by Sandra Roper, 2021-22 Hunger Advocacy Fellow [about the author]

Sometimes it feels like my whole life revolves around the question “what’s next?” There’s this notion that “next” is a jump, one thing to another, and that the next thing must be substantially different from the thing before in order to be “new.” I’m starting to think that’s not the case.

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

What strikes me the most about the passage from Isaiah is the “way in the wilderness” that is being created. Unlike the image of something springing forth, spontaneous and recognizable as new, a new path being taken doesn’t really look like a new path for the first few steps. Sometimes when you’re walking you realize it’s a new path, but it can be hard and confusing to find your way. Sometimes, it’s not until you look back, that you realize you’ve been forging a new path and not just wandering lost.

When I look back on the path that brought me to this year as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow, it’s easy to see the way decisions built off of each other to bring me here. At the time though, those decisions didn’t always feel purposeful or important. Quite honestly, a lot of the time I just felt lost. The past few years in particular have been challenging. Global pandemic, graduating from college and close personal loss among other things have made answering the question “what’s next?” difficult to navigate. And yet, looking back I can see how all those little decisions have built into something bigger.

Five years ago, I do not think I could have articulated how advocacy and justice are an integral part of living out God’s call to love our neighbors and our world. When I entered college, I joined a campus ministry focused on doing justice. I had opportunities and relationships that centered on deeply listening to the stories of others and walking with rather than talking over. Today, faith as a driving force for service and justice is at the center of what I do as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow.

The work that God does in the world is not always spontaneous. Advocacy is a long-term commitment to caring for our neighbors and our world. I hear the phrase “advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint” a lot from colleagues, and it is a loving reminder of endurance and hope. It is a long process of progress and setbacks and progress again. Sometimes, we need the reminder to stop and look around at what is happening.

I don’t know what’s next for me after this year, but I do know that whatever comes next in my journey after this year will continue building this new path that God is calling me towards.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandra Roper studied English and Germanic Studies in college and has worked with other faith-based organizations, including Lutheran World Federation, while she was an undergraduate. She shares communications responsibilities with the ELCA Witness in Society staff, including social media and writing duties, and supports advocacy advancement in various ways. She enjoys hiking in her free time, particularly in the fall.