“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8
LAKELAND – As the state’s economy sputters back to life and jobless rates improve, it may seem that the need to remind Florida lawmakers of the plight of the poor is less acute this year.
Not so, say Florida Conference organizers of Florida Advocacy Days (FAD), the annual trek to Tallahassee by United Methodists and others intent on bending the ears of the state’s policymakers in the House and Senate. The event coincides with the annual Children’s Week at the state Capitol.
Scheduled for Sunday, April 6, through Tuesday, April 8, FAD is open for registration. The deadline is April 2.
Florida Advocacy Days 2014
When: Sunday to Tuesday, April 6-8
Top issues to be addressed this year are Medicaid expansion for the working poor, elimination of the five-year waiting period for Kids’ Care health benefits for immigrant children with legal residency in Florida and addressing the growing problem of human trafficking.
Each year, conference leaders work with Florida Impact, a nonprofit advocacy organization, to develop the FAD program and identify issues.
Past agendas have been aimed at stamping out childhood hunger and advocating for migrant farmworkers.
“Historically, Florida United Methodists have gone to Tallahassee to give voice to the voiceless,” said Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, director of Missional Engagement for the Florida Conference.
“We’re continuing that tradition this year. … Our hope is we will have people who want to put feet to their faith.”
Participants will do that in a literal sense. Following briefings on the issues from Florida Impact, the contingent will march to the Capitol to meet with legislators and their aides.
|Florida AME Bishop A.J. Richardson, left, and Florida UMC Bishop Ken Carter lead the 2013 Florida Advocacy Days contingent. File photo by Rex Adams.|
As in years past, the African Methodist Episcopal Conference in Florida will join the United Methodist contingent, and Bishop A.J. Richardson is to preach during the Sunday evening welcome gathering at Trinity UMC, Tallahassee.
Bishop Ken Carter and the Appointive Cabinet of the Florida Conference will participate as well, with Carter expected to meet Tuesday, April 8, with some of the leading senators and representatives in the Legislature. He is also expected to lead prayer at the Children’s Week Partnership Dinner, which requires a separate fee and registration.
New this year will be added voices from the Presbyterian Church USA in Central and West Florida. Campbell-Evans said he is excited at the idea of other denominations lending their support to the Florida Advocacy Days effort.
For Campbell-Evans, the advocacy bug first bit when he was in high school and was invited by a pastor to join farmworkers harvesting oranges. Observing the conditions of others less fortunate led him to a career in ministry and mission. A Florida Impact board member and a 10-year veteran of Florida Advocacy Days, he sees the three-day effort as beneficial to participants as well as those they speak out for.
“Every year, these three days give me a chance to re-immerse myself in the issues that impact some of the most vulnerable citizens of Florida,” Campbell-Evans said.
“Every year, I walk away with a deeper understanding of what the priorities are in our state and what role we as Christians play in advocating for kingdom values.”
For information, click here or call Pam Garrison, FAD registrar, at 1-800-282-8011, ext. 148, or email email@example.com.
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.