Grand Marshal for 2017 Hunger Walkathon West CROP Walk

We are pleased to have Kenneth Elisapana as our Grand Marshal for the 2017 Hunger Walkathon West CROP Walk. Kenneth has an experience and story to share with us about his journey from South Sudan to America. The following is excerpted from a forthcoming book by Tom Holmes’ titled “The Soul of a Liberal Village.”

“I was born in South Sudan in a small village named Jambo roughly between 1968 and 1970,” said Kenneth Elisapana. He doesn’t know for sure, because birth certificates were not given out in those days in Jambo.

His first day in the U.S. sheds light on what his growing up in Jambo was like.  He arrived in the U.S. in 1999 to study at Indiana Taylor University. When he arrived on campus he was taken to the dining hall where there was a long buffet table with many kinds of foods.  He took a plate and helped himself to kidney beans and rice.

The man who was running the place came to Elisapana and seeing that he was a new student, asked if he had enough to eat. Kenneth replied that he came from South Sudan where Christians were being persecuted. When the man asked him if he wanted more food, Kenneth replied that he couldn’t afford any more.

“He said, ‘Kenneth, you are a student here.  You can eat anything on the table.’ When I went to my room I could not believe that in the world there is food like this, and people live like this. For me this was a picture of heaven.”

“Then I imagined children starving to death back home,” he continued, “and I began to ask God if God really cares. That was a turning point for me, and I still struggle with it today.  I tell my kids that if we don’t need an extra jacket, we don’t need it. Why? Because I know this is not real. This is not how our people live in Sudan.”

Elisapana described the context from which he had come. He said that Sudan had once been the largest country in Africa before it was partitioned into North Sudan and South Sudan.  Arabs had come to the coastal regions to act as middle men in the slave trade.  When the slave trade ended, the Arabs stayed. The north was mainly Muslim and the south largely Christian.

He said that when the British left, it created a power vacuum and the Muslims wanted to make all of Sudan a Muslim state. The Arabs were concentrated in the northern part of Sudan, but it was in the south that most of the resources including oil were found.  The fighting became intense in the 1990s. That’s when the news was filled with stories about “the lost boys of Sudan.”

“My father was killed in the war in 1992,” he said.  “When I was around 16 or 17 I fled.  I was walking without shoes and drinking filthy water from the river. I was in Egypt for almost two years as a refugee.”

One day, while attending a worship service at a church, an elderly woman recognized him. She had been a missionary and had been his teacher back in Juba.  She went back to England and told her congregation what had happened.  The congregation voted to send money to help him continue his education in Kenya. By then he around twenty, and that’s where he met Judy his wife, who was from the Kokuyu tribe in Kenya. One of the colleges at which he was studying in Nairobi had an exchange program with Taylor, and that’s how Elisapana wound up in Indiana for, he thought, one semester.

“When I arrived,” he said, “the president of the school called me to his office.  After I told my story, he was crying.  He told me that he was going to help me stay in the U.S. until I finished my schooling. I stayed for two years, majored in sociology and graduated in the class of 2002.  They paid for everything.”

Kenneth then received a scholarship to go to Southern Illinois for graduate studies and received a masters degree in public administration in 2004, and was hired by a relief agency in the Chicago area which was doing a lot of resettlement work with the “lost boys” from Sudan and Kenya. Two years later the State of Illinois hired him to do social work, which has been doing since 2007.

Since the drive from Aurora, where the Elisapana family was living at the time, to Chicago was too hard on him, the family moved to the Austin Neighborhood just east of Oak Park. After searching for a home congregation for a time, they felt comfortable with the pastor, Marti Scott, and the congregation and joined.

Since they daughter Helen was five years old at the time and Chicago’s schools had a bad reputation, Kenneth told his pastor that they were considering a move to Oak Park where the schools are rated very high. She replied, “Let me think about it,” and after a few days she said to the family, “Would you consider renting the parsonage temporarily?”

“I still can’t believe I’m living in this place,” he said. “That’s why for me when you talk of God’s hand this is a success story, like how God took Moses from a basket in the Nile River to deliver his people to the Promised Land. This is my story, too.”

