Great Love

A wise woman (Mother Teresa, that is), once said, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love”. I love this saying, and it so aptly fits my last days of my internship. This whole summer has been an experience of great love.

My last week at ONE was one of reflection, gratitude, and hard work. Gearing up for our final intern event, which was held Thursday night at a restaurant on Capitol Hill, was full of last minute runs to the Hill to deliver invitations, gathering materials and merchandise for the event, and meetings to finalize event plans. The goal of the event was to gain potential new campus leaders for ONE. It was a huge success, with 120 new members signed up and around 20 potential campus leaders. This event showed me the sheer power in numbers that ONE is capable of mobilizing. But most of all, as I was packing up the signs and pamphlets, I felt so fortunate to be a part of something so much greater than myself.

When I met with my pastors last Sunday, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the time I have spent at ONE thanks to the Project on Lived Theology. They were exciting and thrilled to hear all that I have been doing this summer and how I could bring my experiences and ideas to help the youth program at my church. “Wow!” I thought to myself, “could I really make that much of a difference?” Well, the answer is yes. An African proverb that is a common saying around the ONE offices (and if you follow @ONECampaign on twitter, you will find this is a common tweet!) is, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito”. To look at this idea in a Christian perspective, one needs only to look at the story found in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus turns five loaves of bread and two fish into many loaves and fish. Rich Stearns points out that the principle in this story is that “God never asks us to give what we do not have…But he cannot use what we will not give” (253).

So, can I make a difference? Yes, but I must be willing and I must also realize the very fact that I can give and that what I can give is valuable. I have loved my experience at ONE and I am passionate about everything that ONE stands for. What can I give? I can show this passion and this experience to young people, boys and girls, who attend my church. I can show them that living their theology can involve a variety of things. Perhaps one of them becomes a ONE member, and when they go to college, they become a campus leader and advocate for the world’s poorest people. Or perhaps, one of them volunteers at a local soup kitchen. Or maybe, one of them begins to pray every night for those less fortunate. I truly don’t know how to say it any other way, but I can make a difference because God loves me and since He loves me, I have an obligation to do something, anything, so that, as Rich Stearns says, I can “be used by God in a powerful and amazing way” (253).

Rich Stearns begins his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, with a quotation from Saint Teresa of Avila. When I first read the book early this summer, I skimmed over the quotation and continued reading, without a second thought. Just yesterday when I opened up the book that had been sitting on my bookshelf since June, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the page that held this quotation:

Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

This is the gap that I have finally bridged this summer. I have found how deep my faith has taken me and how much farther I still have to go. I can make a difference, even if I am just one person. With great love, I can do anything. With Christ within me, I am obligated and bound to continue to “go about doing good”, for there is no better way to live my theology than by accepting God’s only begotten son into my whole being and living my life through His love.

A Unity of Love

This week I have been preparing for my upcoming meeting with my pastors, the Reverends Cristina Paglinauan and Caroline Stewart. I’ve gotten some materials together to present to them and I have also spoken with Adam Phillips, my supervisor, about the direction in which I should go during the meeting. I foresee that it will involve me “pitching” how the Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal church, can get involved with ONE. Before I begin this meeting, I think I need to ask myself where I stand as an Episcopalian and how my particular religion plays a role in political engagement.

I will start by examining an essay found in Sandra Joireman’s book Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement, entitled “The Anglican Tradition: Building the State, Critiquing the State”. A few points mentioned in this piece highlight the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism, its “ability to hold a variety of practices in tension and in unity” (102). This comprehensiveness is largely due to the fact that it is difficult “to identify common theological positions that unite all Anglicans” (101). Without widespread agreement on certain positions, Anglicans have been unable to unite as strongly, say, as Catholics have, for social justice purposes. I realize that this is a generalized statement, but I think it is worthwhile to consider. The author of the essay, Leah Seppanen Anderson, goes so far as to say “Anglicanism has often been a force for conservatism, an acceptance and even promotion of the political status quo” (105). Initially, I took this sentence pretty hard. But, then I took a step back and asked myself, very honestly, “Catherine, has your religion ever challenged you to reject the status quo and engage in political activism for the sake of social justice?” My answer: Not until I started my work at ONE through the Project on Lived Theology.

