Africa Bake Auction Sunday

I am Hilary Waldron and I have been attending All Saints since I was a child. I now run the Youth Group and I am a member of the anti-racism committee and on your rector Search Committee.

Can you reach back through the mists of time and remember what you were doing in 1999? It’s been long enough now that I don’t remember exactly what I was doing, but I do remember a few things:

I turned 15 that summer and I was a sophomore in high school.

I had thankfully outgrown my hideous giant bright white blonde chunky highlights but was still wearing a lot of hemp jewelry.

I was a mere member of the French Club—I wouldn’t consolidate my power by running unopposed for President until the following year.

It would be another 2.5 years before I had a cell phone.

It was perhaps a simpler time, but to me, the world still felt very momentous, like things were changing right before my eyes and nothing would ever be the same.

Sometime in 1999, I went to a presentation at St. James Cathedral about the Heifer Project, which is a nonprofit that raises money to buy animals, from chickens and goats all the way up to cows, to give to communities in need around the world. What stuck out to me was that people in different countries received different animals based on their needs and once someone received a Heifer animal, they were given the tools and education they needed to care for it. This meant that they were able to make extra income and when new baby animals were born, they were shared with their neighbors. This not only shares the gift forward, but also continues to stabilize and uplift communities from within. That was a transformational evening for me–I realized that true, lasting change comes from within communities rather than outside of it. I also realized that I had a personal responsibility in creating change in the world, and nothing has ever been the same.

I came back from that presentation to the fledgling All Saints youth group (there were 3 of us back then) full of excitement, wanting to figure out how we could raise some money for the Heifer Project. We kicked around ideas and eventually, we came up with the idea that we’d do a bake auction. We set it for February 2000 and our goal was to raise $1000, which we thought was impossible. We didn’t know what would happen, but we knew we needed to give it a try.

Having never attempted a bake auction before, it was hard to explain the concept to people, but when brownies started selling for $75, we knew we were on to something. Then a big ticket item came up for sale–a very large, very pink bunny cake—imagine what Peep bunnies look like, only with an eyebrow ring to match it’s teenager baker, Jocelyn. The bunny cake sold for $500 and that was the moment everything changed. Suddenly, the impossible was becoming possible. Change was happening right before my eyes and nothing would ever be the same.

In the Gospel this morning, Jesus and a few of his friends climb up a mountain. I am very curious what they were told was the purpose of this journey–like “hey friends, we need some fresh mountain air” or “there are some cool herbs up here”, but all of a sudden, Jesus’ face is shining like the sun and he is wearing bright white clothes. They see Moses and Elijah, who are most definitely very long dead. Impressively, they manage to keep their composure until they hear the voice of God from a cloud and they throw themselves to the ground. Same, my friends, same. I have to imagine that the disciples that went with Jesus up the mountain might have known or been hoping something cool was going to happen, given that we are in the Jesus-performs-a variety-of-miracles phase of life, but my guess is that they were not expecting to witness a metaphysical miracle that included the voice of God. Change was happening right before their eyes and nothing would ever be the same.

We raised $3000 at the auction that first year. And the next year too. And the year after that. Soon, the bake auction was an All Saints tradition, one that folks plan for and look forward to each year. In the 20 years that we have been auctioning off our treats, we have raised over $300K.

That is not nothing. That is in fact very much something.

It is a doctor’s salary, a midwife’s salary, both of whom are the only medical care within a distance of six hours. It is school fees and clean drinking water. And yes, the auction is a fun day where we get to make absurdly beautiful confections and compete to buy the thing our kids have begged us for. But it is so much more than that. It is an invitation for us to step out of our everyday routines, head up the mountain and be a part of something life changing. It is a reminder that change is happening right before our eyes and nothing will ever be the same.  

This year is the official 20th anniversary of the All Saints Bake Auction. A few things have changed over the years—we now have a live AND silent auction, with over 100 items to sell. Instead of the Heifer Project, much of the money goes to our friends and long-term partners in South Sudan, which has been the case for 15 of the 20 years of the Bake Auction. In that 15 years, our friends in Renk have seen a lot of change right before their eyes and life has not been the same for them either.

After years of strife, in 2011, two new countries, Sudan and South Sudan were formed. Renk is near the border with Sudan and has deeply felt the impact of the recent years of political instability, an ongoing refugee crisis and violence. However, the community of Renk has continued to flourish in the face of constant change. They have built a restaurant and schools, used a water pump to keep their garden growing when the Nile floods. And around Africa, our other partners have flourished as well. Wells are being built to provide clean water around South Sudan. School children in Uganda, many of whom are refugees from South Sudan, attend the scripture union club. Abair, a young woman who was orphaned attends boarding school. Mote, a graduate student in Tanzania, and Regis, a priest in Zimbabwe, both of whom spoke openly about LGBTQ rights, despite the dangers, continue their work and studies.

As a less than outdoorsy person, I am guessing if I had been in the position that the disciples are in and had been asked to climb a mountain, I would have worried if I had the right shoes and was it going to rain and what if I fall down? and I am not really a morning person…and I might not have gone. And then I would have missed the miracle and would’ve had to read a think piece about it on the internet. I know being part of changing the world is hard and scary, but in an increasingly fractured and distant world, we have the very distinct luck to be doing this together. No one in the Gospel was on the mountain alone and neither are we. We are leveraging our collective privileges, resources and talents to put our partners in a better, stronger, and safer position.

If we work together and everyone in this room pushes themselves a little further up the mountain, we will raise $6500, needed for things like the combined yearly salary of both the doctor and the midwife. We will raise $8000, needed for school fees, supplies and maintenance of a primary school and a secondary school. We will see change happen right before our very eyes and nothing will be the same.

So consider this your invitation to climb the mountain with me. That might mean venturing down the dark scary hallway to see what this bake auction is all about. Or buying your first $200 cake—once you start it is hard to stop! That might mean giving 25% more than you did last year or participating in the live auction for the first time. It might mean buying multiple items instead of one or stopping by the buy it not table. If you are not able to attend the auction, it might mean adding a zero to that check you are going to put in the open plate collection today, which will be combined with the auction proceeds to go to our partners, who use the money we raise to do incredibly impactful work within each of their communities.

Change is uncomfortable and might not come at the right time, but opportunities to be a part of real, meaningful, substantial and lasting change are few and far between. It is not every day that we are asked to go mountain climbing. So join me in being part of change and nothing will ever be the same.