Mary Jo Moore is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kansas City, MO. She participates on her church’s Organizing Committee and, in June, completed a 6-day national leadership training offered by the PICO National Network.
People often ask me why I am involved in faith-based organizing work. After all, I don’t get paid to do this
work. Neither am I coerced into doing it by peer pressure or threats to myself or loved ones. So what could possibly motivate me to spend countless hours of my leisure time in activities that seek to better the lives of people less fortunate than me? In a word, love. Yes, you read that right. L-O-V-E. I believe that God is LOVE, who in Christ promises forgiveness, life, and salvation. Very early on in my life I chose to respond to this love through service to others.
As a baptized child of God and one confirmed in the Christian faith, the Holy Spirit works in and through me to demonstrate my love for God by obeying Jesus’s commandments. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, NKJV). Granted, Jesus spoke of many commandments. But it is the greatest one, written in Matthew 22:36-40 that grabbed my heart when I first read it. These verses are well known but bear repeating: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40). The Gospel of Luke goes on to explain what Jesus meant by “neighbor” in the oft-repeated parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
So how are we to love our neighbors as ourselves? For me, one way to “love my neighbor” is through involvement with Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO. As a faith-based nonprofit corporation comprised of 100 Kansas City area congregations and synagogues, CCO provides an organized way to move beyond individual congregational needs to issues that affect the larger community.
When our church’s organizing committee learned that many Missourians are hurting from usurious interest rates on stop-gap loans and from minimum wage jobs, the Holy Spirit lit a fire under me and got me to gather 800+ signatures on citizen petitions to Cap The Rate (decrease interest charged on pay-day loans from an average of 455% to a cap of 36%) and Raise The Wage (from $7.25/hr. to $8.25/hr.). From January – May, I knocked on doors, spread the word at congregational gatherings and community meetings, canvassed at public events, and mobilized others to assist with signature gathering. During these outings, I heard heart-breaking stories about lives ruined by pay-day lenders more interested in keeping people stuck in debt than helping to preserve their dignity through fair, equitable lending practices and of lives crushed by abject poverty.
How can I not respond in the face of such anguish? “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.(John 3:17-18)
Simply put, I do what I do because it provides an opportunity to translate my faith into action. Through my involvement with CCO, I have learned to “step into my God-given power” to do justice for all people, standing with people who are hurting, in need and who feel powerless to change their lives for the better.