By Judith Myers
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9
I preached a sermon a few years back. It was for the Sunday I returned from CBF General Assembly in Dallas. On one of the last evenings, I had it completed. I felt good. Then my computer crashed. Three days until Sunday and I had nothing. At the time, I was livid. I had worked hard on that sermon! Then I encountered our last worship service. We were commissioning the new field personnel and chaplains; sending them out in the world to live boldly and live out their call. I ended up writing a completely different sermon, titled Don’t Miss the Moment. It was a sermon that showed my pride for CBF and the people that aren’t missing the moment. They understand that life is urgent. They are living boldly—a challenge to all of Jesus’ followers.
This past semester was one for the books. On top of taking classes that were clearly evolving the way I minister, I had the opportunity to travel to two amazing places. The first was El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. I was able to learn about immigration and the policies that are in place at the border. You can learn more about my experience here, or you can join us at Peace Camp in 2016!
A few weeks after my trip to the border, I was able to take what I learned about immigration and our broken system to Advocacy in Action. There I learned how to use my voice and the resources that were around. I learned the importance of a Christian’s role in advocacy, what the Bible says about it, and why it’s a part of our calling. Then I got to use my voice and be a part of something awesome during Lobby Day.
I’m grateful. Being a part of an organization that creates and executes events like Advocacy in Action makes me ecstatic to be young clergy of CBF.
This was my second time experiencing Advocacy in Action. I hope to make it a tradition- to see how it grows and flourishes into something really beautiful. I was just as excited this time around- especially since I was going to hear from Sue and Greg Smith, Field Personnel working with LUCHA ministries. They work with immigrants every day, and I was excited to process my border trip with them. Our group spent the first afternoon in conversation about immigration and payday lending.
We talked about why Christians are called to be a voice for the voiceless, why we are called to love one another, to be their advocate, to speak out. During the week, we also met with Melissa Rogers- Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office building. It was an honor to learn from her and the different ways that she is using her skills to help our nation’s leaders.
We met with the staff from Bread for the World, Baptist Joint Committee, and the New Baptist Covenant. We learned their stories and how they’re a part of the big things happening on Capitol Hill and in the DC area. Kasey Jones, now past moderator of CBF, spoke to us as the pastor of National Baptist Memorial Church. The congregation she leads plays a large role in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. They provide those in need with their hunger ministry and clothes closet. In the summer, they host a camp for kids.
All of these opportunities helped us form together a new community, a community of action. We culminated our time together on the Hill. I, along with several other Virginia residents,spoke with the staff of our representatives. We spoke to them about the good work of Bread for the World. We spoke about the upcoming bills about child nutrition, as well as the brokenness we feel as predatory lending traps those in need of a way out of debt.
Our voices were heard. We listened, we prayed, and we talked. We didn’t miss the moment. We acted boldly.
Since returning from Washington, D.C., I’ve been able to act boldly in response to my experiences. I was present for a payday lending conference. We listened to stories about the horror behind what these debt traps can do to people in a financial crises. I met with David Bailey of David Bailey Associates. It’s a “full-service public relations, government affairs, and lobbying firm located immediately adjacent to the state capitol in Richmond.” (www.dbava.com) We talked about the day-to-day activities of his office and how he influences state legislators. I traveled back to Washington, D.C., to be a part of the Hunger Justice Leaders program at Bread for the World. I learned the different resources and what it means to be passionate about hunger in our country and our world.
Thanks be to God for organizations like CBF, who are passionate about being the light of Christ to others in need. Thanks be to God for CBF and for the people involved that understand that life is urgent and who live boldly and speak out.
Judith Myers is a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.