Bread for the World is celebrating its 34th birthday this year. Normally, 34 is not a milestone year. Milestone years are normally reserved for 25 or 50. Or you could make the case for 35 and 40. But I feel compelled to put a special marker on year 34.
From my standpoint, there is no major event or "happenstance" prompting me to celebrate this year, but a series of "small" meetings during the past year. Call them "connection" or "reconnection" vignettes, either in person or through cyberspace (specifically that wonderful networking medium called Facebook)
Most of these folks I knew through Bread for the World many years ago but had lost touch. Others I didn't know, but discovered they had a Bread connection. Still others, are Bread people with whom I have stayed in touch, but had not seen in a while.
(And I note that Bread did celebrate Year 34 by unveiling its new logo).
Here are a couple of my stories:
The Office (Pasadena)
Ok, I borrowed the title from the popular television show. But this not about Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute or Jim or Pam. This is about how about a chance meeting related to Bread for the World's office in California.
On the last weekend of August, I volunteered to set up a Bread for the World/ONE Campaign display at Matthew 25, a conference to promote opportunities and highlight the service and social-justice work of churches and organizations in the Albuquerque-based Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
One of the special guests at the conference was the director of the Seattle office of Episcopal Relief and Development. He had been introduced as a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and I knew a couple of folks who graduated from that institution.
As I went up to his display table to introduce myself, he immediately noted that he was once a staff member of Bread for the World.
As it turned out, this fellow was Brian Sellers-Petersen, who was instrumental in convincing Bread to put the new western regional office in Pasadena and not in Los Angeles proper back in the 1980s.
To make matters even more interesting, Brian asked me if I had heard from his former co-worker in that office, Emily Abbott. As a matter of fact, just a couple of weeks ago, Emily and her husband Zachary hosted me at their home in Altadena! I was in California in mid-August for a work-related trip and a few days of vacation.
Anyway, Emily was the regional organizer for the "Rest of the West (including New Mexico)" at the same time that Brian was covering California. And just like Brian, Zachary was a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. Above is a picture of Emily and Zachary that I took at a great botanical garden called The Huntington.
But I would be remiss if I left out two of the current staffers at the Pasadena office, with whom I had a great lunch during my recent trip to California: Holly Hight and David Gist. Ricardo Moreno, Bread's organizer for Latino Relations, also works out of that office. Above is a picture of Holly and David. By the way, Holly's husband, Joel Short, is also a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary.
Tracks all Over Facebook
Those of us who have experienced the social networking medium known as Facebook are well aware that it can be both a trap and an opportunity. The big danger is that it entices you to waste a lot of time surfing through your friend's groups and photographs. Conversely, this is a medium that is very useful for organizing. For example, I've created three groups that have relevance to our justice work in New Mexico: Bread for the World-New Mexico, The ONE Albuquerque-New Mexico, and Albuquerque Fair Trade City.
Facebook has also allowed me to reconnect or make an acquaintance with several folks with whom I share a history with Bread for the World. First, let me mention Bob Schminkey, who was one of my regional organizers when I still lived in Kansas City. Bob and I have a common vice: we root for the Los Angeles Dodgers (and because of it, we're suffering this season). Speaking of Bob, I became acquainted with one of his Facebook friends, Cynthia Biddlecomb, when she joined the Bread for the World-New Mexico group on Facebook. As it turns out, Cynthia was once a summer intern for Bread.
I also recently reconnected via Facebook with Kim Bobo, who once headed the Organizing department at Bread. Kim, who is executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, has become such an authority on organizing that there an entry on Wikipedia for her.
Another significant new friend on Facebook is Steve Eulberg, a Lutheran pastor I knew in Kansas City. Steve, a Bread member, was the one who presided over the wedding ceremony when Karen and I got married on Sept. 1, 1990. His wife, Pastor Connie Winter-Eulberg, is also a Facebook friend. Connie sang at our wedding.
And I've also made contact on Facebook with two people, with whom I served on the Bread board: Connie Jaarsma Marty and Rebekah Jordan. Below is a picture of Connie from way back (notice the difference between that logo and the new logo, which Holly and David are holding in the picture above).
Connie and her husband John (also a Facebook friend), were at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., at the same ti.me as my wife Karen. John is a state senator in Minnesota.
Other Facebook reacquaintances include fellow Bread members or staffers I knew either back in Kansas City or here in Albuquerque or from a national gathering in Washington: Sherry Thompsen, Edie Lott, Zelinda Welch, Julie Brewer, Marco Grimaldo...
And several New Mexico Bread members are on Facebook: Kari Bachmann, Jon Bulthuis, Bob Riley, among others...
So in the spirit of those new acquaintances and reaquaintances, I say Happy 34th birthday, Bread for the World!