By Jane Walsh
On a Friday morning in mid-July, JustFaith Ministries (JFM) welcomed visitors to our front room on Woodbine Street at the St. Philip Campus. We were a group about the average size of a JFM program group and we met in much the same way JFM groups meet; in a circle, with small table in the center, seeking to understand each other and how we are called to respond to the world. For 17 years, JFM has been creating programs that gather small groups all across the country for deep exploration of the Gospel call in the world today. Our gathering in July felt like a little snapshot of JFM’s work.
For several months, JFM staff have been learning about the work of Foods Resource Bank (FRB), a national non-profit that raises money to help people in developing countries grow their own food. We have been encouraged to learn that FRB organizes 200 U.S. growing projects every year. These growing projects involve a farmer or farming community dedicating the income from a crop or acreage to help farmers in other parts of the world. These projects engage rural and urban churches, organizations, and other volunteers, who raise over $3 million to support 50 to 60 programs overseas. FRB works through a network of 16 member organizations — one of which is Church World Services.
As a result of our growing relationship, FRB’s Associate Director of Growing Projects and Latin American Programs, Alex Morse, brought two staff from Church World Services to us to talk about their work in Haiti. Margot de Greef and Rony Janvier told us about life in Haiti after the hurricane, cholera epidemic, and earthquake. They talked about the challenges of living in a country without roads that can bring food to market, making it difficult for Haitians to earn a living. They helped us think about the challenges of living in a country where only 15% of schools are public schools, and education is out of reach for many. We spoke together about life in a country that was once the most productive colony of the French, and for hundreds of years has been stripped of resources in order to benefit wealthier people and countries. Margot and Rony talked about the impact growing projects in the US have on the ability of small farmers to produce food and a living in Haiti. They talked about their love for their work and for the people of Haiti.
This small gathering on a Friday in July re-enforces for me the value of the St. Philip’s campus — a “sacred space in an urban place.” Our circle at JFM was enriched by our neighbors at the Casa, Felix and Maria, who brought to the conversation their experiences living in Cuba, Venezuela, and Spain. Bill and Alice — long time members of this community — also joined us. Together, in a small group, we represented five countries and more than five languages and dialects. We were urban and rural people, people who lived in comfort, and people who struggled for shelter. We had every reason to be separate from each other — and the immense good fortune to instead be together with our hearts and minds focused on the struggles of the people of Haiti.
Jane Walsh is executive director of JustFaith. For more information about JustFaith Ministries, visit justfaith.org.
You can learn more about Church World Service and their work in Haiti at http://www.cwslac.org/en/index.php?cat=106.
You can learn more about Foods Resource Bank at http://www.FoodsResourceBank.org.