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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.


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 community visits were part of the organization's 2007 "For Christ's Sake, Turn the World Upside Down" National Seminar Aug. 11-16 at Scarritt-Bennett Center.

"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 security.

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 …”
–elmira Nazombe

"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 foods.

"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.


A group of United Methodist Women tour
a landfill to explore the issue of environmental justice.


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.

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 newsdesk@umcom.org .


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