NEWS & EVENTS
Dordt College News
2013 Distinguished Alumni: Tammy Walhof
December 2, 2013
For Tammy Walhof ('86), knowing that hunger and poverty do not match God's vision for his world gives purpose and passion to her work as a regional coordinator for Bread for the World.
“I understand that God is at work redeeming, restoring, and transforming all parts of this fallen world,” she says. “I love that I can offer people a vision of God working here and now through organizations and people to transform structures that contribute to poverty in our society.”
That vision gives hope not only to her, but also to people who live in poverty.
“We are all created in the image of God, even if we are a poor reflection of that image. Knowing how deeply God cares for each image bearer is very motivating for me to do the transformational work of changing the systems, structures, and conditions that keep people poor and hungry,” she says.
Walhof recalls a conversation she once had in an airport line with a professed Christian who said that maybe Christians should help make things worse in this world so that Christ would return more quickly. Such a hopeless view of a Christian’s role in the world is something that Walhof cannot understand or accept. The fact that the world is “messed up” does not need to lead to hopelessness.
“I can see God at work: through me, through Bread for the World, through World Renew, and through so many other people and organizations,” she says.
Following graduation, Walhof earned a master’s degree at the State University of New York at Binghamton and worked as a legislative researcher in Albany. The following year she began working for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now World Renew), first working as a community developer with Haitian sugarcane worker families and then as a project director in Nicaragua.
Walhof has worked for Bread for the World’s Midwest office in Minneapolis for the past 18 years, the first 12 as a regional organizer and the last five as Senior Organizer. In that role she helped set up action networks in all 23 congressional districts in the five states of the Upper Midwest leading to nearly 30,000 contacts with members of Congress every year. She also gives between 60 and 100 presentations and workshops on hunger and poverty issues each year.
These actions have helped contribute to reducing hunger for 400 million people since the early 1990s and have helped provide access to primary school education for hundreds of millions of children, she says.
“God is working in all of history and he uses both his followers and non-Christians to work his will in the world. We can see this through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000 for dramatic poverty reduction worldwide. Having so many people and entities—governments, nonprofits, businesses, wealthy people, poor people, Christians, and those of other faiths or no faith at all—come together in the hundreds of millions to work for poverty reduction worldwide can only be evidence of the Spirit of God at work in the world. I’m honored and excited that God has chosen me to be one of the many in that work!” she says.
Walhof points to glimpses of God’s kingdom coming and already here: nearly all children of primary school age are now in school; the number of children under age five who die of hunger or related causes each day is down from 40,000 when she started this work, to 16,000-18,000 (although the worldwide economic crisis has caused a backward slide); the fact that more than 10 million children are alive.
“The Dordt vision of encouraging students to think, question, and prepare for Christ’s calling in God’s big world helped prepare me for my lifelong passions and work in some very special ways,” she says. Her faith, like the vision she learned at Dordt and like her calling, is completely interwoven and integrated through everything she does, especially in her work to bring wholeness to those who are impoverished and hungry.
“I greatly appreciate what Dordt taught me about Christian service, and how through so many different aspects of my life at Dordt, it was modeled and I was taught that God’s call touches everything. When I was in high school (a public school), I felt constantly challenged to help people understand why my faith made me different. I could explain it well, but Dordt helped me take it to a different deeper level.”
As a student at Dordt in the 1980s, Walhof participated in service projects that helped her to better see God’s hand moving and working, and working through her. In political science and history classes, she came to see how sin has distorted structures that should act as instruments of justice and to imagine world governments working better and differently when transformed by God’s grace to act more as they should.
She concluded her comments at the Alumni Banquet saying, “Isn’t it neat that I get to work on these issues? Even if I wasn’t at Bread for the World, this is what I would be doing. It’s the special work to which God has called me!”
Walhof believes Dordt gave her something special. To today’s students she says,
- Soak up everything possible while in college: academic classes, volunteer opportunities, clubs, Bible studies, music groups, and more. At the same time, constantly question and challenge your mentors and each other about how and why God is giving you these experiences, and how God wants you to live out what you’ve learned on a daily basis, in everything you do, for the rest of your lives.
- Worshiping in community is important, and the fellowship of believers is an important “jumping off” place into community outreach. Get involved in the life of a local church and encourage those churches in outreach and mission to the local community and in God’s broader world.
- God wants to work through you to accomplish his will in the world. It doesn’t matter what your major is, God has big plans for you.
- Politics isn’t a dirty process in which Christians shouldn’t participate for fear of being tainted. Rather, political structures and policy decisions are in need of redemption and transformation.
- God gives a pretty clear vision of what he wants the world to look like, and how he wants us to live (see Isaiah 58, Matt. 25:31-46, Luke 4:18-21, and the Old Testament prophets).
- We are called to be advocates for a different vision, even with our political leaders. We can be like the advocates Moses, Esther, and the prophets were in their day, and like Jesus with the scribes and Pharisees (who were political leaders, in addition to being religious leaders). With the Spirit of God working in and through us, we can call our leaders and our society back to justice and righteousness (a right relationship with God and neighbor), and we can demonstrate the supersized version of righteousness and justice by loving God and loving others.