Grateful for the blessings they have received, Judy and Kenneth have not forgotten about their countrymen who are suffering. They have a 501c3 not for profit called South Sudan Hope, for which he goes on a mission trip every year.

“This year,” he said in 2013, “we will purchase land on which to build a guesthouse where experts can stay to teach the people about carpentry and welding and brick making.  We want to provide sewing machines for tailoring and seeds for sustainable farming.

Here, he experiences people who take the time to listen to his story and understand where he has come from as gifts from God. “They take the time to listen,” he explained, “and for me that is healing, because we can talk through it.”

“It reminds me of God’s goodness,” he continued. “A simple boy from a village who spoke no English, grew up bare foot, had not seen a doctor because there were none where I lived and I’m sitting here where you can get electricity by turning on a switch and my wife and I have two cars.”

Elisapana likes some things about Oak Park, but there are some aspects of the village with which he is uncomfortable. “I must say that District 97 is great for my kids,” he said.  “That’s number one.  Oak Park is also near where I work.  A third reason we like the town is because in the schools and in the churches they accept diversity. The fact that I am from Africa and speak with an accent is OK.”

 

 

Hunger Effects Education

We are a society that seeks to have the brightest kids in our school system. We want to nurture them with knowledge, to help them learn and grow. There are, however, things that impact the ability to learn. One of them is food. 3 out of 4 public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. 81% say it happens at least once a week, according to No Kid Hungry. Educators agree that kids need to start the day with a healthy breakfast in order to do well in school. But though nearly every school offers breakfast, 50% of teachers still say the problem has increased.

Many of the people who are on the CROP Hunger Walk committee and those who walk, have seen the impact of the lack of food for children.  I’ve been to a PADS evening to make food and feed the people who seek out food and shelter for the night. The work that  Housing Forward, one of the 7 agencies we support, does in providing shelter, called PADS Shelter, which accommodates 43-70 individuals nightly, depending on location. A lottery system is used when there are more clients than beds available. On some nights people are turned away for the shelter they seek. Each night, usually a church, houses people seeking food and shelter.  This is all done by volunteers who have a sense of giving to people in need.

Among that group of people are families with children seeking these services. I have seen their faces and their eyes looking forelorn. The meals that are provided may be the only food they have for the day.

The CROP Hunger Walk’s mission is to spread the word on the issue of hunger and in so doing, raising money for this cause.  Distributed locally, 25% of the total raised, and 75% to the work that Church World Service does in the United States and around the world.

Please join us Sunday, May 1st for the 33rd Annual CROP Hunger Walk.  Sign up here and make yourself known for helping in this cause.

Have a story about hunger, please share with us by using the reply section below.

Local Radio Show Talks about Hunger

                                      Doug and Doris                                      CROP Hunger Walk: Hunger Series   Featured on
                                      “The Doris Davenport Show” with Doug Wyman

According to Share Our Strength and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, in Illinois, 1,833,810 people (14.2%) are food insecure. That is one in seven, meaning they are at risk of hunger and lack access to adequate access to the food they need to lead healthy, active lives. 661,950 children (21.6%) are food insecure. That’s one in five. Nearly 842 million people are suffering from hunger in the world and hunger causes the deaths of about 5 million children each year, according Catholic Relief Services.

The issue of hunger is one we talk about on a regular basis as we get ready for the CROP Hunger Walk on May 1, 2016. We are delighted to be featured on “The Doris Davenport Show” with Doug Wyman in a six-part series on hunger. Jon Skogen, Senior Community Engagement Specialist at Church World Services will kick-off the series on March 13, 2016. Jon has been our liaison for the CROP Hunger Walk for many years and has a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

The Doris Davenport Show, “All Local All The Time,” is our 2016 media sponsor. The radio program is broadcast live every Sunday evening at 7:00PM on 1490 AM WPNA Radio from the top of the Oak Park Arms. With a reach of over 1.5 million people throughout the Chicagoland area, the sponsorship enables the CROP Hunger Walk to educate a broad audience on the various aspects of the hunger problem in the United States as well as its local impact.

