Giving Voice to My Community and Bringing ELCA Advocacy Home
By: Fumi Liang, Huntington Beach, CA
I am Fumi Liang from Huntington Beach California and I want to tell you a story about a group of senior citizens who are trying to make a difference in caring for the environment.
My friend Dick started a program called “Paper Rollers” many years ago. About 20 seniors came to church every Thursday to make 20 lbs of newspaper rolls and sell them to a floral company. When Dick passed away, nobody wanted to take over his job to organize this program. As a leader of a senior ministry at my church, I could have moved away from this project, but I didn’t want Dick’s legacy to die. So I took over and I’m glad I did, because I found out how much these seniors care about the land our God created.
The seniors in my church worry about how we’re not taking care of the land we live. They want to continue to do as much as they can to keep our land healthy for their next generation. They taught me, through their action, to be deeply concerned about our environment and the effect climate change will have on my grandchildren’s lives. I sincerely hope that through the Green Climate Fund, government can help combat climate change so we can keep the earth green and clean.
This is the message I gave when I met with the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Scott Peters on Capitol Hill as part of the ELCA’s Advocacy Convening in Washington, D.C. last year.
This convening occurred in the midst of Pope Francis’ visit to Washington. It was the time for the ELCA to get together with the Episcopal Church to share prayers, formation, and practice of our baptismal mandate to strive for justice and peace. This was the first time that ELCA Advocacy invited community leaders from across the United States to attend the event alongside ELCA bishops. I was one of 17 community leaders invited to attend and learn how to become an effective Advocate. Having said that, I was very nervous about participating because I didn’t have any idea about what I would be expected to do.
I knew nothing about ELCA Advocacy; who they are and what they do for what purpose. Everything was new to me. I just had to trust and asked God to give me His extra mercy to guide me through this new challenge.
I was impressed by one of the speakers who emphasized how important it is for us to be truthful when we talk about the issue that matters to us. I always thought that religion and politics should never mix together. However, I discovered during my time in Washington that it could work beautifully if the contact between religion and politics was not for the disputes of powers, money and fame but for the purpose of serving people. After all, people come to church for help and comfort. They want to find the answer of their needs and heal for their pains. If church cannot do that for them, who else can?
Through my participation in the 2015 Advocacy Convening, I realized that the ELCA’s Advocacy ministry can help provide opportunities to make a difference. While in Washington, we urged Congress to provide appropriate funding for global health and refugee services, emergency food assistance, and other development programs through the international Affairs Account; to promote robust structures that help developing countries adopt clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change impacts through the Green Climate Fund; and to protect children and families in Central America by investing in poverty reduction, human rights, and citizen security.
Prior to meeting with Congress, I received training on how to address your opinion effectively. I practiced and prepared my own story and its relation to climate change and environmental issues. It was a great challenge for me to deliver what I wanted to say within 2 to3 minutes. I was grateful that Bishop Finck, Bishop Erwin, Mark Carlson of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy California helped me shape my story and present it during our meetings. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would voice my concerns on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
After I returned from my trip, I shared my experience with my senior group on Thursday during their “Paper Rollers” time. They were so pleased to know that the ELCA is concerned about our environment and that I was able to give voice to my community’s experience. When I saw their delighted faces, I felt really blessed because I didn’t just attend a fun event in Washington, I was also able to bring ELCA Advocacy home to them by sharing my experience.