The Orthodox-Catholic Church of America is pleased to announce that Judith Hoffhein of Houston, Texas has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Archbishop’s Award for Justice and Peace. This is a commemoration of an individual who has done work at the grass roots level for peace and justice issues. Last year’s honoree was Barbara O’Connor, a native Fort Wayne citizen who has for years been active in a variety of empowering and peacemaking efforts.
Judith has worked for many years in the greater Houston area with such organizations as Food Not Bombs (http://houstonfoodnotbombs.org), The Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center (www.houstonworkers.org/) , Peace Camp Houston (www.peacecamphouston.org.) and her own local Houston Mennonite Church (http://houstonmennonite.org). It is her grassroots level work with justice and peace that brought her to the attention of our Archbishop Peter (Robert Zahrt).
Judith moved to Houston 30 years ago after spending seven years as a volunteer with the Mennonite Church teaching in Jamaica. Her first teaching job here was in a bilingual school as a 5th grade teacher. She realized quickly that she did not speak enough Spanish and her students did not speak enough English. After changing schools she became involved with outreach work and the local Mennonite Church. She spent a great deal of time with Ten Thousand Villages a fair trade store which sends the profits back to the artisans. She served for five years on their board of directors and helped many to understand this marvelous alternative to mindless spending.
She has worked with the Interfaith Worker’s Justice Center, spending three years on their board and organizing rallies and protests and participating in many ways to educate executives and advocate for workers. Working with Peace Camp Houston and with the Peace Club as she says: “I really enjoy working with youth and love planning lessons which focus on caring for others, developing inner contentment, and coping with real life problems like anger, bullies and racism. This has been an ongoing effort, and I feel God leading me in new directions with this work. The families and others that I have met doing this project have been a marvelous blessing to me.”
Three years ago, the Houston Peace and Justice Center asked her to check out a group called food not bombs. They were needing help obtaining non-profit status for donations. On a cold freezing evening in January she visited and saw many hungry faces lined up for a bowl of warm soup and a slice of bread. Good Samaritans were greeting folks, sharing food and involved in conversations. She could not tell the volunteers from the people who had come there to eat and respected and admired that. Everyone seemed equal and there was a terrific sense of community. Most important of all, she saw the love of Christ in this urban street setting. She continues to prepare food four nights a week and take it downtown and share it with others. It is not easy work, as there are often 100-125 people who come -and she can get tired of dicing apples and peeling potatoes. The rewards are many: a grateful comment, a lovely smile, a warm hug, a request for a second helping, sharing the night with kind people, and feeling like she can make a positive difference. As Judith says: “I know that God has led me to this group and I have found a way I can serve that feeds my soul and gives me the energy to continue.” This kind of service brought her to the attention of others – an example of how to be a caring human being in the 21st century.
It is the sincere hope of all of us in the OCCA that other compassionate human beings will follow the example of Judith and work towards the alleviation of suffering by working towards justice and peace. We believe in the “new Commandment” given to us by Jesus: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
May God bless Judith and all those who care for the least of our sisters and brothers.
Rt. Rev. Dr. +Stephen Duncan
OCCA Bishop in Galveston