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June 27, 2017

Being the Hands and Feet that Lift up Names and Voices — Travis Woodfield

LAMPa interns Ron Costen, and Travis Woodfield, right, deliver letters written at synod assemblies urging lawmakers to support of programs that supply food to community and congregational pantries.

Names have always been important to me.  When I was a chaplain in hospitals I tried hard to find out the name that the people in the room wanted to go by.  This name is not always the name on the chart; if you know people that go by nicknames you know what I mean.  Robert is really Bob to you, for instance, Robert doesn’t fit him. Names are important to me because I do not go by my first name, George, but rather my middle name, Travis.   I have spent a lifetime gently correcting teachers, professors, doctors, and anyone who has a formal document from me, “Travis, not George.”

As an intern at Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania this summer I have had many unique experiences.  Recently, I was able to deliver letters in the state capitol to state senators on behalf of constituents in their districts concerning legislation addressing hunger issues.  This is not a small issue in Pennsylvania.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2014, 1.76 million people in Pennsylvania, or 13.8 percent of Pennsylvanians, experiences food insecurity and were at risk of hunger.  The letters I delivered to state senators asked to support funding for state hunger programs currently in the budget deliberations. These are the same programs that put much of the food on the shelves of our congregational food pantries. Pennsylvanians who live in your neighborhoods, whose names you know, are struggling with hunger.  Others in your community are signing letters and advocating alongside and on their behalf.  It is a gift to be part of that process and to be those letters “hands and feet” as they get delivered.

I encourage you to let your voice and your name be heard either on your behalf or the behalf of those around you.  If you have a story that is part of your life, consider telling the story to your senator.  You can call or write them by clicking on the link here.  Put in your mailing address and submit.  Your representatives will be shown.  Click on your senator (the name will be highlighted blue) and their contact information will be on the left hand side of the page.

When I left the Capitol my car was parked in front of the stairs, a little ways up the road.  I had heard the Catholic cathedral was not much further up the road, so I decided to make a stop.  I walked around, admired the architecture and stained glass, and took pictures.  I saw a man sitting in the back of the church and stopped to say hello.  We chatted and he said he was homeless.  I asked his name and if I could sit with him for a little while and he agreed.  We chatted, talked about life, family, and what it’s like on the streets.  I was struck how we were sitting in this beautiful church and what was standing out to me was the upper dome which says, “Behold, I am with you all days.”  As I left I felt like I was starting to get this advocacy thing- naming people who cannot name themselves and helping them voice their needs and interests.  Today, I ask you to use your voice to make a difference.

G. Travis Woodfield is pursuing his Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University and is doing an outreach internship with LAMPa this summer.  An experienced chaplain and ELCA candidate for word and service ministry, he lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. 

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