Summit on Social Consciousness
By Becky St. Clair and Eloise Ravell
On April 9-13, 2014, Andrews University held its third annual Summit for Social Consciousness with the theme, “The Poor Next Door: Poverty in America.” Its objective was to inform the community of this chronic problem in our nation and to provide a means for students and community leaders to engage in social action. The symposium was designed to bring awareness and public education to the subject through the knowledge of different speakers and the opportunity to serve the community hands on.
Wednesday, April 9, the summit kicked off with Rachel Wade from United Way of Southwest Michigan who engaged attendees in a discussion on relevant facts regarding poverty in the country. In addition to the presentation, the audience had the opportunity to participate in a poverty simulation activity. Thursday, there was a documentary screening of “Inequality for All,” a film featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and directed by Jacob Kornbluth.
Friday, the University Vespers at Pioneer Memorial Church welcomed guest speakers Bonnie Bazata and Taurus Montogomery. Bazata spoke about the concept of “false generosity,” a form of giving without making any sort of sacrifice and how we need to break out of this un-Christ like pattern.
Saturday morning, the Howard Performing Arts Center held a church service featuring keynote speaker Timothy Nixon. Afterwards, breakout sessions were held in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Guest speakers included Peter Lombardo, director of community involvement at the South Bend Center for the Homeless and professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and Joel Raveloharimisy, director of Community & International Development Program at Andrews, among others.
“I have a passion to serve the under-served,” says Lucie Randall, director of Neighbor to Neighbor during her presentation entitled “Price of Poverty.”
Neighbor to Neighbor’s mission is to follow Christ’s example by taking care of the poor and helpless. The organization has a total of 3,242 volunteers in the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists who contribute to more than 66,000 hours of service for the poor each year. In 2012, employment was at 9 percent in Berrien County and 34 perfect of the children in Michigan lived in families in which the parents were not employed. Neighbor to Neighbor seeks to help these families and provide resources for them.
“Poverty costs somebody somewhere something,” says Randall. “The best resources God has given us are not being utilized.”