Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 39

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE on all of these things. We also look at the economics. What about rural America and how can we make an impact there? So I want to conclude with the story of Jose Cholula. How many of you have had Cholula hot sauce? It’s delicious, but it has no connection to Jose [laughter]. Jose was born in Mexico, immigrated to the States with his parents into southern California with legal status, and made it to college. I think it was Pacific Lutheran. He was a very good long distance runner and almost made the Olympic team. His running coach had a summer camp up at Adam State University in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. So he ended up there and ended up doing his master’s. And then he continued, and he got his PhD in education and psychology. And he said, I want to stay in this rural, underserved area, and I want to be part of giving back. I want to serve the migrant farm worker community and their families and their needs. And that’s what he’s been doing. He married his college sweetheart. They now have a couple of kids. But because of all of his education debt, he wasn’t going to be able to buy a house; he wasn’t going to be able to get a mortgage. So he found out about a US Department of Agriculture program that we administer through a nonprofit organization called the Self-Help Housing Program. We’ve been doing what Habitat for Humanity does since 1949 before Habitat was even created. And so Jose and his younger brother who came up to help out, built their house and six other neighbors’ houses, and his daughter took her first steps in his new house a few weeks after he moved in, all with the help of a USDA program that you financed with a few pennies of your tax dollars. That’s pretty cool. I was talking with a colleague yesterday and asked him, “What’s one of your favorite and best accomplishments at USDA?” And he said, “I helped a woman who was eighty years old whose well had fallen into disrepair, who had to go to the grocery store and buy gallon jugs of water, finance a re-drilling and re-casing of her well. And I was there when she turned on the tap.” In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we have hungry kids. Thanks be to God we don’t have starving kids, as was the case a few generations ago. But we have poverty here on Native American reservations, in the Mississippi delta, in deep Appalachia, in the colonias along the border with Mexico, which makes some situations in the developing world look wealthy. And it’s the role and the function and the mission of the Department of Agriculture, at least in part, to address that. So, I wanted you to leave this part of the conference and this part of my presentation knowing that USDA isn’t just about big farmers; it’s not in the pocket of Monsanto. It’s something that has a ton to offer each and every person. Same with drinking water, same with breathing the air, same with all of the things that we provide as public goods, as ways of putting our collective effort as taxpayers 36