At LAMPa’s traditional Lutheran Day of Advocacy, seven synods from throughout Pennsylvania joined together to bring their faith to the table. Participating in worship, learning, and advocacy, this event celebrated 40 years of responding to God’s love to promote peace and fair public policies that benefit the common good. Julia Menzo, director of community outreach for Lutheran Congregational Services of Liberty Lutheran, attended the event and was chosen to speak after receiving the LAMPA award for her dedication and work in disaster response.

Set in the beautiful landscape of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania at Trinity Lutheran Church, Julia enjoyed sharing the scenic drive home from this event with keynote speaker, Kathryn Lohre. Kathryn serves as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations & Theological Discernment. In her keynote speech that kicked off the event, Kathryn discussed how the work of Lutherans as advocates for God’s greater vision of unity and peace for all people, requires consideration of their core inter-religious commitments.

Setting a Welcome Table for Inter-Religious Discussion

Kathryn mentioned welcoming neighbors of all religious backgrounds and world views.  She says,

When we reconsider our inter-religious commitments, we will find ourselves setting a welcome table with our neighbors, rather than for them, as people who are both welcomed and welcoming.

After Kathryn’s thought-provoking keynote speech, attendees of the event had the choice of participating in a variety of workshops led by various faith leaders, government officials, public policy advocates, and more who discussed insightful topics surrounding how Lutherans can help vulnerable communities and populations around the world and across the U.S.

Julia (second from the right) accepting her award from Rev. Davenport (second from left) at the LAMPA Lutheran Day of Advocacy

Following the workshops, Lutheran advocates celebrated their work and faithful dedication to spreading peace, hospitality, and care to individuals in need with a delightful sit-down lunch. Other than the grilled chicken, which she thoroughly enjoyed, a highlight for Julia was receiving the LAMPA award for her work in disaster response for people displaced from Hurricane Maria as well as her flood recovery efforts in Schuylkill County.

With seven synods in attendance, Julia was nominated by Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s Bishop, Reverend Patricia A. Davenport.

I was so surprised to receive the award. It was really nice when so many people from my congregation congratulated me. I had no idea I was going to be honored with this wonderful recognition.

Director of Community Outreach for LCS, Julia Menzo

With Julia’s continuing efforts in disaster response, Reverend Davenport among many other congregants felt Julia’s recognition was certainly well-deserved.

Julia, alongside volunteers, leading flood recovery efforts in Schuylkill County

In a letter thanking Julia for her commitment and dedication to serving those in need, Rev. Davenport writes,

“You are truly a servant leader, working with gloves, and buckets to clean up after floods, working with congregations, especially New Creation to care for our siblings in Puerto Rico, giving attention to the smallest of details (…) This award is designed to lift up the many outstanding Lutheran leaders and congregations working throughout the State of Pennsylvania bringing hope, help, healing, justice, mercy and advocacy for the millions of impoverished, hungry, economically and educationally disadvantaged people, families and children in our communities.”

Upon receiving the award, Julia gave a speech about her efforts in disaster response. She talked about witnessing first-hand how the long-term damages from disasters are amplified for individuals disenfranchised by poverty, legal status, discriminatory policies, mental illness and more.

Changing policy to insure vulnerable populations do not get left behind

“I’ve long worked ‘in my lane’ with disaster partners to help address these gaps by working with congregations to help provide a safety net for marginalized communities. But recently, I’ve felt more called to reconsider my lane and to meet with decision makers to change policy so that vulnerable people do not consistently get left behind, especially in regard to disaster work,” Julia shares in her speech upon receiving the award.

Hurricane Maria evacuee coat drive
LCS holds a coat drive to keep children and families displaced by Hurricane Maria warm during the holidays

After the event came to a close, Julia felt revitalized by those around her. “Sometimes this work makes you feel like you’re in it alone. It’s really energizing and exciting to be around people who are thinking about the bigger policy issues and how to solve them.” With energy and excitement, Julia continues to demonstrate Lutheran advocacy in her work with disaster response for vulnerable populations and communities.

If you’d like to help vulnerable populations recover from disaster, learn how you can volunteer and get involved with Lutheran Congregational Services and Lutheran Disaster Response by visiting our website here.