• One Voice for Justice

    Posted by Melanie

    12 July, 2012

    What does it look like to spend 4 ½ years working as an advocate for and with the global poor? Melanie Wellings, our long-serving Office Manager who recently moved on to a new role, shares with us the highlights of her involvement with Micah Challenge over the past half decade.

    When I started work at Micah Challenge in December 2007 the office was small, literally a ‘bedroom’ at the Baptist World Aid headquarters. We had one phone line, and with a plank of wood we were able to turn two desks into three (which still remain cramped for the four staff members and various volunteers). Micah Challenge was starting to grow quite rapidly, but there were many corners of the church where its influence was unknown.

    Fast forward to 2012, and so many more Christians across Australia are engaged with the important advocacy work of Micah Challenge. Everything has grown – from the office space and staff team, to the intern program, volunteers and agency support – but most importantly the call for justice has grown louder and many more churches now know the significance of advocacy and what they can do to take action.

    I have seen God’s call for justice being answered through prayer and action across the whole gamut of different Christian groups from large and small churches (Uniting, Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Ethnic, independents), Bible study groups, youth groups, playgroups, seniors groups and high school social justice groups to Christian doctors simply wanting to share information in their waiting rooms.

    I have had the great joy and privilege of seeing people taking steps forward on the discipleship journey of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. I have loved receiving creative feedback in the form of stories and photos capturing the ways people have sought to learn about issues of poverty and take action. These have included piñatas in the shape of mosquitoes, beautiful 5th birthday cakes, simple meals over a shared table, and creative petitions for our sanitation and clean water campaigns.

    I have been impacted and shaped by all these interactions, yet the clear highlight from my time with Micah Challenge has been the annual conference Voices for Justice. This is where Christians from all over Australia unite to speak, share, pray and stand for justice on behalf of the poor.

    We would often say that it is a conference like no other and unique across the broad spectrum of Christian conferences but people often don’t believe you.  It isn’t until they attend this national gathering that they truly understand its unique nature. Two days of workshops, teaching and the policy briefing seem like obvious activities but then the two days that follow are all about putting what is learnt into action. Participants see a tangible effect for their efforts.

    Over the past four years this has looked like early morning breakfasts with politicians, giant toilets on Parliament House lawn, Micah scroll unrolling, 5th birthday parties, appointments from one end of parliament house to another and those sacred gaps for coffee in the Queen’s terrace café that Micah Challenge supporters commandeer for two days. 

    Each year as we stand on the front lawn of Parliament House for God’s just cause of the poor, it is a very emotive experience. It is from this place of government (that we remember from school excursions, family holidays and the media) that democracy happens and, for a tangible moment, we get to affect it for God.  This place is where our leaders make decisions about our country, its direction and its priorities.

    Voices for Justice represents the rare opportunity for everyday Christians with a passion to speak up, to walk the halls of Parliament House and to visit these decision-makers’ offices. For politicians to take time out of their busy schedule to hear from their constituents (from all over Australia) is a great privilege. While it may be our right to speak and affect government, it is still a privilege for politicians to engage with us and see the desire for justice from the point of view of everyday Australian Christians. 

    Over the years, it has been the great conversations had over coffee, lining up at 6:30am outside the doors of Parliament House, that remain marked in my memory. Undoubtedly, the most powerful moment for me was when we unrolled the Micah scroll in the great hall at Parliament House with the (then) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott and a group of other politicians in tow. The 40-metre scroll represented over 111,000 people who had signed the Micah Call. Watching those politicians sign that commitment was even more powerful.

    (We have however learnt more recently that the harder task is getting political powers to keep this promise.)

    Overall, my work with Micah Challenge over the past four years has shown me the blessing it is to live out Proverbs 31:8-9 --

    “speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, judging fairly and defending the rights of the poor and needy”.

    While I now step out of this role into a new one, I remain committed as a lifelong advocate for and with the global poor. And my prayer is that many more will join me.

    Melanie Wellings worked with Micah Challenge for 4 1/2 years as our Office Manager and Intern Coordinator, and recently moved on to a new role with the Baptist Churches of Australia.



    We’d love you to share with us (and the wider MC network of supporters) your favourite Voices for Justice moment via facebook or twitter (tagging us @micah_challenge and using the #VFJ hashtag). Feel free to use words or images to share with us a favourite memory, and what you've most enjoyed about Voices for Justice. We will retweet and post your memories via our social networks in the lead up to VFJ 2012!

    If you haven't already registered, make sure you do before July 20 to receive the early bird discount!