By Summer Hyche
“So are you from around here?” we ask our waitress at Hank’s trendy oyster bar on our first night in D.C. “No one is from around here” she replies. As I know she is talking about the melting pot that the District of Columbia truly is—looking back I wonder if she realizes how far her response can go.
I feel as if I have spent most of my time as a college student in constant search of meaning and purpose.
I want to do something important. I want to solve problems. I want to love and help everyone. I have all these passions and strong feelings regarding the world and its issues, yet I felt as if I didn’t have an outlet to channel them all into. March 9, 2015, that feeling changed.
As I walked into the conference room on our first day of Advocacy in Action, it is safe to say I was overwhelmed.
As one of three college students in a room full of smart seminarians, devout ministers and strong-willed nonprofit leaders, it took everything in me to realize that I was not too young or inadequate to be there. God’s call to action is for everyone, including me. We went around the room and introduced ourselves with our names, what we do and why we were there. We were also in a sense a melting pot of some sort.
Lawyers, pastors, students, coordinators, volunteers, children of God.
Although we all had differently-worded responses as to why we were there, we were all there to figure out a way to serve the “least of these,” and that’s exactly what we talked about for the rest of the night.
We spent hours diving into the ideas of what advocacy truly is and how it applies to us as Christians. Stephen Reeves, CBF associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy and our leader during the conference, took us bullet point by bullet point asking our input on ideas. Different insight was shared based on personal experience, calling and questions, and we just bounced off of one another for hours figuring out why we are called not only to speak out for the voiceless, but to also empower the voiceless to remember that their voices matter.
It is those conversations I realized exactly what God had been stirring in me, and what I was called to not only claim as truth, but to live out and act on. The voiceless matter too! What a radical thing to say, believe and act on. The oppressed matter!
This is not because as a Christian I am called to serve those with less than I have only to leave feeling so blessed to have what I do. No. These people matter because they are no different than I am.
I am a child of the most loving, merciful God, and so are they.
The biggest irony of all comes from the entire ideology we have regarding the “least of these.” When you hear that term, what words come to mind? Poor. Poverty. Needy. But in what context? Financially? Maybe. But what are we called to do?
My last night in D.C., I was doing my nightly devotion of the 40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was going through the beatitudes and one that I always skimmed over struck me: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
Bonhoeffer says, “The meek renounce all rights of their own for the sake of Jesus Christ.” The meek endure oppression, turn the other cheek to betrayal and do not fight for their own selfish rights, yet the earth belongs to them. We are called to be meek. We are called to reject the earth and the self-proclaimed rights and power that come with it.
Why advocate for those who have had their rights and dignity stripped? Because we are called to do the same.
More often than not, when I encounter the “least of these,” I am in far more poverty than they are—spiritual poverty. Instead of trusting that God will provide me with enough, I yearn for what’s next. Yet many times, those who are oppressed and victimized by society (in which I am an active member) reveal to me the true meaning of being an active disciple.
I don’t need all that I have, but I have it, and my time in Washington, D.C., taught me that it is crucial that I make good use of what I have for the sake of my brothers and sisters.
Washington, D.C., truly is a melting pot. It is composed of the most diverse community.
From politicians from Alabama, to waitresses from New Jersey, to cab drivers from Ethiopia, D.C. has it all. And so does the Kingdom.
Walking around the city streets with my fellow advocates learning about the importance of the church and its work in confronting injustice was a glimpse into the Kingdom of God for me. How can I fully live out the gospel if I am not actively advocating for the leper, the widow or the oppressed? Unless I am doing that, I am robbing myself and those around me of the fullness of the gospel, and I am not telling the true story of Jesus, the greatest advocate.
We are created to be interdependent. We are created to shepherd each other and also to be shepherded; we cannot do this unless we are valuing one another in the way God values us. We are more than enough because of God’s love for us. That means nothing until we realize it means all of us.
My last stop before heading to the airport to depart was a local coffee shop called The Potters House. As I skimmed the menu for what I wanted for lunch, I stumbled across the broccoli cheddar soup in which the price was “pay what you can.” What a beautiful benediction to end my trip.
I am full of passion and hatred for injustice, and I don’t always know what to do with it. But I’ll do what I can, because God is calling me to.
We are entitled to nothing. Let us drop our self-proclaimed righteousness and act on behalf of the voiceless, and most importantly, remind the voiceless they have a voice, and it is worthy of being heard.
“…unless there is real peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no peace or joy or freedom for me.” Frederick Buechner
Summer Hyche is pursuing her B.A. in English at the University of Alabama, and is a member of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.