Editor’s Note: We at Sojourners thought it would be nice to share first-hand reflections on our inaugural annual conference, The Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice, from participants. Our first post comes from Sara Johnson, who hails from Ennis, Mont. and is the founder of the Million Girl Army, a brand new non-profit launching this year focused on engaging middle school girls in the U.S. on gender justice advocacy. Sara is an emerging leader who was able to attend The Summit because of a sponsorship from one of our Change Maker donors. The donor covered all of Sara’s costs, from registration to travel and had a tremendous impact on Sara’s work, as she shares below.
Although nervous to be a founder of a non-profit that hasn’t officially launched yet attending a conference with heavy hitters in the non-profit world, within seconds of walking into the initial Summit gathering I was glad I came. I cannot adequately describe the feeling of being in a room with 300 people who share a passion for righting social injustice that equals mine. The energy was electric and infectious. With every introduction, I learned just how many people are fiercely fighting to be God’s hands and feet, and suddenly I felt less alone in my own fight. While I’m surrounded daily by people who have a general care for the challenges around the world, none match the fervency and anger I feel when I think about what women and young girls face on a daily basis around the world. They might listen to my stories and shake their heads, but they aren’t necessarily motivated to take action. So to be in a room filled with people who not only dream of ways to right the world’s wrongs, but who actively do so every day, inspired me and set the tone for what turned out to be a fantastic few days.
Originally, I thought it would be an opportunity primarily to network, to learn from people who had been through the process before me in an effort to streamline the work in front of me for Million Girl Army, my new non-profit designed to empower young girls and give a voice to the voiceless. And it was. I met person after person who shared common goals, who had the right connections, who had something to teach me. I covered in a three-day window of networking what would have taken me years to do outside of The Summit.
But it wasn’t only that. Speaker after speaker, class after class taught me something new, opened my eyes even further to what we’re facing on a global scale, and confirmed there is a big task in front of us as Christ followers.
And yet, for the first time, I felt as though change was possible on a grand scale. Sure, with my organization I thought I could reach hundreds maybe thousands of girls, but even that only puts a small dent in the sheer volume of girls victimized every day. But at The Summit, I was in a room filled with people who collectively could build bridges and collaborate to find new solutions, all the while working hand-in-hand with people in positions with real power to effectively support and execute the changes. I remember feeling my heart soar and my soul whisper, “This is the answer, this is what Million Girl Army needs to be a part of” — for I recognize I am only a part. Each individual there is one piece of the puzzle. But I appreciate Sojourners’ vision for bringing us together, recognizing it’s when the pieces of the puzzle are put together with God’s guidance that the fight against social injustice gains power. It is then, when the collective works and speaks together for change, that the poor, the marginalized, the victimized, and the broken have real hope.
I was honored to be nominated, even more honored to be invited, and then sponsored so I could attend. It renewed my passion for why I’m drawn to non-profit work and why Million Girl Army is my calling, all while bolstering my ability to bring it to reality through the lessons and connections I gained at The Summit. So thank you to that donor, for encouraging me and financially supporting my attendance. And thank you, Sojourners, for having the wisdom, the desire, the dedication, and the drive to make this conference a reality. I will look forward to participating again in the future.
Sara Johnson, who hails from Ennis, Mont. is the founder of the Million Girl Army, a brand new non-profit launching this year focused on engaging middle school girls in the U.S. on gender justice advocacy.