A pastor finds his ‘beautiful’ voice

Latino clergy and faith leaders, Rev. Juan Vicente Padilla, fifth from right, gathered for a workshop before participating in the 2016 Bread Lobby Day.  Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By David Gist

“For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” –Matthew 10:20

Rev. Juan Vicente Padilla wanted beautiful words for Lobby Day. He needed an argument so convincing that his congressman would feel compelled to vote in favor of the Global Food Security Act. But Padilla didn’t have any words. He wasn’t a policy expert. “Someone else should take this meeting,” he thought. “I’m just not ready.”

Two days earlier, Padilla, pastor of First Assembly of God Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., traveled to Washington, D.C., for a gathering of Latino clergy and faith leaders – “Changing the Politics of Hunger: Latinos and Elections” at Bread for the World.

At the gathering, Padilla and 21 other Latino faith leaders learned about Bread and explored how incarceration and immigration fuel hunger and poverty in Latino communities. Then they visited their congressional leaders during Bread’s Lobby Day on June 7.

This year’s Lobby Day message addressed both global and domestic hunger. Bread activists pressed their senators to invest $230 million in global nutrition programs so that mothers and children can survive and thrive; they also urged senators to pass a strong child nutrition bill. On the House side, Bread activists called for a “Yes” vote on the Global Food Security Act and a “No” vote on a bill that would provide school meals through block grants, effectively preventing potentially millions of children from getting school breakfasts, lunches, and summer meals.

Before visiting Congress, 20 Californians “caucused” together, discussing how to hold an effective lobby visit. They discovered that several of them had personal stories that related to the bills and points they wanted to make. Padilla listened and realized that the group was poised to deliver powerful testimony at its Senate meeting. But what about the House visit with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s office, where he would be the only constituent? After thinking it over, Padilla advised Bread staff that he didn’t have anything to say and asked if they wanted to take the meeting without him. But, knowing only he could represent constituents back in Costa Mesa, he answered his own question and resolved to go to the meeting.

Padilla prayed for guidance; he asked God for strength, clarity, and the right words to say to his congressman. Together, God and Padilla delivered!

Padilla spoke passionately about the hunger and poverty he had seen in Mexico, how children need good nutrition and smart development programs. He urged the congressman’s aide to make sure Rohrabacher voted “Yes” on the Global Food Security Act, and the aide assured him he didn’t see any reason why the congressman would oppose the bill at this point.

Speaking to legislators about hunger is a way of honoring God’s call to advocacy, to justice, and to love the poor. Padilla’s devotion to God led him to do something he didn’t think he could do. He found the words.

Help push the Global Food Security Act over the finish line! Contact your representative by phone (800-826-3688) or email. Urge him/her to support final passage of the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (S. 1252). 

David Gist is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

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