News Reflection: Brethren Meet With USAID

Church of the Brethren Newsline
July 31, 2007

Timothy Ritchey Martin, one of the pastors of Grossnickle Church of the Brethren in Myersville, Md., reflects below on a visit by members of his congregation to the offices of USAID, and their Congressman, in Washington, D.C. Grossnickle is one of the Church of the Brethren congregations that are sponsoring a Foods Resource Bank growing project, through the Global Food Crisis Fund of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

“Early in June, four members of our Growing Project Committee made our way to the offices of USAID, housed in the grand Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. This was our second visit to USAID.

“Welcoming us was Jim Thompson, head of the Global Development Alliance, a division of USAID, and members of his staff. Also present were Marv Baldwin, president and CEO of the Foods Resource Bank (FRB), and representatives of two other growing projects, one in Wisconsin and one in Iowa. FRB staff members were also present. An international guest of FRB, Pastor Stephen of Kenya, was there to share about an FRB project in his country.

“A meeting of government representatives, a member of the developing world, food security program staff, and folks from the ‘grassroots’ like us is a wonderful encounter. USAID staff wanted to learn more about how programs like FRB work at the grassroots level. Thompson of USAID seemed to exude joy as he heard of tax dollars being matched through the private sector. Pastor Stephen seemed joyful at the new life that programs like FRB bring to his part of the world. And we on the grassroots side of the discussion were filled with joy at what can be accomplished when government and private sector, and a measure of faith, combine to do wonderful things.

“I wonder at how God truly can be present, in the beautiful offices of USAID, building a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

“Later that day we made our way to the offices of our Congressman, Roscoe Bartlett (6th district of Maryland) to keep an appointment to encourage support of USAID matching dollars in the farm bill. Some $2 million dollars are in the bill designated to match dollars raised through growing projects.

“Charlie Johnson, an aide to the congressman, sat at a table with us in the conference room. Marv Baldwin of FRB joined in the visit, but waited for us volunteers to take the lead. Patty shared about our growing project. Jennie talked about how wonderful it is to be able to tell people that USAID matches every dollar we give. I raised a voice for the USAID matching dollars in the farm bill. Baldwin spoke from the perspective of FRB staff, filling in the gaps that we left.

“On the way to Washington that morning, Robert, the final member of our delegation, had said, ‘Now I’m along to learn and to support, but don’t ask me to say anything. I just don’t do that.’

“After the rest of our group had spoken during the meeting at Bartlett’s office, Charlie Johnson turned to Robert and said, ‘And what do you have to add to the conversation?’ Robert’s eyes got big and he swallowed hard. He looked Johnson in the eye and said, ‘I just want to help feed hungry people.’

“For a brief and incredibly simple moment, Robert spoke truth to power. ‘Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these….’”

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.