We’ve asked Ryan Cumming, new Director for Hunger Education to introduce himself. Welcome Ryan!
I should tell you from the outset that I’m not very good at autobiography. When doing research, we are trained to remove ourselves as much as possible from our writing – to be objective or detached. Of course, that’s never really the case. It’s not even ideal. Detached work of any kind is passionless work. The most compelling work – whether it is writing or any other type – is the work shaped by personal experience, by the story of a person called to it. (On this, I highly recommend the recent book Theologians in Their Own Words by Derek Nelson, Joshua Moritz, and Ted Peters.) As I have begun my new position as Director for Hunger Education for ELCA World Hunger, the most interesting part of my job has been listening to the stories of the hard-working, passionate people with whom I work. All of my colleagues bring their experiences, wisdom, and faith to bear on their work for the church, and I am fortunate to count myself among them. Each of us has followed a different path that has led us to work in the church as community organizers, fundraisers, networkers, educators, pastors, and so on.
Maybe my story might include the various jobs I have had, from truck driver to factory worker to movie extra to college professor. None of these roles, though, is quite as important as the moment I “discovered” faith at Capital University, which might sound odd coming from a lifelong Lutheran involved in church activities since childhood. At “Cap,” I saw a faith that was far from comforting. It was challenging, it refused to give all of the answers. This was a faith that accepted tension and that forced me to wrestle with it. It was the faith of St. Augustine, writing his Confessions, or Martin Luther making his stand. This Lutheran faith pulls us into a world filled with ambiguity, anguish, suffering, and injustice and tells us, “Find grace. It is here.”
In my work, it is impossible to ignore the sin that allows millions to suffer and die from lack of food or clean water or medicine. But it is equally impossible to ignore the grace that moves congregations to serve meals, that shapes our public advocacy, that supports new mission starts and global and local initiatives to confront suffering effectively. This work is done by folks with diverse stories, who are drawn together by their faith and their commitment to accompany one another in confronting despair with hope, anguish with relief, marginalization with solidarity, and the reality of sin with the power of grace. I am blessed to be part of our work together, and I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing in the work God does with our hands.
Ryan Cumming is the Director of Hunger Education for ELCA World Hunger.