COLUMBIA — When the talk turned to health care, Debbie Jenkins had to share her story with the church filled with people — the topic was too personal.
The 57-year-old lost her job of 38 years as a health care worker and is now losing her house. She's living off her pension, but that pension is not enough to pay for health insurance and just enough to disqualify her from Medicaid.
"I deserve health care," Jenkins, a member of Grass Roots Organizing, said. "We all deserve health care."
Clergy men and women, politicians and citizens gathered at the Second Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday night for the the first public meeting of Faith Voices of Columbia.
The group is a local federation of Missouri Faith Voices made up of pastors and lay leaders working together to address issues such aspoverty wages, predatory lending and Medicaid expansion, which the group sees as the most important moral issue in Missouri this year.
"We all lose something profound when a single Missourian dies due to lack of health care," said the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon of the Unitarian Universalist Church.
More than 30 churches and organizations from across the state were represented at the meeting, and state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, attended as well. Tuesday's event focused on the need for health care expansion for a wider number of Missourians.
"This is a historical moment in a historical church," Missouri NAACP President Mary Ratliff said. "I am moved by the testimonies of real life people and think it's wonderful that the faith community has stepped out."
The inauguration was the latest in a series of events around the state organized by Missouri Faith Voices.
Missouri Faith Voices was created in 2010 to address the issues of health care access. Headquartered in Jefferson City, Missouri Faith Voices is a non-partisan network of 200 congregations and faith-based community organizations.
Missouri Faith Voices works with the Pacific Institute for Community Organization National Network to help engage and empower citizens to create opportunity in Missouri. During the organization's first year, leaders from Missouri Faith Voices met with more than 50 state legislators.
"Imagine a moral Missouri where the welfare of the people truly is supreme law," Gordon said. "That is what we joined here tonight to create."
North Carolina NAACP President and "Moral Monday" movement leader the Rev. William Barber II gave the keynote speech, rallying attendees to contribute to the moral movement.
"These movements must be built up from the ground," Barber said. "It takes all of us — together."
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.