For today’s post, we have a guest blogger reflecting on her experiences at the Bread for the World Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2014 at Christ United Methodist.
For the second year, I attended the annual Bread for the World NC conference at Christ United Methodist Church, and I’m so glad I did. I’m also glad that Guilford Park is a partner church with Bread for the World.
“Compassion Igniting Justice” … what does that mean? For me it begins with human need, and the same seemed true for our keynote speaker, Gene Nichol. Because of his work with the UNC Law School’s Center for Poverty, he can cite every grim statistic about North Carolina’s currently unabated slide into human misery: We now rank among the bottom states in the abysmal numbers who are hungry and going without health care.
But Nichols does not just recite statistics. He also knows the stories … and the stories are what are so powerful. He spoke movingly about a small church group in the Hickory area that manages to feed and care for the dozens of poor people, including children, who reside in tents and cardboard shelters in the nearby woods.
I can only begin to imagine the circumstances in which these and so many of our poorest neighbors live and try to raise their families. The notion of children going hungry touches me especially deeply, having been born into poverty myself. As I listened to the discussion, the insistent challenge kept coming: What are we Christians doing in the face of such need, and what are we doing in the face of such injustice?
Giving, serving, feeding – these are easy for us to acknowledge as the legitimate claims of the Gospel on us. “In as much as you have done it (fed, clothed, visited, and healed) the least of these, you have done it to me.” Our compassion readily overflows, and we can see that overflow in the food boxes at church.
But for compassion to “ignite” justice, we have to take another step on the Walk: The step to advocating and working for justice for the poor and for systemic change in governmental policies so that the hungry may be fed. What does the Lord require of you, and of me? “To seek justice …”
Hunger is not partisan, said Nancy Rhodes, a self-described fiscal conservative who believes in smaller government. But with government of necessity providing the bulk of food aid (92%, while charity provides the other 8%), she advocates passionately for justice for the poor through Bread, so that no child will have to grow up hungry, suffering from malnutrition as the boy she adopted from Russia will suffer the rest of his life.
Nichols closed on a hopeful note. His hope lies in the Moral Monday uprising by people in this state who are working to shed light on injustice and suffering. Whether we can undo the damage being done before we lose a generation of children ultimately depends upon whether enough of us allow our compassion to ignite the fire of justice in our hearts.
I left the conference both sobered by the challenge and energized for the fight.