At this moment in my life, I have never been more aware of how my religion can directly affect the role I play in making the world a better place. I am not trying to downplay how important religion has been in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I just don’t think I ever knew how being an Episcopalian would correlate to being a citizen. Church is what I did on Sundays, reciting the Nicene Creed, and following worship through the guidance of the Book of Common Prayer. When I volunteered for two summers at a learning camp for underprivileged children, I didn’t think I was “doing church”. I know now that I was. I also realize now that the feeling I get when I volunteer or help others is not a feeling of self satisfaction or self pride, but rather God’s love. There is no other feeling like it in the world. It is the love of a parent, a mother or father’s love for a child. It is unconditional and eternal. Above all, Jesus commanded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. I think many Anglicans can forget the presence of God’s love in society. We can get caught up in day to day business and not even focus on God until Sunday church. What if we realized God’s love every second of every day?

This type of love is groundbreaking. It has the potential to unite Anglicans. It just needs to be harnessed.

I was in a meeting earlier this week in which one of the members of ONE’s government relations team came to talk about how to engage Republican candidates on ONE’s issues. He pointed out the way to really reach Republicans on matters such as poverty and disease. His tips were to appeal to their morality, to mention that something almost everyone can agree on is that no one wants a child to die because of lack access to water, sanitation, or food. This is not a partisan issue. It is a moral issue. For Anglicans, this could mean appealing to the universal agreement about God’s love. Can Anglicans not all agree that “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son”?   The question then arises:  how should Anglicans put this love into practice? Spreading the word is the easiest answer. Faith congregations hold so much potential in mobilization. There is so much more to be done and so much more love to be shared. This is the message that I want to send when I meet with my pastors on Sunday: if we can all agree on the value of God’s love, how can we truly unite to help the “least of these”?

American Pride

Two events this past week have garnered my interest enough for me to attempt to figure out why they matter so much to me in the first place and whether they are connected in any way. The first was the Women’s World Cup match between the United States and Japan, in which the U.S. lost to Japan in penalty kicks. The second was the breaking news about the drought and famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. Besides both being national headlines, I dug deeper to find why I have been mesmerized by these two seemingly unrelated events.

For starters, everyone by now knows the names “Hope Solo”, “Abby Wambach”, and probably also “Alex Morgan”. Many are calling them household names because of their incredible performances on the United States Women’s National Soccer team. Americans have come to appreciate Abby’s headers and Hope’s unbelievable saves. Though it may still be surprising that Twitter broke its record for most tweets per second (beating both the royal wedding and the death of Osama Bin Laden!) during the World Cup Final, in which Japan beat out the U.S. in penalty kicks[1]. As the United States team watched on while the Japan team danced and cheered for their victory, Americans worldwide could agree on one thing: after so much devastation and loss after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, this Japanese women’s team deserved this glory.

A few days later, the United Nations declared a famine in the Horn of Africa, specifically Somalia. I picked up a few key facts about the crisis on CNN.com, which follow.  The cause of the famine is a severe drought in Somalia that is forcing Somalis to flee in search of food and water to reach refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia estimated that around $300 million was needed in the next two (yes, two!) months to alleviate the famine. 3.7 million people are now facing famine, with estimates reaching up to 10 million people who could be at risk. The U.S. has pledged $28 million in funding for the famine refugees. Yet, Oxfam has issued statements on the crisis pointing to the developed world’s failures, “ ‘The warning signs have been seen for months, and the world has been slow to act. Much greater long-term investment is needed in food production and basic development to help people cope with poor rains and ensure that this is the last famine in the region’”.[2]

Oxfam, a group of organizations working to find solutions to poverty and injustice worldwide, is pointing to the importance of sustainable practices and tools for farmers in developing countries. The unfortunate part is that the situation spiraled out of control and now what is needed in emergency relief. This type of relief is certainly more costly and ineffective for the entire world, and certainly the U.S.  As the U.S. government currently broods over what to do about the pending budget deadline on August 2nd, this type of crisis may not take first priority. This is why organizations, like ONE, are preparing to focus on the famine and how to keep it on the government’s radar.

Fortunately, I was able to sit down with a member of the policy team here at ONE a few weeks ago and get debriefed on global agricultural policy. Interestingly enough, one of the first points that was brought up was the shortcomings of current food aid. I gleaned some important shortcomings of the food aid system in place today. The process of delivering food aid is known as the “iron triangle” in agricultural circles. It involves the farmers who farm the product, then ships that transport the product, and the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that deliver the product. The process can be inefficient and ineffective because it is generally more expensive to buy the food in the U.S. and then ship it rather than buying the food locally. The reason the U.S. does not favor buying locally is because this would undermine farmers here at home. Therein lies one of the greatest obstacles in food aid: the U.S. farmers’ interest plays heavily into what we do overseas. The challenge is in convincing Americans that it is important (and beneficial for the whole world) for developing countries to create and sustain their own food production.

