workers are. If they want to quit, how will they get home, thousands of miles away?  Without English, to whom can they turn for help?  They’ll need to go to a city to get a bus.  But what city? And without transport, how will they get there?

One row of the bunkhouse. This room had about 160 beds, and was one of four.

About 160 men sleep in this huge bunkroom. Three more rooms, of 150-200 beds each, adjoin.

Intelligent, thoughtful men, all with perfect H2A visas (see the bottom of Melissa’s article), all with families at home needing income badly enough for them to risk this journey into a foreign country.  But it wasn’t going to work.  After telling of heat and work-related ailments, confusions about firings, conditions different than the Mexican recruiter had led them to expect, and less work than they’d hoped, they decided they just wanted to go home.  Since they’d borrowed to pay for their passports and visas, and after the $100 a week they paid the company for food, they figured they’d just about break even after the next morning’s paycheck.

Worried about staying in the camp after attracting media attention, they traveled back to Washington in my pickup.  They spent the night in the church, so grateful to be secure, so delighted to have found a way out.  Carlos gave a lift over to get paychecks on Friday (and the boss was more generous in the final settlement than they’d expected), and then up to Iowa City’s bus station to start the long ride home.

Most of us, after showers, at the church

Most of us, after showers, at the church - Carlos Rich is at the top left. I'm the one with the baby-bottom-pink face!

Perhaps most unexpected was the tenderness of the friendships developed in those hours.  After trading stories down at my place, glimmers of hope remained in my mind, suggesting that God had done something wonderful among us all.  I was honored to enjoy it.

What a memorable privilege it was, sharing that moment with these good men.


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Written by Monte

August 4, 2008 at 5:50 pm