On October 21, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Alabama will have its annual meeting. Whenever I attend a CBF meeting, I am thankful for the people in the room, the spirit of cooperation, and the history of CBF’s efforts. One of the efforts I am particular grateful for is the Together for Hope initiative.
In 2001 when I was a student in seminary, I heard about Together for Hope for the first time. It was going to be a 20-year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States. The energy around such an initiate was meaningful and inspiring!
The commitment, which stretches across the rural landscape of this country, from Arizona to Appalachia, including Sowing Seeds of Hope in Marion, Alabama (Perry County), supported by AFBC, has focused on the needs of education, health and nutrition, housing and environment, and social enterprise. It diligently supports community development and the concrete needs of our neighbors. It is hard to believe that we are approaching the end of that 20-year commitment in 2020.
As often times happens, an end becomes a beginning, as CBF continues to imagine its calling and respond with its commitment. CBF is preparing to shift from focusing on the 20 poorest counties to expand its work through partnerships and various efforts to the 301 counties of persistent rural poverty throughout the United States identified by the USDA. A number of these counties will be in Alabama.
A central commitment to the needs of our neighbors in the poorest counties of the country calls forth a spirit of cooperation! It focuses on the calling of Jesus to care for the least of these. It reminds us that service and humility are essential on our faith journey.
Together for Hope is part of the story of AFBC. It calls our attention to places throughout the country with these particular needs, and it reminds us to look for our neighbors in our community, shouldering similar burdens. We are thankful for these efforts and our partnership with others as we address these needs. We share in such work, as we support it, participate in it, and celebrate it!