I know there much more important issues to cover: protecting SNAP and other programs vital to caring for poor and hungry people in any fiscal cliff deal; raising our voices to destigmatize mental health care; drowning out the NRA’s insanity with petitions, letters, posts, conversations, and every other way we can; continuing to care for the people of Newtown, CT; and so much more…
In spite of all that, I hope you’ll forgive me for a little shameless self-promotion.
I was thrilled and honored when Bread for the World contacted me this fall saying they wanted to write about me in the “From the Field” section of their November/December newsletter. That section highlights a member’s work for and with Bread. Regular readers know I love Bread. I think it is a terrific organization doing vital work with and for hungry and poor people nationally and globally.
I know there are plenty of other people doing just as much and more than I, so it was humbling to be chosen. They wrote a very kind piece. Take a look:
Pastor Dave Buerstetta did not always make the connection between his Christian faith and advocating for hungry people. “I had kind of a conversion experience in seminary,” he says. “I met the Jesus who cares, the one who breaks down the barriers, who helps people who need help.”
“That is the Jesus that I’m in love with. That’s how I knew to live the life that I was called to.”
An ordained American Baptist minister, Dave Buerstetta serves as a pastor at the Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Naperville, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Joann, and two children. At Woodridge, Pastor Dave focuses on youth ministry, outreach, and social justice. He is a thoroughly 21st century minister, maintaining a popular blog and using social media to share his homilies and fight hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.
Despite ministering to a solidly middle-class congregation, Pastor Dave has seen the hidden hunger that exists in most communities. “Even here they have a lot of need,” he says, relating the story of a family who volunteered at a local food pantry for years and now needs help. Unfortunately, the stigma of hunger and poverty drove that family to seek help outside of the community instead of turning to the pantry at which they had assisted for so many years.
That stigma is a barrier that people of faith need to erase, according to Pastor Dave. He points to the new documentary “The Line” as an important resource for understanding that hunger can happen to any of us. “It puts the lie to any notion that people who are struggling are lazy,” he says. (“The Line” can be viewed at www.bread.org.)
In Pastor Dave’s experience, the faces behind the statistics give him power as he advocates as “the hands, the feet, and the voice” for hungry people. He recounts the feedback that he received from a legislative aide for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “She said that it’s not enough to tell a moral story. In the current climate, we have to tell stories of people we know in congregations who are receiving assistance. It’s not just millions … it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith who can’t feed their daughter.”
Since getting more involved with Bread after the 2008 National Gathering, Pastor Dave he has become a seasoned advocate, lobbying in person and on the phone and making the Offering of Letters a major focus in the worship service. He also maintains a one-person Offering of Tweets, sending messages to Congress and informing the world about social justice issues through his Twitter account.
Pastor Dave has seen the positive effect of his lobbying efforts and of the Offering of Letters. When visiting Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) with three other Bread members, she told them that they had received hundreds of letters from Bread and that the letters had make a difference. She also told them that she was cosponsoring a bill to strengthen poverty-focused development assistance.
“It’s experiences like that that help me see the value of lobbying,” says Pastor Dave.
Just to clarify, while we live in Naperville, our church is in Woodridge. Also, while I certainly very much appreciate all of you who take time to read this blog…I fear one would have to search far and wide for the metric by which this could rightly be called a “popular blog.” Of course, if more of you reading this would like to subscribe, perhaps we can make that line less of an exaggeration. 😉
Thank you, Bread for the World. It is a joy working with you.
How about you? What ways are you connecting with and caring for hungry and poor people this holiday season?