My summer at the ELCA churchwide office has been a wonderful learning experience. The smiles and welcoming attitudes of staff made the office, and cube-life, a lot less intimidating. I really appreciated how I was engaged in the work of the World Hunger Program, not only in my assignments, but in the work and conversations of all of the staff.

As a nursing student interested in public health, I was very much in my comfort zone when I began the summer researching the intersection of disease and hunger, focusing on diarrheal disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia, malaria, HIV and AIDS.

Shortly after I started, my focus was expanded to start thinking about food production. I read In Defense of Food by Mark Pollan, and will never buy margarine again!  I was able to travel to Wapato, Washington for an “Ethics of Eating Event.” I have never truly considered where my food came from, or what it cost others and the environment to produce what I was eating. This event as well as further reading, has made me, and very soon all of my friends, family and twitter followers, a much more informed consumer. It is also something I will be able to take back to the hospital; obesity is a growing medical concern, and has very much to do with not only what we eat, but what’s available to us and how it’s produced. It’s not just a health issue, but also a social justice issue.

I truly began seeing the work of Church in Society when I traveled to New Orleans for the Youth Gathering as a part of the Justice Town team. I spent days talking to high school students about youth homelessness as well as criminal detention facilities, two subjects I did not know much about previously. Justice Town allowed me, as well as the visiting youth, to see how the ELCA is truly involved in all levels of social justice work, from the education we were doing on the spot – sharing stories of relief and development – to the advocacy postcards that we asked youth to fill out before they left. I continued to see the work of the church when I traveled to Domestic Hunger Grant recipient sites in Racine and Milwaukee. It was a beautiful reminder that the ELCA acts as God’s hands by facilitating even more of His work.

In August, I was able to bring my research on disease and hunger to the Toolkit Creative Retreat at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in New York. There I was able to work with an amazing group of people to develop education material focused on the malicious cycle of poverty, hunger and disease.

Throughout my journey this summer, I have made many friends, heard many stories, have had my eyes opened to the injustices in today’s world, and have seen how we, carrying out God’s work on earth, can be the change.

Rachel Zeman