• Facing politicians with clear eyes and full hearts

    Posted by Marissa

    13 March, 2014

    I still remember stepping wide-eyed and heart a-pounding into my first public meeting that I was required to speak at. There was a huge audience in front of me and I could just imagine how I would feel if I said the wrong thing or if I tripped up the stairs on the way to the microphone. I had been told by family and friends not to fear and just do my best, be confident and that I would do a great job. Somehow I made it through, even managing to crack a smile and a joke as I communicated my passion.  “Wow,” I thought to myself, “they were really hooked!”

    I was eight and I was doing my public speaking project on wok cooking – one of my favourite jobs to help out with as a kid.  I had successfully impressed the crowd with a sampling of my cooking and convinced everyone of the benefits of creating a scrumptious stir-fry.

    Fast-forward 12 or so years and I felt the same knot in my stomach as I stepped across the threshold onto the green carpet, escorted by a well-dressed young staffer as I headed into my first ever meeting with a politician. I could sense the solemn nature of Federal Parliament as we were silently and swiftly guided down the bare hallway. We reached the office and were briskly herded in. I could just imagine the attitudes and the tut-tutting that we would receive in response to a group of vocal activist Christians flooding the corridors of power.

    I also sensed the air of nervousness among my lobby group and we took our seats on the dark brown leather lounges and were offered glasses of water. Our Member of Parliament came to join us, we introduced ourselves, and then proceeded with a half hour conversation about global poverty and justice issues that we wanted to put on his agenda.

    It was my first lobbying experience, my first real political engagement, and my first exposure to the reality that politicians were generally happy to have a chat to their constituents about the issues they cared about. Micah Challenge Interns Marissa and Zoe at Voices for Justice 2011 Micah Challenge Interns Marissa and Zoe at Voices for Justice 2011

    Now, that’s not to say that they immediately went into parliament the next week and implemented all of the policy asks that we had presented to them.  Nor in fact were they 100% supportive of all that we had to say. Yet, I was thankful that they listened, were respectful and were willing to engage in discussion about global issues and what they thought the best approach to addressing those issues might be.

    True, sometimes you don’t get that lucky. Some politicians can be much more dismissive, and don’t agree to meet with you in the first place. But when you’re right there, in the corridors of power, you know you have the power to influence our leaders. And when you’re advocating for those around the world who have no voice, you can be confident that your time and words mean something and that they can make a difference.

    Thankfully, I felt equipped from the moment I entered into the big marble foyer. We had been to workshops, policy seminars, and lobby group planning time, and we had engaged in lots of deep conversations about what we were in Canberra to do. I felt completely confident (and almost competent!) that I was where God wanted me to be. I felt convicted that I was right in the centre of his will as he commands us to “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate” Proverbs 31:8.

    Although I would have liked, perhaps, to be like Moses and declare to God that I couldn’t be the right person for the job, I knew that He had given me the skills and ability to do just that.

    Let me encourage each of you reading this blog to seriously consider coming to Voices for Justice this year. It’s a great excuse to take time out of your normal busy life to enrich your understanding of God’s heart for a just world free from oppression and poverty. But more than that, it’s a great opportunity to put your faith into action and stand up for those in our world who need an advocate.

    Together, we can use our collective voice to challenge our national and global leaders to be using their power not for themselves but for the poor. We want them to be able to see what we see – the realistic potential that we can make the world a more equal and just place.

    And as we face politicians with clear eyes to that goal; and with full hearts, that we are there with God by our side, on behalf of the poor; no matter what the outcome of the meeting or the whole gathering, we know we can’t lose*.

    For more details about Voices for Justice 2014 click here.

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    Marissa Smithson (nee Flynn) works for Micah Challenge as the Coordinator for Voices for Justice 2014.

    *Some savvy readers will pick up the reference to Friday Night Lights’ football team slogan.