5 reasons the Gathering 2007 rocked!
By Pat Plant, Hunger Action Advocate, Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church and Coordinator of Regional Bread for the World Groups in Northern California
Before going into detail, let me just day that the reasons I think people who care about Bread for the World and ending hunger should try hard to make the financial and time commitment to attend this (now annual!) gathering in my mind are these:
- Bread really does this gathering up well. It is the best conference I go to (well run, well planned, details attended to, good people brought in to present to attendees, etc. etc. You won't be disappointed; you really get your moneys worth! :-)
- The plenary gatherings and the breakout sessions are planned well with good presenters (This time there were more than usual number of good choices to choose from; if anything could be criticized it would be too many to choose from in the limited time available.)
- You learn so much about Bread and how it operates; about issues related to hunger; about possible strategies for ending hunger; certainly about the year's focus issue - this year The Farm Bill; about people who are doing interesting and successful things around the country... and more.
- It is a worship-filled event that really enforces the concept that hunger never has been tolerated by God, or His people. Besides daily worship, there was a BIG interfaith convocation at the National Cathedral (6th largest cathedral in the world) where all the religious leaders of every faith represented in DC are brought together to pray for an end to poverty in the world. It was really something.
- You get to
meet all sorts of people with similar interests to yours from around the
country. This will make you feel stronger to know there are
literally thousands out there doing what you are doing and
facing the same joys and concerns.
Each day were plenary sessions on topics like "National Leaders forum on Hunger and Poverty" (featuring Sen.Chuck Hagel and former Senator Harold Ford); "Progress and Challenges on Halving Global Poverty" featuring David Beckman, Dir. of Bread, Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Challenge Campaign, Lawrence Temfwe, Director of Micah's Challenge, Zambia; and a morning long prep session involving 8 different presenters on Farm Bill issues. Break out sessions were to many to list but included sessions on organizing, grassroots advocacy, Weaving Justice into Worship, Lessons from Katrina, Blogging for a Just Cause, to name just a few.
Everything built up to Lobby Day on Tuesday. On that morning there was a long preparation plan which included many people sharing parts of the farm bill and what it meant to them and a chance to break into visiting teams by state and district to make plans and also practice our presentation. Appointments had been made in nearly every Seante and House office. I thought David Gist, our California Bread organizer did a wonderful job pulling us together for our visits and making sure we were ready.
In the afternoon we fanned out to our meetings. My husband Greg and I went with about 10 Californians to both Sen Boxer and Sen. Feinstein's office meeting with their staffs (staff in charge of agriculture or nutrition). Greg and I went on the Congresswoman Eshoo and met with her staff member on agriculture. These staff people were prepared and motivated and very nice to us.
After the congressional meetings we headed to a Senate Office building meeting room for a Bread-sponsored reception to which we had invited everyone we had met during the afternoons meetings. The reception would calm every so often as David Beckmann would introduce visiting Senators or Representatives and to some he handed awards for their help to Bread and hunger concerns.
This is a great preparation for our work and a real shot in the arm for long-time hunger-fighters. The Gathering costs about $1,000 when you add in the registration, room and transportation. Our way was paid by the Presbyterian Hunger Program in Louisville with whom I work, and our Presbytery with whom my husband and I both work. So for us this is a pretty easy trip to plan.
I hope you will join us next year or the year after! If you are truly in need, apply to Bread for a scholarship; Get your church to set aside all or part of the money needed for someone to go (you first!); ask your middle governing body, diocese, district office if they would fund your trip if you would share what you learned with all your denominations churches (this is my story); have a fund raiser at your church (or perhaps at all the churches around you if they are sharing your Bread interest).
Thanks be to God!
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