|United Methodist Women take to the road for justice|
Sherry Sink (center) and Jo Halbert sort produce that will
help feed low-income families. The field trip was part of a series of
community visits by United Methodist Women during the organization's
National Seminar Aug. 11-16 in Nashville, Tenn.
UMNS photos by David Rogers, Women's Division.
By Yvette Moore*
Aug. 16, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
More than 200 United Methodist Women boarded buses and traveled to
communities in the Nashville area to see what it means to be homeless,
an immigrant or without health care.
The community visits were part of the organization's 2007 "For Christ's
Sake, Turn the World Upside Down" National Seminar Aug. 11-16 at
Elizabeth Leyva (center left) and Tiffany
Pyen offer a helping hand to Good Food
for Good People, a community-based organization working to decrease
food waste and increase accessibility
to fresh and healthy foods.
"The whole idea of community visits is to broaden our knowledge, to
go beyond ourselves to gain insights and listen to the voices of those
on the margins …," said elmira Nazombe, executive of the Women's
Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the
administrative arm of UMW. "This will help give us the landscape view we
need to look for patterns and discern what the issues are telling us
about our faith imperatives."
Nashville community groups served as guides for the women in visits
to a mosque, landfill, community clinics, farmers market, community
garden, homeless shelters, public high school and Civil War monument.
Each visit included one-on-one conversations and panel discussions
and presentations on the related issue. The visits were an extension of
workshops held throughout the event focusing on one of seven issues:
economic justice, health care, public education, immigration, community
food security, environmental justice and militarism, peace and national
Meeting with immigrants, salvaging food
"It rocked my world," said participant Donna Moore from the
denomination's Memphis Annual (regional) Conference, after a day of
visits with immigrants and refugees. She met at a mosque with Kurdish
women from Turkey who had come to the United States as refugees and also
spoke with Hispanic women at a local immigrant advocacy program.
Moore said she had passed immigrant workers in her local community,
but didn't know much about them. "The Hispanic women had an awesome fear
of being separated from their families," she said. "The thing that
struck me was their patience, their stories and how they need advocates.
“The whole idea of community visits is to
broaden our knowledge, to go beyond ourselves to gain insights and
listen to the voices of those on the margins …”
"The things I take for granted in my life are not afforded to
everybody. How could we not know? I didn't know. As a United Methodist
and a United Methodist Women member, as a Christian, we need to know.
It's our responsibility to know. Maybe it's been out there all along.
Maybe this was my time to listen."
Susan Sanders, Kansas West Conference, helped sort and salvage food
for low-income families during her visit to the farmers market and Good
Food For Good People, a community-based organization committed to
decreasing food waste and increasing accessibility to fresh and healthy
"The man for Good Food for Good People just takes the salvaged fruits
and vegetables, puts it on his truck and takes it to the low-income
housing development," Sanders said. "Then they knock on the doors and
say, 'The food's here!' People come out and get the produce. And they
don't just take for themselves. They take to give to neighbors, too."
The visit was part of the workshop on community food security, which
examines the need for every community to have access to a safe,
affordable nutritious food supply. Many low-income areas do not have
large grocery stores that carry fresh fruits and vegetables.
Exploring war and peace
A visit to Fort Negley, a local Civil War memorial, kicked off a day
of exploring reasons for war and the far-reaching impact of war for
women taking the militarism, peace and national security workshops.
The group heard presentations from two U.S. Army public affairs
specialists about today's all-volunteer soldiers, saw a documentary
about the munitions-making military industrial complex and listened to
testimonies from a panel representing organizations and ministries
working for peace and helping military personnel and families.
A group of United Methodist Women tour
a landfill to explore the issue of environmental justice.
The Revs. John and Janie Dandridge of Nashville shared how their soldier son's loss of a leg in Iraq changed their lives.
"It's a traumatic experience to look at all the wounded men and
women," Ms. Dandridge said of visiting her son at Walter Reed Army
Hospital in Washington, D.C.
"There's a real war going on, no matter what you think about it,"
said Mr. Dandridge, a retired military officer. "There are nearly 4,000
U.S. deaths and 60,000 wounded. Many have traumatic brain injuries. Like
Vietnam, they're going to be coming home and unable to care for
themselves. Peace is necessary."
The couple's work for peace and counsel focuses on military families.
"God has given us a whole new ministry," Ms. Dandridge said.
United Methodist Women is an organization of approximately 800,000
members within The United Methodist Church in the United States. Its
purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for
justice. United Methodist Women members give more than $20 million a
year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in
the United States and around the world.
*Moore is on the communications staff of United Methodist Women.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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