A young man from the Coalition of Immokkolee Workers stood outside the Tampa Convention Center on Tuesday in front of a pyramid of tomatoes asking for one cent more per pound. Currently, it takes 153 buckets of tomatoes for these workers to make minimum wage. On this May Day, which traditionally honors workers’ rights and organized labor, The United Methodist Church took the opportunity to raise awareness about ways of acting and standing in solidarity with the poor.
“This is an opportunity to raise consciousness on what we by mean ministry with* the poor as opposed to ministry to the poor,” said coordinator Mary Ellen Kris. “This is chance to learn about different ministries and to become engaged hopefully not just in Tampa, but when people go home.” During the 2008 General Conference, the Ministry with the Poor Area of Focus was launched as one of four interconnected areas of concentrated focus of The United Methodist Church.
Tuesday’s event, Break Bread with* Tampa, featured singing groups from Tampa and African countries, a number of speakers, and up to 20 exhibitors from various ministries working with the poor.
The food was prepared by “Inside the Box Catering,” an entrepreneurial initiative of Metropolitan Ministries. Proceeds from the sale of lunches are reinvested in providing meals to homeless and other hungry people in a four-county area.
Bishop Timothy Whittaker of Lakeland, Florida said everyone was invited to join in great food and fellowship and to break break with Tampa to “lift up the Church’s vision of how anti-poverty ministries look and act in the 21st Century.”
Earlier in the morning, the Society of St. Andrew hosted a produce drop delivering about 40,000 lbs of cucumbers to the steps of the Tampa Convention Center. Volunteers bagged the food for distribution to food banks throughout the Tampa area.
“Ministry with* the Poor really is about ministries of love and justice that are based on the equality of relationships,” said Kris. “It’s about listening and learning. Instead of one set of people trying to tell another set of people how to fix their problems. This is about being sensitive to that and growing in discipleship.”
For more information on Ministry with* the Poor, visitwww.ministrywith.org.