DC - Advocacy in Action

In my work as a community minister, I spend a lot of time helping our church meet the immediate needs for people in our community. We help those in need of food, clothing, and sometimes diapers. Our mentors serve at a local elementary school helping at-risk students with the support and extra help that they need. We even help provide transportation through partnerships with OU and our local police departments, who provide bicycles for our volunteers to refurbish and distribute back into the community. We hosted a parent's day out for foster parents. For awhile we even had an apartment ministry to help three ladies in need of housing. Though all of these ministries I hear stories. Yes, some are creative yet quite fictional. More often though, I hear stories of broken lives and the frustrating journey out of poverty. Mental illness and substance addictions--and the ever present question in my mind of which came first. The struggle to get a job or housing with any sort of criminal record. The struggles of children to get the education they need while their parents struggle to keep them off the streets. The list gets bigger the longer I am on the job. The short term assistance helps but I (and our church) can also do more to be an advocate for "the least of these", working with others to try to fix problems at a higher level. So my co-worker and I headed to DC to attend the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's annual Advocacy in Action to learn more ways to do this.

We had a bit of free time before the sessions began so we explored a bit. It is a bit surreal to walk a couple of blocks and stand in back of the White House.

We picked the Smithsonian Museum of American History for this trip.
Julia Child's kitchen

a bit of Oklahoma
Then we kept walking.

World War II Memorial

And walking.

Sunset over the Potomac
After a breakfast at Lincoln Waffles across from Ford Theatre (passing the front door of the White House on the way)

Ford Theatre

where Lincoln died
we started our sessions at First Baptist Church, reviewing what advocacy is and the biblical basis for it.
And the church had beautiful windows.

We then headed to an afternoon session at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty to learn about their work.

Along the way we passed the site of the National Women's Party (now a museum).

Strangely (at least to me) it is in the Veteran for Foreign Wars building.
After introductions to the work of the Baptist Joint Committee, the afternoon focused on Payday Lending and attempted reform.

It was a long day, with one more session after a brief break for dinner.
The next day was filled with a visit to Senator James Lankford:

a walk through the Supreme Court building

and the Library of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson's library

We ended up at Bread for the World for our afternoon session. It was good to sit down for a bit.
They work to end hunger at home and around the world. Oklahoma is one of the top 10 hungriest states in the US, with 16.5% of households at risk of hunger (Mississippi is #1 at 22%). They also spoke briefly about mass incarceration, as this is one of the leading causes of hunger in the U.S.

On the last day we met at Calvary Baptist Church (one block from the Verizon center and it's ACC Championship).

I attended a session on immigration advocacy and co-worker attended one over international religious freedom. Our brains were stuffed at this point and it was time to get back home. It was an amazing opportunity, helping me gain a better understanding of how to speak for those in my community. And as always, no matter where I seem to go, I can't wait to go back (and with my family)! Who can resist with so much history and amazing souvenirs like this?