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Influenced in her early 20s by the civil rights movement, Barbara learned about Sojourners during the time that she and her husband served in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Experiences interacting with folks diverse in religious belief and race during this time profoundly influenced her understanding of faith and social justice. She shares that her life has been influenced by Catholics and Mennonites, pagans and Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Hindus, and Buddhists: “At the core, a lot of us on the planet are looking for the same thing: to get along with one another, to have enough to eat, [and] to be able to live with some measure of safety and security.”
I spoke with James Tufenkian, founder of Tufenkian Foundation which serves to promote social, economic, cultural and environment justice in Armenia as it recovers from its genocide. I asked him about his connection with Sojourners, and how his work and faith intersect.
Ariana Denardo (AD): How did you get connected with Sojourners, and why did you decide to become a donor?
James Tufenkian (JT): My brother, a retired pastor, and I were having a series of conversations about the involvement of the church in social issues. He mentioned Sojourners, so I visited the website, read the magazine, and got interested. I found Sojourners to be the best, maybe the only organization I know of that works on social justice as Christians living out Christ’s example. It was natural for me to want to support that in different ways, one of them being as a donor.
I think we’ve all been there: physically tired, emotionally battered, and spiritual frustrated. This combination of conditions often lead to the thought of wondering if anybody cares — not just for you, but for the things that you are passionate about. You may feel like the last person standing, the only one who has a sincere zeal for what you’ve been called to address. ...
The Summit provided a unique setting that brought together leaders from the business and urban communities, others from the front lines of inner city racial inequality protests, and rural communities of both national and international descent.
Editor’s Note: We at Sojourners thought it would be nice to share first-hand reflections of this year’s leadership Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice from participants to give a little glimpse into the impact and experience. Our first post comes from Rev. Louise Howlett of Middleton, Del., who was a first-time attendee nominated by fellow sojourner and changemaker Louise Coggins, with whom she serves on the board of VISIONS-Inc.
My first Sojourners Summit was a powerful experience. I was not sure if I belonged there at first, and expected to be intimidated by the fervor and zeal of other participants. My work is on a small scale and is often more about personal transformation and interpersonal change than large-scale systemic change.
Yet I found the stories told from the podium, the sharing at the tables, the teaching in the workshops and panels, and the music and visual arts in response to be both inviting and empowering. Being with people of faith from all different backgrounds and faith groups bonding in prayer and care for justice — and sharing in fighting racism, war, poverty, and systems of oppression — felt hopeful.
Sometimes care for justice feels lonely and hard, like swimming upstream. But being in a gathering like the Sojourners Summit reminded me that hundreds and thousands of people of faith are out in their communities praying and working together to make change.
One interesting fact about Sojourners history: when we began publishing the magazine, it was distributed for free on several college campuses. For the past two years we’ve renewed that tradition as part of a tour of historically black colleges and universities.
In February, Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners’ Chief Church Engagement Officer, spoke with students at four HBCU campuses across the country
I'm grateful for the warm, safe shelter of my home when there are 610,042 experiencing homelessness on any given night in the U.S.
I’m grateful for more than enough to eat when there are 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active live.
I’m grateful that I have clean drinking water when over 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.
I’m grateful that I have good health when so many people do not have access to decent medical care, like the 5,459 people who have died from Ebola this year, and the millions more who die each year from preventable diseases.
I’m grateful I have clothing to wear when in the poorest of places, the lack of proper clothing costs lives, and hundreds of millions still live in conditions of material deprivation.
I’m grateful for my freedom when the U.S. had 1.57 million inmates behind bars, the highest percentage of a population of any developed country in the world.
I’m grateful for my citizenship when there are over 11 undocumented immigrants in the U.S. living in the shadow of constant fear.
But I’m especially grateful for the people I know, and the ones I don’t, that are working for justice and peace; a world where all our brothers and sisters have the basic necessities of shelter, food, clean water, decent medical care, and warm clothing. A world where every human being’s dignity is respected and valued. A world Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven.
This Advent I am grateful for the gift of hopelessness. Yes, you read that correctly. This past year has been full of heartbreak, suffering, and lament. It follows on the heels of nearly two years of unemployment, financial insecurity, and stress-related health issues. Any hope to which I once clung — any hope outside of God, that is — has been destroyed.
And for that I give thanks.
This summer, as I waited anxiously to hear what was strangely afflicting my father (who had already had several health scares and a heart attack), as I nursed a broken heart and came to grips with personal disappointment, as I watched how a once rosy-outlook turned to a heavy-grey, I learned the true meaning of hope. Everything in this world will break or decay or simply fade away. Nothing here is permanent and even the most seemingly perfect and ideal situation has at least a hairline crack.
I currently serve as Pastoral Associate at a Catholic parish in Buffalo, NY, where our pastor decided to hold monthly Prayer Hours for Peace in response to the violent outbreaks in Syria, the uprising in Ferguson over Michael Brown’s death, ISIS, gang violence — to name a few.
Our November Prayer Hour for Peace offered four rounds of Scripture passages and ten-minute reflection and prayer time, followed with an excerpt from a Pax Christi USA prayer called “Just for Today.”
I read this excerpt aloud:
“Just for today, I will believe that world peace is possible. I will remember that hope is the most important gift I can give my world.”
The next Scripture verse was from Psalm 122:6-8.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, Peace be within you.”
For the next ten minutes, I inhaled “belief….possible” and exhaled “hope most important gift.” Physically, my body relaxed, and I watched my hope flow out into my immediate surroundings.
After the monsoon, after work, I catch
you with your face in the hot laundry,
the syntax of spring held together by sap,
hanging wild and worried and crazy
in the lowest branch. In the ripe country,
salmon fold over the linens of the bay,
and I weep with you from the shore, embodied.
For still you feel the fell of dark, not day.
Like a lot of people, I love giving presents almost as much as receiving them. And the best gifts of all are ones that come with a clear understanding of the recipient in mind — ones that involve thought and care. Maybe a weird record with cover art only your best friend would love, or a necklace that goes perfectly with your mom’s favorite dress.
But spending that much effort on gifts for every single person on your list can be exhausting. Handmade gifts sometimes take weeks to plan and make in advance, and you don’t always have the time (or gas money, for that matter) to spend an entire day driving all over town searching for the perfect present, as romantic as that sounds.
Luckily, there are plenty of great resources out there to provide you with excellent gifts that give back. You can find some of them listed in Sojourners’ Just Giving Guide, which offers options ranging from clothes and jewelry to coffee and pecans (yes, pecans!). And if you just can’t find that special something, there are also plenty of choices for giving a donation in honor of a friend or loved one.