This is where I begin to make a bit of a stretch in my thinking, but just stay with me. Something that I have become aware of at ONE is how much I have believed in the “exceptionalism” of America my whole life. I have been so proud to call myself an American, where going to school is a right, not a privilege, and where I can speak my mind without fear of punishment by my government. I realize that I need to change my thinking from America as an exceptional and superior nation to America as a nation that has the resources and capacity to help other nations. I have fallen into the trap of “idolizing” America. The U.S. women’s soccer team’s loss to Japan was upsetting as an American, but it was also humbling. Here was a team that had brought home its first women’s World Cup victory ever and it had done it the same year its country lost so many of its people to a natural disaster. I would be so bold to say that many Americans wereproud for Japan. I certainly was. Sometimes feeling this sort of pride for another nation can be the most rewarding kind. This pride for Japan is a sign of hope that the U.S. can overcome its exceptionalism, which in effect could be very helpful if applied to agricultural policy. The urgency of the situation in the Horn of Africa demands Americans to realize the value of pride in other nations. This sort of crisis not only needs immediate relief, but also long-term investment. I think it would be worthwhile to revisit global agricultural policies, specifically food aid and sustainable practices to figure out how to best help farmers in developing countries to lessen the blow of future climate challenges. If this can be done, then perhaps one day, Americans could be proud to see how far those nations have come.

To bring in a key theological point that I came across in Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement, a common trend lately is how “Americans tend to view history and the place of Christians in it through the glasses of the history of the United States- the lead nation of freedom, prosperity, and democracy- rather than through the glasses of the coming of God’s creation-wide kingdom in Jesus Christ” (Joireman, 66). As a Christian and an American, it can be easy to fall into thinking that God has a special place in his kingdom for Americans because of their achievements at home and abroad. It may sound obvious, but it is easy to forget that God’s kingdom does not favor Americans. I will always be proud of America and grateful for the life I am fortunate to have because of its liberties. But as a Christian, I will continue to challenge myself to believe in the possibilities and future of every nation.

My biggest hope right now is that Americans tap into their pride for other nations, either by raising awareness about this growing crisis in Somalia, or by getting involved with one of ONE’s partner organizations on the ground. For more information on the famine and how to help, go to: http://www.one.org/blog/2011/07/20/one-partners-respond-to-horn-of-africa-crisis/#more-34196.

The Power of Many in ONE

Browsing the ONE Sabbath website, I found that a large part of mobilizing the faith communities in support of ONE’s agenda is showing them how crucial their role is on the global stage. This realization is also tied in with realizing that various faith communities have to come together and work as one (no pun intended) to effect positive global change. I have yet to see this type of faith in action on the ground level, but I can try and give my own insights into the value of this type of alliance.

Growing up, I was always aware of the existence of other religions. This was not because other religions were discussed at church, at home, or in school (I went to a secular private school). It was because I had friends who were Jewish. The only thing I knew that was different about me and my friend Jane was that her religion did not hold that Jesus Christ was the son of God. That was such a small difference to me then. For this reason, I honestly had a hard time understanding just why we had to distinguish our religions. As a child, it is obvious why I would try to promote similarities between myself and a friend because being different could be alienating. Yet there is something to be learned from my naïve, younger self. As an adult Christian (it is still scary that I consider myself an adult now!), I am more prone to point out the differences, rather than the similarities, between my religion and those of my friends. With a declared major in Religious Studies, the main focus of my study is delving into the various aspects of different religions and examining their differences. My question is: is it possible to recognize these differences and their value while alsoentertaining the naïve idea that my religion really isn’t all that different from another one? It sounds contradictory, which is why many people would answer:  “Absolutely not! Christianity is fundamentally different from Judaism (or Islam, or Hinduism, etc) so it is useless to highlight the similarities.” Miroslav Volf’s recent book Allah: A Christian Responseaddresses this question. He posits that not only do Christianity and Islam, commonly believed to be radically different religions, share a common God, but that this similarity is so valuable that it has the unique power of uniting the two faiths for a common purpose. He explains,

