Two novelties last week produced invigorating jolts in the idyllic everyday-life scene I presented in the last posting.
The first was the monthly advocacy meeting Wednesday, the second one I’ve sat in on this semester. This gathering, in the form of a multi-way phone conference, brings Columban representatives from all over the U.S. and beyond. My first advocacy call had voices from Omaha, El Paso, and London in the room; every other month the call is moved to the evening to accommodate Columbans working in Asia—Australia, Burma, China, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. My job was to take notes on the ground covered and to prepare a report to be stored on our network.
The second was a committee meeting organized by the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) in conjunction with a representative from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The group met Friday in the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill to discuss issues of cooperation and coordination between USAID and religious groups working abroad to promote development. My task here was simpler, to get the gist of the exchange between the USAID and WISC representatives, and to secure the contact information for USAID.
More generally, however, these experiences—along with most of the out-of-office time at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO)—are meant to give the young, wide-eyed intern a feel for the scope of the larger advocacy community and how it functions.
And this first glance produces several simultaneous reactions. It can be daunting, particularly with all the jargon flying across the room at the WISC meeting: I, an intern with all of 150 contact-hours in advocacy, sharing a table with career missionaries and community advocates—there must be some mistake!
It is certainly also informative, providing a snapshot of international efforts to work for justice and achieve God’s Kingdom on Earth.
And from here comes the most important part. Above all these opportunities are inspiring.
We’re a small group at the CCAO—as I mentioned in my last post, no more than nine people are even in this tiny office at once. It’s easy to feel, so close to the big voices of Washingtonian politics, that our voice of reason is alone, a tiny fish in an endless and uncaring ocean.
But experiences like the international advocacy call and the WISC committee meeting show me that it isn’t so bleak. Even if we are small, we are not alone.