Bright Futures?

boy with gloves

A ‘Minute for Mission’ done at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY on April 6th

“My name is Andrew Kang Bartlett and I am grateful to have been able to serve as associate for national hunger for the past 13 years ever since Gary Cook (sitting in the pews) hired me on for a 6-month interim position. I hope you know the ‘minute’ in Minute for Mission is a euphemism. No one has ever done it in a minute, and I’ll be speaking for about 4 minutes. Also in the name of transparency – a principle seekers of justice promote – my salary is provided through One Great Hour of Sharing, and my job is to ask you to give generously to OGHS. A clear conflict of interest.

But I believe you should give generously in any case. Actually, all you need to do is read the story of Huerto de la Familia in the bulletin and you’ll be convinced. [see the Huerto video here] So I’ll just tell you a story.

The work the Presbyterian Hunger Program does is wonderful, but it also can be challenging. I just returned from leading a retreat for 100 middle and high school students up at Kirkmont Presbyterian Camp near Columbus OH. The topic was Food Justice, God’s Recipe and I showed lots of video about food and farming, and we did things like map the breakfast we had just eaten. [I held up the map two students had created while the rest called out food items and locations]  Like grapes from California, coffee from Central America and Ethiopia, even tea from India – and they drew in a little India here.

I worked with the leadership team of Presbyterian Youth Connection, made up primarily of high schoolers and a few adults. When leaving on Saturday night, I commented to Kristie Marcum how awesome her group was. And truly, each one of them was so unique and generously shared their effort and gifts. Kristie said something that stuck with me. She said, “Yes, each one of them has a bright future ahead of them.”

Driving south on route 68 surrounded by the brown stubble of giant corn fields, I became sad and scared for those kids. I thought about the sin and greed in the world. At how corporations have grown stronger than ever and tremendously influence politics and policies. How poverty and hunger still surrounds us, and inequality has become extreme. And on top of that is climate change. How will these innocent young people deal with all that?!  (yes, I did choke up a little)

By the time I hit I-75 toward Cincinnati I had calmed down a bit and as I thought about my message to you today, I realized there was room for hope, and I love the quote on the bulletin insert – “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

Because I thought about my friends and colleagues serving you all in the Hunger Program.

* There is Ruth Farrell, from this congregation, who coordinates the program.
* We have Valery Nodem, from Cameroon, who coordinates the Joining Hands program, and with Alexa Smith makes connections between local and international and mobilizes people to campaign against land grabs.
* We have Rebecca Barnes who supports 100s of churches as become Earth Care Congregations.
* There is Bryce Wiebe, who took over from Melanie Hardison, who runs immersion trips like to Nicaragua so people can make the links between their lifestyles and global issues; so they can live simply so that others can simply live.
* We work in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and I am so grateful for this church’s accompaniment of the farm workers and the Campaign for Fair Food.
* And my work focuses on supporting congregations and groups who are strengthening their local food economies to make them more just and sustainable. This happens locally and through coalitions such as the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which the Hunger Program helped to found.
* [I forgot to say this, but had planned to…] Finally, since the PHP was formed, we have provided around $80 million in financial support to groups around the US and internationally.

And all of this we do to build a movement…to build a movement for God’s Justice.

You and I, each of us, plant these seeds to build a garden of hope. We have faith that God provides the increase.

So let us continue to be about building a movement for God’s justice so that each one of those young person’s future is indeed bright.”

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