When Christians and Muslims turn from each other and look around,
they quickly realize that the problems they face together are bigger
than the problem they present to each other- abject poverty of millions,
scarcity of freshwater, irreparable degradation of the environment,
widespread disease, and more. Instead of merely facing each other to
quarrel or reconcile, can we stand shoulder to shoulder to tackle
together these grave ills of humanity? (213)

For Volf, the idea that Muslims and Christians share the same God means that they also share a responsibility to help solve worldwide problems. A common God implies a common idea of what it means to love. Volf explores various possibilities of what constitutes love and how Islam and Christianity, in particular, deal with love. He comes to the conclusion that there is a commonality between love in Islam and the type of neighborly love found in Christianity, the “love thy neighbor as thyself” type of love. Because of this common love, he believes “there is no reason why they should not join forces and care together” (213). This brings me back to ONE Sabbath and how it effects change by harnessing this very idea. If various faiths can rally around a common cause, then the differences between them seem to diminish. This is not to say that the differences between faiths don’t matter, because I certainly believe they do, and I think Volf would say they do as well. But they should not get in the way of a chance for faith communities to come together and use their power (and ultimately, voices) to effect change in the world. This is the kind of alliance that ONE depends on and it is the kind of manpower that is needed to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Like I said, I don’t have experience on the ground about this kind of alliance. But I want to. This is why this past week I reached out to my local pastor to set up a conversation regarding my church’s potential involvement with ONE and collaboration with other faith communities. I want to take part in this kind of inter faith dialogue and I want to harness the energy that is available because I know it is there.

I think returning to my roots in my local congregation may be the largest step I have made so far in bridging the gap between Richard Stearns’ experience (which I mentioned in a previous blog post) and my own. I can’t wait to see where these next few weeks take me!

The Proof Is in the Living

Human beings always want proof, whether it is in the form of evidence for a crime scene, a mathematical proof, or proof that an event actually occurred. Either way, “proof” is an indication that something is valid andtrue. A big part of the job here at ONE is to prove to people that what we are campaigning for is working and will continue to work with continued support and advocacy. It’s hard to convince someone of something if there is no proof to back it up. Which is why ONE started the Living Proof Campaign: to highlight individuals and communities that are thriving because they have received sustainable aid from governments like the United States. As Bill and Melinda Gates explain in the Living Proof Presentation, it’s about time that people heard some good news. So, what is the good news?

I could talk here about the numbers, which are certainly important. Take, for instance, the fact that as of 2008 less than 9 million children were dying each year as opposed to 20 million in 1960. Or what about the fact that nearly 4,000,000 Africans are now on life-saving AIDS medication, what we call anti-retroviral (ARV’s) medication. Or, most astounding of all, that over 1 billion people have been lifted out of the vicious cycle of poverty. All of these facts and more can be found on ONE’s Living Proof website (which I have added below). These numbers and facts are crucial to convincing the American public and other wealthy, developed countries that foreign aid is effective and sustainable. Yet something I learned while at the RESULTS conference last week was enlightening. When meeting with elected officials (or their aides, in most cases), what is important in pushing your agenda is to be human, to tell them stories that will affect them and make them listen to what you have to say. ONE created videos (which can also be found on the website) that highlight real success stories and can be used as talking points when meeting with a member of Congress!

Amidst all of this demand for proof, I find myself wishing that we didn’t need to constantly ask for proof that giving sustainable aid to the world’s poorest is working. This wish is useless though, because in a time when the most important discussion on the table is the economy, people want to know that their money is being well spent and used effectively. However, even if times have changed, the constant demand for proof has not. It is as ancient a concept as any. Even Moses knew that the people of Israel would need proof that the Lord appeared to him. He cries, “ ‘suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say ‘The Lord did not appear to you’’” (Exodus 4:1). In turn, the Lord grants Moses certain miracles to perform for the people to convince them of the truth. Even Jesus was not beyond giving proof of his message. In the Gospel of John, we find Jesus proclaiming to the Jews, “‘If I do them [the miracles], even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father’”(John 10:38).

