Chronicling the UCC is totally in Richard Brooke’s blood.
"You look beautiful," said a smiling Brooke, standing onstage Tuesday morning alongside his twin brother, Max, and snapping pics of amused General Synod 28 delegates.
Last September, the two 23-year-olds set out on a yearlong journey to highlight – via photos, film, the “Twin Maps” blog, Facebook and other social media – UCC Volunteer Ministries throughout the country. Seventeen thousand miles, 36 states traveled through and two job offers later, they shared their passion – and their humor – with hundreds of delegates.
“We’re from Mt. Zion Congregational in China Grove, North Carolina,” said Richard. “And we won’t be offended if you’ve never heard of China Grove, North Carolina.”
“A year ago, we graduated from college,” said Max, “and because of this fantastic and booming economy, we knew we’d have employers just salivating to hire us. But they never came. Oops.”
The brothers met to discuss the mega-project with Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC executive for Volunteer Ministries. They completed their work in New Orleans this summer, and the rest is fraternal history.
“And we have one extremely smelly car to show for it,” said Richard.
When their 23rd birthday rolled around last Jan. 25, the Brookes found themselves in southern Arizona, immersed in the trenches of the immigration struggle, awash in a community’s compassion. They arrived in Tucson just five days after the Jan. 8 shootings that claimed six lives and critically injured 14 people, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“Everyone we met had an inextinguishable fire that fueled each of their passions,” said Richard, “whether it’s fighting mental illness, giving up their homes for people who needed shelter, or simply being a friend.”
“The thing about changing the world is that one person can’t do it alone,” said Max. “It can’t happen. It won’t. Their woes are too great, their struggles too tedious to overcome with just one person carrying the burden.”
Richard drew hoots and hollers from the younger set when he said, “Support the youth and young adults. They are passionate about their projects, knowledgeable about the world and willing to offer assistance when no one else will.”
Through it all, Max said he was grateful for Our Church’s Wider Mission, encouraging Synod-goers’ support of it. “The story of OCWM was the fuel in our gas tank, literally and figuratively.”
Added Richard, “Your gift to OCWM helps find shelter for the homeless, nurture a promising organization or even agree to fund two kids with cameras who want to travel the United States to see how the world turns.”