Lower Susquehanna Synod Youth Tell Legislators to Can Hunger
by Tracey DePasquale, LAMPa Associate Director
“It’s the right thing to do,” 10-year-old Cecelia told Sen. Mike Brubaker when he asked her why she was participating in the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s hunger awareness and advocacy event on the steps of the state capitol.
“Jesus calls us to do this,” said Sarah, 11, chiming in and pointing to the cans of food snaking down the marble steps toward State Street. Nine days before, Sarah stood beside Cecelia , microphone in hand, giving the same message to the congregation of Christ, York, assembled for our annual Oktoberfest .
In full disclosure, Sarah is my daughter. So, I was not surprised when, given the floor with other youth to describe the synod retreat themed “Hungry,” from which they had just returned, she challenged the congregation to bring groceries to meet the “Can Hunger” event goal of lining the steps and streets to the capitol with one ton of food. Each camper spoke of ways in which people are hungry – for love, for food, for community – and how we are fed all good things by Christ. At her turn, Sarah said some are hungry for power. As I stood across the room, wondering where this was going, she clarified. What she said did surprise me. She meant justice.
“Some people feel they don’t have a voice,” she said. “That’s why we need to speak up for them.”
Those words, coming from that girl, followed a Sunday morning sermon at Camp Nawakwa in which Deacon Marsha Roscoe told the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. She admitted that she liked John’s version of the story, in which Jesus tells the disciples to feed the hungry crowd. The disciples offer excuses: There is not enough food. There is not enough money. We know the story. We hear it all the time. Where do they get the loaves and the fishes? From a boy. Deacon Roscoe imagined that boy speaking up when the disciples were giving up. That may have happened, but John doesn’t tell us. What we do know is that the child was in the presence of Jesus, and Christ used what the child brought to feed the multitudes so that there was plenty left over.
One week later, at the LAMPa policy council retreat, Pastor Matthew Lenehan was speaking about the importance of bringing people to the table. If we are going to grow disciples, he said, we need to bring someone along every time we act – to say this is what it means to be the church. His words were on my mind when Sarah asked to come to the capitol.
The morning of the Can Hunger event, Matt brought friends from the Peter’s Porch worshiping community to a meeting of the synod poverty table to share stories of their struggles with poverty, hunger and isolation. Sarah heard those stories. She heard how lives are being changed because they have been met by Christ in Christ’s church. She not only met them, she saw them. And she saw their tears.
The group became so engrossed in their work together that they didn’t make it to the capitol. But Sarah and Cecelia did. Sitting on the capitol steps beside the leader of the Legislative Hunger Caucus – who happened to be the senator for the very women we met — I listened as Sarah told him the stories she heard that morning. The words hung there, sacred, between her face and his.
“The church is not dying,” Matt wrote later, pointing out that the absence of the faith leaders from the poverty table opened an opportunity for God to act through a child. “It is alive in Sarah and so many others waiting to speak and act with conviction and hope. I am excited about what I believe God is doing among us.”
I am, too.