The Bible shows that demand for proof and the presence of proof is as much a part of Christianity as it is a part of the secular world. I struggle with this idea, that faith alone is not enough for Christians to believe that what is right–such as advocating for the world’s poorest around the globe–does not need proof. I realize that we are all human and Jesus also understood that humans need proof to believe. This doesn’t mean that the proof must be artificial proof. The best way to see this proof is through human lives.  I am not just talking about lives that have been saved, but lives that have been transformed. Miroslav Volf says it best in his book,Allah: A Christian Response (which I will cover next week), which sums up Martin Luther’s view on God and humanity:

God loves human beings not because they are or strive to be godly,
but in spite of the fact that they are ungodly; and God loves them
so as to create godliness in them, transforming them into beings
who reflect God’s love in the world (69).

There is a lot of “God” talk jammed into that one sentence, but even still, it is a powerful comment on how God manifests His love in the world. It makes me look at proof in a new light. It can be something to rejoice in and to be glad about, maybe even to shout from the rooftops! Why shouldn’t we proclaim the good news that is happening every day that is transforming people’s lives? Millions of children in Africa are alive today! Millions of children can now go to school! Millions of Africans are being treated successfully for HIV/AIDS! If this is not proof of God’s love in the world, then I don’t know what is.

To view various Living Proof videos and stories, click here:

http://one.org/livingproof/en/stories/all/

A Change in Perspective

One of the highlights of this week was a conference I was fortunate enough to attend as a representative for ONE. The RESULTS conference was focused on educating and discussing various ways to engage Congress in the fight to end extreme poverty worldwide. I was able to hear from Helen Evans, the interim CEO of The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the organization that fought hard to ensure that the government would provide $450 million over three years for vaccinations to save 4 million children’s lives. I also heard from Mark Dybul who, during the Bush Administration, played a large part in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Among all of this talk about the success of PEPFAR and GAVI, what stood out most to me was one woman’s comment during the question and answer part of the lecture. She spoke of her grandchildren, whose foreign nanny had tuberculosis. Her grandchildren, who were not living in a developing country nor facing extreme poverty, were infected with tuberculosis and had to undergo the nine-month medication process to ensure that the virus did not become active. She did not tell this part of the story, but I know about this part. I know because I also tested positive for tuberculosis when I was working in a hospital during my senior year of high school. Interestingly enough, Rich Stearns also tells a story about his own son who tested positive for tuberculosis. I will never know where I contracted it from, but I do know that it was a hassle to take the medication for nine months. Yet it was a hassle that I easily took for granted. So many children in developing countries are faced with tuberculosis. Many times, this is a death sentence for them because of the simple lack of vaccines and medication that people in the U.S., like me, take for granted.

I’m still having a hard time seeing how I can make a difference in the lives of these children, who are living in extreme poverty without access to the most basic needs in life. I feel so far removed from them and helpless. I want to help but I don’t know how. I realized this week that the first step to figuring this out is to acknowledge that I have a responsibility to advocate for these children. I have to because I can. The difference between them and me is that I was able to take the medication for tuberculosis and because of this, I can still go to school without being ostracized for my disease. I can get and keep a job without having to miss days of work because of constant illness. I want them to have this too. Changing my mindset is my first step. This includes realizing the full meaning of “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” and how it must apply to every part of my life (Matthew 25:40).

Bridging the Gap

Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision U.S. begins The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World with the story of a young boy named Richard, who was orphaned by AIDS. Meeting Richard in Uganda and experiencing the way he lived “was to be the moment that would ever after define” Richard Stearns. While also reading this story, I was simultaneously researching the situation of children who had been orphaned by AIDS. I couldn’t help but compare my encounter with AIDS orphans with that of Richard Stearns.  I wish I could say that I had a life changing experience reading about how many children have been left orphaned because of HIV/AIDS (more than 14 million in Sub-Saharan Africa). To be clear, I was sad as I read these statistics, but I regarded this research as part of my job. It was just something that needed to be done. I decided I wanted to do some personal “soul-researching” to discover how I could bridge the gap between Stearns’ experience and my own.

First, I asked myself what the differences were between Rich Stearns, a white, upper middle class American and me, also a white, upper middle class American. He lives comfortably in Seattle with his wife and kids, and I live comfortably in my apartment at college in Virginia. But here is where the differences enter:  Rich made a decision “to be open to God’s will for his life” (34). Sure, the decision wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t a decision he made in one night. But, Rich decided to devote his life and his life’s work to God’s will: helping “somebody else’s kids” (107). Stearns made the choice to help kids like Richard, kids who were thousands of miles away.