Over the next six weeks, CROP Hunger Walk experts, advocates and others committed to ending hunger will join co-hosts Doris Davenport and Doug Wyman in the WPNA studio. These CROP Hunger Walk representatives will provide important facts about the many aspects of hunger today. In this weekly awareness segment they will dispel myths and describe the needs of our fellow citizens both here and around the world who are suffering from hunger.
To learn more about the radio program and co-hosts Doris Davenport and Doug Wyman, link to the Wednesday Journal cover story which highlights impressive details about these two Oak Park dynamic personalities.

Doris’ co-host, Doug Wyman, is a friend and part of the annual CROP Hunger Walk leadership committee. He has logged countless hours over many years volunteering, both as a leader and a server with Housing Forward and the CROP Walk. It was his lovely wife Barbara who first introduced him to the plight of hunger in their local community. Sponsoring the CROP Hunger Walk was an easy decision for Doris. “Doug has recruited me to raise funds for the CROP Hunger Walk the past two years. When I heard him preparing for this year’s walk, I surprised him with an announcement that The Doris Davenport Show would be happy to provide a full media sponsorship. As a faithful Catholic, it provides both of us an opportunity to support Pope Francis’ campaign calling on all Catholics to intensify efforts to end hunger around the world.”

In the coming weeks the Doris Davenport Show will keep the topic of hunger front and center with guests covering topics ranging from public policy; social issues; academia; education; distribution; religious perspectives; recipient needs and more.

Click here for a link to the show where you can hear it live on Sundays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. CST.
We hope you all have a chance to listen and learn more about the issues. If you have comments, please fill out the form below and don’t forget to join and sign up for the walk, just follow this link.

 

Why Pastors Love CROP Walks

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Most Pastors work hard at motivating their people to put their faith into action.  That’s why many clergy like the CROP Hunger Walk.

IT’S ACTIVE

The CROP Walk gets people off their chairs and actively involved.  One of the CROP aphorisms is, “We walk, because they walk.”  In other words, many people in third world countries have to walk miles in order to get drinking water.  By walking in the CROP Walk, not only is money raised to help drill wells and provide filtration systems, but it helps the walkers identify with the people they are serving.  Simply writing a check doesn’t do this.

25% STAYS AT HOME

It’s much easier to motivate parishioners to participate when they learn that one quarter of the money raised will remain in their area.  In our case, thousands of dollars last year went to West Suburban PADS and several local food pantries.

IT’S ECUMENICAL

While a pastor might not completely agree with the theologies of colleagues down the street, most clergy earnestly want to model love of neighbor, which of course includes people of other faith traditions.  Last year we had Muslims, Jews, agnostics and many varieties of Christians all walking together in a common cause.

Pastor Tom Holmes
(reposted from 2011)

Join us on May 1, 2016 to make a difference in the lives of fellow citizens and citizens around the world.  Your steps make a difference.  Click on this link to join the walk.

Raised $1,300,000 Thus Far

Today we have our first team meeting to plan for the 2016 CROP Hunger Walk.  We are happy to welcome several new team members and look forward to their participation and view of how to make the CROP Hunger Walk even better.

The video above is a reminder of the work we do and the people who are committed to giving of themselves to make a difference in the matter of hunger.

We are all connected and know that in the 33 years of the CROP Hunger Walk the money raised, over $1,300,000.00 is a testament to how people can and do make a difference.

Join us May 1, 2016 to be part of that difference.

If you wish to volunteer, please fill out the form below.

 

400 Packets of Food Assembled

ILFoodBank3ILFoodBank2 At our 2015 Leadership meeting, held Saturday, February 28, 2015, we had an opportunity to not only talk about the upcoming CROP Hunger Walks but actually assemble food at the Northern Illlinois Food Bank in Aurora, where the meeting was held.

These pictures gives you an idea of the assembly process. When we were done, there were 400 packages of food to give to local food pantries.

This is just one example of the steps each of us can take to #endhungernow. We look forward to your participation in the May 3, 2015 Hunger Walkathon West CROP Walk.

You do and can make a difference.