Wednesday, May 02, 2007

CCS 2007 Reflection
Emily O’Donnell, is a current BVSer and Legislative Associate, in the Brethren Witness Washington Office.

As we arrived at the Vanderbilt YMCA in New York City for the start of the 2007 Christian Citizenship Seminar, the worry remained. How would the youth respond to an entire week dedicated to learning, listening, and advocating on the issue of healthcare? To be honest we feared the appeal of healthcare to youth, more than likely insured under their parents, would not be great. So you might wonder why choose this issue for the theme of a youth conference? But as the week progressed the answer became clear to all involved, especially the youth, that our nation’s healthcare system is a broken one. God has called us to not simply care for ourselves, but to care for our brothers and sisters throughout our nation and the world. Currently, the United States is failing in the area of healthcare, and the concern, questions, and a desire for change expressed by the youth at CCS erased any fears we had. The youth were ready to take on the challenge of healthcare.

The statistics on the U.S. healthcare system are harrowing. 47 million Americans are uninsured, 50% of Americans have inadequate insurance, and 18,000 Americans die each year from diseases that would be treatable or preventable with adequate health coverage. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a universal healthcare plan and its healthcare system is ranked 37th in the world. The youth realized very quickly that this not an issue for someone else. This is an issue for them right here, right now. It is a moral issue, an issue of justice.

On Sunday night in NYC, a speaker few will soon forget, Pastor Phil Carlos Archbold, of Brooklyn Church of the Brethren, told his incredible story. He told of his relationship with David, a young man with AIDS who he legally adopted, and his calling to be a caregiver, friend, and father to one who was sick and in desperate need of love. One could only leave that night thinking “What would Jesus do in terms of healthcare and the sick?” The answer: exactly what Phil did and continues to do as he works with AIDS patients in NYC. Jesus would care for them, love them, pray for them, serve them, and heal them. In the case of David, Phil healed David’s heart prior to his passing. In both NYC and DC where the conference took place, a number of speakers spoke on a single payer universal healthcare plan for the U.S. Speakers Marilyn Clement, National Coordinator of Healthcare, Dr. William Davidson, cardiologist and President of the Good Samaritan Medical Staff, and Greg Howe, the senior policy manager in PA Governor Rendell’s Office of Health Care Reform, all spoke in support of a single payer universal health care plan that would provide health insurance for all and remove the inadequate and frustrating use of insurance companies. The youth asked question after question trying to grasp this single payer plan and understanding that this is probably one of the best solutions for a just healthcare system for all. I was amazed at how well the youth understood the plan and their ability to articulate this plan and other issues on healthcare to their Senators and House Representatives when lobbying on the final day of CCS.

I have to admit my first CCS experience was more than I could have imagined. As a leader, I felt encouraged and motivated by the enthusiasm, intelligence, and compassion of our denomination’s youth. I left the conference feeling informed and driven to change the tide of healthcare in our nation. Our system of healthcare is broken, and now is the time to fix it. Healthcare is not for the privileged but for everyone because Jesus has called us to care for one another. Jesus asked Peter so many years ago “Do you love me.” Peter responded “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus replied “Then tend to my sheep.” It is time to tend to the sheep, to hear Jesus’ call. I heard the message of CCS 2007 loud and clear and with great confidence I can say the youth of our denomination are ready to take on the broken healthcare system in our nation.

Source: April 2007 Witness to Washington Newsletter

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