The “Why” of National Farm Worker Ministry
In the business world, there is a concept called “The Golden Circle,” and it states that the most successful organizations are built on why they do things. When you look at the nuts and bolts, an organization is not successful because of how or what they do, but the why. The mission. The vision. When I started working for the National Farm Worker Ministry I made it my personal mission to discover the “why” of what the organization does.
I grew up as a military brat but Tampa, Florida had always been home. It was where I was born, where my parents met and married while they were still in high school, where my memories of playing as a kid with my cousins and friends were made.
My family is Catholic and we had a family priest named Father Inocencio Estibalez. Father Estibalez is a kind, gentle, wonderful man who showed up to our family get-togethers with fruit and toys for all the kids. Being from Spain, his thick Spanish accent was scary to me as a child. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the impact Father Estibalez played in my life and the true example of faith and love he was for my family.
Father Estibalez spent his year half in Florida and half in Spain. While in Florida he would go into the fields and work beside farm workers, offering guidance and prayer, and helping them towards a path of freedom from oppression. Father Estibalez made the rights of immigrants his personal mission and he brought this passion to my family. He would bring the injustice farm worker families faced to our holiday table, to our birthday parties and BBQ’s. He never asked for much, he merely asked for our solidarity and prayer.
As far back as I can remember, farm workers have been a part of my family. They are ingrained into Florida’s agricultural system like the very soil where our food grows. Any Floridian should say the same. Any American should say the same.
I have only been with NFWM for a short month but I am proud of our organization. As Rev. Lindsay C. Comstock and I traveled to Lakeland, Florida, so close to where I was born and where my family currently lives, my search for our organization’s “why” was shown to me in the Coalition for Immokalee Worker’s “Now is the Time” Tour. It was enriching to see the dream of Father Estibalez alive and well as farm workers stand strong with a message of hope and love, but also with determination for equal rights.
Our “why” was also seen while I listened to Farm Labor Organizing Committee President Baldemar Velasquez speak of the unbelievable strength of faith organizations and how this strength is intertwined in his organization’s history. Listening to President Velasquez, I could hear Father Estibalez praying over our meals and thanking those who had picked the food we were about to eat.
The strength of our “why” brought me to tears as I saw it exemplified in Cesar Chavez and in the hearts of 48 middle school students from Asheboro. Standing in front of your peers and reading a letter in a language that you are just learning takes bravery, a bravery that was moving for me to watch and gave me hope that Father Estibalez’s teachings will live on through a new generation.
When you think about NFWM, our 90 year history and the millions of people represented by our Board of Directors, it is not hard to see our “why.” We do what we do because farm workers deserve a voice, and that voice needs to be their own. We exist because there is an unbreakable link between our calling as faith leaders and the rights of all people. Our “why” is the personal mission of Father Estibalez, taught to me throughout my childhood and reinforced in the messages of farm workers across the nation. My month at NFWM has been a whirlwind of events and I am still learning our history and methodology but I have already discovered our why and I am looking forward to continuing to harvest justice together with farm workers!Kelli Sue Davis Director of Communications and Development