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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Rice for dinner

At Minneapolis congregation, families can count on this ...

When Dick and Rita Juhl’s four children were young, family dinner once a month was rice only. “We’d tell them this is what a huge portion of the world eats every day, hoping to teach them empathy and concern for hunger in the world. The money we saved we’d send to a charitable organization,” Rita Juhl said.

Violet McMahon serves herself some
Violet McMahon serves herself some rice during one of her family’s monthly rice dinners. Next to her is her sister, Chloe, and parents Julie and Barry McMahon. The McMahons are members of St. Peder Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, which encourages families to once a month send away money they’ve saved by not having a more extravagant meal.
When the 2004 tsunami hit Indonesia she wondered why something similar couldn’t be done on a larger scale. Juhl not only thought big, she acted big. She wrote to former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and Mark Dayton, a former Minnesota senator. Only Bush wrote back. “I hoped he’d say, ‘What a great idea. Let Bill and I get going on this ...,’ ” she said. “But he did say it’s a great idea and wished me success.”

So Juhl went to her pastor, Julie A. Ebbesen of St. Peder Lutheran, Minneapolis, who encouraged her to make an announcement at church inviting others to commit to once-a-month rice dinners. Dick Juhl stood at the back of the church signing folks up and distributing starter rice, information sheets and address labels so members could donate the money they would have spent on a more extensive and expensive meal. The labels were for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization started in Minnesota.

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