I’d like to say that the only difference, then, between Rich Stearns and me is that I haven’t had the chance to visit Africa. I could say that I can’t help the way he can because I have other responsibilities:  I have to go to college and I have to graduate and get a job. Because of these other obligations, I’ve never seen the way that AIDS can impact an entire community. I don’t know what it feels like to see a young boy take on the responsibility of his siblings and grow up before he should have to. However, I think this is a cop-out on my part. I don’t have to sacrifice a college education to help suffering children in Africa. Instead, I have to sacrifice everything. It seems contradictory, I know. This whole week I have been trying to understand what Rich Stearns means when he says “God asks us for everything” (1).

To sacrifice everything sounds crazy. To sacrifice everything for God sounds a little less crazy, for it sounds like what being a good Christian might look like. The hardest part is finding out how to give everything for God, like Rich Stearns did. To begin with, I have started to ask myself this week how I can act in a way according to God’s will. Reading and analyzing Rich Stearns’ book was the best avenue to figure this out. There is not one simple answer to follow God’s will for me. I need to be open for what comes my way, but I also need to seek out ways to challenge myself and make myself uncomfortable. In giving my whole mind and spirit to God each and every day, I will gradually come to know what God has intended for me.

It brings me back to that day in late January when Professor Marsh announced this internship possibility. Working at a non-profit, like ONE, sounded exciting. Working for ONE in an explicitly theological way caught me up. I have always considered myself a deeply religious person, but in a very personal way. I had always considered religion as something to be nurtured within, not something to be proclaimed externally. It has taken a small phrase in Rich Stearns’ book to show me that this internship is a lesson in opening me up for God’s will in my life. Everything I do here at ONE is part of the “everything” that God expects of me. I think I am ready now to bridge the gap between Rich Stearns’ experience and my own.

One Success

I have to be honest and say that I did not have any specific expectations coming into ONE. I certainly expected to be doing daily “internship duties”, such as data entry and mailing materials. Yet I am still trying to figure out where I fall in the wide world of ONE. I have a sense that this internship will be what I make of it. I have already learned more about the federal budget and the government than I ever have in any Econ or Politics class, thanks to a wonderful woman named Maryamu, who works on the Government Relations team and focuses on House Democrats. The environment here is action packed and filled with eager minds. I must admit, it is perhaps my first experience in a real life work environment.

To that end, I spent the first week of my internship finding my way around. First, I had some difficulty in maneuvering the office. ONE’s office is like a maze, full of hallways adorned with photography of Bono in Africa or Brad Pitt sitting in conferences with various ONE staff. However, what lies behind all of these glossy photos and high profile celebrities are the roughly 75 staff members that work right here in an open office environment. From Annette, who sits across from me, who grew up in Columbia, Maryland and has an adorable four year old son, to Maryamu, who works in Government Relations and showed me her favorite act on “America’s Got Talent”, I am never at a loss to the human interactions that keep this place going. This is perhaps what I have appreciated the most my first week at ONE. There is a transparency and equality that I was not expecting. In the morning meetings with the whole U.S. Campaigns team, there is an air of happiness, of lightheartedness, and most of all, of friendship. These staff members, whether young or old, have something in common:  they enjoy what they do, but most important of all, they enjoy who they are with. It is a simple lesson in human relations. But it is also a success story. Just this week, the US Campaigns team was thrilled to announce that USAID had promised $450 million over three years to GAVI, an organization that provides vaccines to the world’s poorest people (I will blog on GAVI later this month). There were hugs, there were shrieks, and there were smiles all around. The hard work had paid off. The long hours spent sending emails, placing phone calls, and much more had finally proved to be worth it. And in the end, there were others to celebrate with.

It is perhaps a stretch to say that this sense of community that provides the energy behind ONE’s successes is like the community that Dietrich Bonhoeffer sought to create at Finkenwalde. Or maybe it is not. What united Bonhoeffer and the various other theologians at Finkenwalde was a similar purpose. Their efforts in establishing the Confessing Church and banding against the German Christian movement were rooted in a type of social justice. What they saw happening in Nazi Germany was unacceptable and inhumane. Likewise, it is safe to say that every person here at ONE is united against the inhumanity of “stupid poverty”, as Bono calls it. It is an unacceptable form of poverty because we can do something about it. We can erase this type of poverty. How do I know this? I saw it in the faces of the staff members here at ONE when they heard about the success of the GAVI campaign. It was hope fulfilled. It was dreams fulfilled. It was lives saved. It was the result of a community working as one.