As a tornado touched down just a few city blocks away, a humble group gathered in the safest place it could be, deep in the basement of a church, hardly aware of the storm outside. We were caught up in trying to make a difference, volunteering at Groveland Food shelf, which serves the neighborhood just south of downtown Minneapolis.
Joining President Obama’s United We Serve campaign, 16 youth and adult allies spent three days serving the Twin Cities community, building bridges across differences, and asking big, challenging questions: If there is more than enough food in the world, why do 11% of US households experience hunger or food insecurity? Why in Minnesota, one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest nation, do more than 9,200 people go homeless each night, and more are at risk of losing stable housing? How can we create a more sustainable world, and who is responsible for caring for the environment.
We spent the first day walking alongside people experiencing homelessness, hearing their stories, sharing a meal, putting together hygiene kits and writing notes of hope and inspiration for the families who would receive them. The next day we pulled nearly 75 buckthorn, attempting to make a dent in eradicating the invasive species. And on our last day we sorted and packaged food for a food shelf.
What is so special about this group? We are Somali, Kenyan, Russian, and of European descent; we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and unaffiliated; we are middle and high school youth who seek a better world. We are the Twin Cities Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition, a collaborative program of the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches and Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. In the midst of a world that, like the tornado, storms with messages of despair, segregation, violence, and apathy, we are a group of young people responding with hope, uniting across religious and other barriers that divide by acting on our common call to service, justice, and hospitality.
The Saint Paul Area Council of Churches is part of the Inspired to Serve national pilot project in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core and Search Institute and made possible with major support from Learn and Serve America. Inspired to Serve mobilizes and builds the capacity of faith communities across the US to engage religiously diverse young people in effective asset-based service-learning that increases interfaith cooperation and contributes to healthier communities and healthier youth.
To learn more about The Saint Paul Area Council of Churches and Inspired to Serve, visit www.spacc.org/interfaith.