Lection Connection

April 25, 2021: Love Is a Verb

From Sandra Rooney

 

A recent online request for donations brought my attention to a story of love being lived out at the Muslim Center in Detroit.  During the month-long observance of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and the Muslim Center would normally provide a daily community iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan.  Normally they would also host interfaith iftar throughout the month.  The Center has had to forego those traditions this year to comply with social distancing practices.  This circumstance, however, has only expanded an even more far-reaching ministry.

 

For 25 years the Muslim Center has had a food pantry and soup kitchen, where volunteers pack grab-and-go lunches and hot dinners. They have continued providing meals for those in need, every day of the week.  As Detroit workers faced job losses, income cuts and increased need during the pandemic, the number people coming to the mosque for meals has doubled. The mosque’s board secretary, Davine El-Amin, along with another board member and other volunteers prepare some 200 meals daily. Other volunteers deliver a couple hundred meals each week to households without transportation.  While they had previously served mostly non-Muslim residents of the neighborhood, it’s now about fifty/fifty, she said. 

 

Five thousand miles away, in Rio de Janiero, David Hertz is operating Gastromotiva, a non- profit he founded in 2006.  Since the pandemic exploded in Brazil, Gastromotiva’s food bank has cooked and distributed nearly 100,000 meals for homeless and other vulnerable people, and distributed more than 55 tons of food.  

 

Hertz was born and raised in one of Curitaba, Brazil’s 2000 Jewish families.  His earliest and fondest memories of cooking was time he spent with his grandmother, who was born in Poland. “I always connected to Jewish food,” he said.  After a trip to Israel, working on a kibbutz for about 18 months, he spent several years backpacking around the world, including to India, Vietnam and China, and for the first time witnessed the extreme poverty which much of the world experiences. 

 

Hertz enrolled in Brazil’s first culinary training program when he returned home. He found most of the students came from low-income communities, and he began to recognize how privileged he was.  In 2004 he visited a favela in Sao Paulo, speaking with the people as he walked the neighborhood.  Afterwards, he kept thinking about how many people were living in poverty.  It was then that he realized he could use his skills to help make change.  Instead of pursuing a career in a restaurant, he decided to bring his cooking and managerial skills to as many people as possible.  “I also realized how food can be linked to social justice and social change,” he said.  That was the beginning of Gastromotiva, which now operates in Brazil and Mexico City, in El Salvador and South Africa, through the U.N. World Food Program.  One of the programs offered is Solidarity Kitchens.  Current and former students, many of whom lost their jobs in restaurants and hotels because of the pandemic, have turned their home kitchens into small delivery restaurants.  Local farms and businesses provide financial help, food donations and supplies.  The result, healthy and free meals delivered to the neighborhoods’ most vulnerable residents.

 

Explore. . .John 10:11-18

  • How do you think Jesus meant his disciples to understand their mission when he described himself as the good shepherd?
  • How do you like to express love to family and friends and how has Covid-related isolation  changed that for you?
  • In what ways have you seen love being expressed this past year, within your faith community and beyond?

 

Prayer links. . .

            We pray, O God, that the lessons learned from the hardships of the past year may not be forgotten.  May we find ways to break down the barriers that divide us and find common purpose in alleviating pain and suffering that we may all move forward, faithfully following the one known as the good shepherd.  Amen

 

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