SAN ANTONIO - As Jen Hatmaker described her own journey into becoming passionate about justice issues to attendees at the Micah 6:8 Conference, she detailed an experience of brokenness where she and her husband left their boots at the altar of a church, to be given to homeless people, and walked with barefeet to their car on a cold Easter night. It was a transformational moment which shaped their walk with God and people from that point forward.
The keynote speaker for the inaugural conference, hosted by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, Hatmaker shared over two days about her experiences advocating for the needs of others, from ministering to homeless people in the community to adopting two children from Ethiopia.
“Living a life on mission with God, loving the people He created with great care who are struggling, what I thought was going to be an incredibly heavy task . . . turns out to be such joy,” Hatmaker said.
“It is upon us to walk faithfully behind [Jesus] in obedience and bring the good news to this broken, hurting world,” she said. “If you are new to the justice conversation, when you begin to enter into spaces of injustice, committed to work alongside God to set things right -- to make things fair and right and return dignity to those who have lost it -- Jesus might just take you to people you have never considered before.”
Four hundred attendees gathered at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio on March 31-April 1, with a shared purpose of advocating for justice issues.
Workshop leaders from across the country were assembled to provide solid break-out topics ranging from human trafficking, racial unity, immigration, mental health, community transformation and many more.
"I am thrilled with the participation in our inaugural Micah 6:8 Conference,” said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Christian Life Commission. “We held the Micah 6:8 Conference because we want to be a generation that serves the Lord by loving our neighbors and communities well. It is my hope that participants left San Antonio energized and refreshed so that they can go into their communities and live out the commands of Micah 6:8, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”
Hatmaker advised advocates to treat justice work as a marathon, not a sprint. Too often those passionate about justice issues can be overcome by compassion fatigue or burnout.
“Of all non-profit workers in the U.S., roughly 80 percent of them have only been at it for five years or less,” she said. “There’s a culture that surrounds activism that is not healthy. Justice workers have an internal conflict about self-care.”
Rather than run on steam, Hatmaker encouraged attendees to find daily spiritual renewal from God, like manna from heaven, which sustains for one day at a time.
“We have to gather every day – that’s part of the rhythm of the gospel,” Hatmaker said. “We need God’s fresh and daily nourishment in our real lives.”
Hatmaker’s husband, Brandon, serves as pastor of Austin New Church and joined the conference on Friday morning to provide further insight into justice advocacy. He shared about the process of becoming learners again, seeking wisdom from God on how to move forward extending mercy to others.
“The thing we are learning more and more, over and over is that together is how we should move forward,” he said. “We are not called to seek justice as individuals. We are not alone and should never be alone.”
As advocates for the past 10 years, the Hatmakers have found many opportunities to minister to those in need, both in their community and around the world. The couple shared about their new work in community development in a village in Ethiopia where their son was born. Both of the children they adopted were poverty orphans, and the Hatmakers decided to put their effort and energy behind development in the region that would prevent further orphans.
“We have since thrown our lot behind development because we would love to prevent orphans in the first place,” she said. “We want to give them solid footing economically and physically … Asking why are people hungry, poor, is much more complicated to solve. We have to go back to those roots and systems, using every effort we have.”
Principles outlined by the Hatmakers were reinforced in workshops throughout the conference. Christian Life Commission staff were also on-hand to connect with attendees and build relationships for further advocacy to occur long after the conference ended. The Austin-based CLC works on justice and advocacy issues year-round throughout Texas and around the world. Next year, the CLC will host Advocacy Day on February 6-7 2017, including workshops, a luncheon and Capitol visits to advocate with elected officials. The next Micah 6:8 Conference will be held in 2018.