My name is Marjorie Hurder and I am a US-2 Young Adult Missionary with The United Methodist Church. I am currently serving at Crossroads Urban Center as a Social Justice Advocate. This past weekend, I joined with more than 750 Christians from all over the United States to gather in Washington, DC (during the lovely cherry blossom season) to participate in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference. We were from different denominations, different backgrounds, different stages of life, different races, and different localities, but we came together this past weekend to celebrate the work we have done and to plan for the work we have ahead. We gathered with exuberant singing and dancing by the 99 Collective on Friday evening (which was a jolt to my system after having been on the plane since six that morning from Salt Lake City).
Saturday, we got down to business with presentations from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about how current budget proposals from House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would unjustly affect the most vulnerable populations who rely on programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) and Medicaid to get by from day to day. As a significant percentage of my work involves giving people the food they need and helping them to sign up to receive SNAP benefits, these proposals, if enacted, would directly affect the people I work with on a daily basis. One of the best things about this weekend was learning about how policy decisions at the national level affect the work that we at Crossroads Urban Center.
We also dove into the nitty-gritty, day-to-day of advocacy work with workshops focused on everything from effective use of social media to inform more people of upcoming events and encourage more involvement in advocacy work, to how to respond to the growing trend of states like Alabama and Arizona passing more stringent immigration laws. In addition, we covered how to be Christian advocates and community organizers. I have to say, my favorite tip for how to get your point across was catching peoples' attention by shaking their hands and not letting go until you finished what you wanted to say to them. Interspersed with all of these educational seminars were opportunities to get to know our fellow Christian community organizers and advocates through meals together, young adult gatherings, and other forms of communion, which were vital to the coming together of such a large, diverse group of dedicated individuals.
Our final day was spent lobbying our members of Congress to put into action what we discussed during our previous two days of conferencing. I met with the staff of the two senators from Louisiana--Mary Landrieu and David Vitter--which was definitely a pleasant experience. However, I will have to remember to continue to be in contact with my congressional delegation and not, as one of the speakers said, to have this be a bucket list experience I can check off and forget about. And so, upon departure from Washington, DC, and the Ecumenical Advocacy Days, it is our task to continue to be Christian community organizers and advocates to do the work of Christ in the world.