Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bean Ministry

Fun Fact about Michigan: it is the bean capital of the world! At least that is what Michiganders tell me so they might be a little bias. Whether or not this is true, they do grow a LOT of beans here (no not green beans), but good hearty protein beans. One of the members of LVC's Local Support Committee in Michigan, Peggy, is very involved with hunger and she helps distribute beans to food insecure families through Lutheran churches in Southeast Michigan. She's a diaconal minister which means instead of being a minister of a church and their congregation she does service in ministries at the intersection of church and world (so doing things like distributing beans to the hungry). I particularly love this sort of ministry at the intersection of the church and the world and it would be the only tempting reason for me to go to seminary.

Needless to say Peggy's very involved with LVC, Read for Life, the church (especially rural ministries because that was her focus in seminary), and also part of her job is to also help churches transition when a pastor retires. In addition, she also distributes beans across Michigan as combating hunger is one of her main passions. She's always talking about these bean distribution sessions so finally I decided I would join to see what all the talk is about. 

Hopping in the car with her and 300 lbs. of beans we drove down to Detroit to greet a congregation that would distribute the beans to their community. We arrived at a smaller but GORGEOUS church. They had beautiful stain glass windows and a large lovely garden growing in the back. The women of the church were particularly proud of their garden, with good reason! We then unloaded the bags of beans and set up the stations. Then we all sat down to listen to a nutritional session about why beans are so important and to mix them with a grain to get a full protein. They also discussed how to cook the beans and provided different easy recipes. Then we washed our hands and got to work bagging up beans into 2lb bags!!!!

Bag of mixed beans.

50 lb. bags of beans.
 The beans are completely funded by the national ELCA Lutheran church body out of Chicago. As Peggy was explaining to me there are these grants they set up that you apply for stating your mission etc and she was awarded this bean grant to do be able to do this. Then Peggy, who knows basically everyone (really you can't walk somewhere in Port Huron with her NOT stopping to talk to someone), was able to talk the price down for the beans to only 15-18 cents per pound for the beans. You can get A LOT of beans for this price especially in Michigan. In fact this grant money has provided 240,000 meals. In addition to just supplying the beans, Peggy also teaches people the importance of nutrition and how to make food stretch, which is SO important for food insecure homes. (She has about a million degrees.. one of them is in nutrition.. another in child development.. she's just very knowledgeable!) 

Bagging Black Beans with their recipes.

The church decided that they were going to distribute the beans 3 ways; one for a non-profit group, one for another community group, and then one for their own church (and people who stop by or families in need). The church was SO incredibly thankful for the beans! They saw the beans as a critical way to help families and to reach out to the community to help bring people into the church. As you may or may not know the unemployment rate in Detroit is in the low 40%  (high 30% for Port Huron) so there is a LOT of need. It was such a pleasure to work alongside  these ladies (it was all women who participated in bagging the beans). They really do care a lot about their community and I think if I lived near them I would probably regularly attend their church. It is uncommon to walk into a church and instantly feel part of the community, but maybe bagging the beans had something to do with that!

Bags of Beans ready to be distributed to families.

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