By Elise Scott, student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 

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Last January, I was literally closing my suitcase to leave for my J-term trip to El Salvador when I decided to check my school email one last time. My timing could not have been better — I had just received an email from the ELCA Washington Office encouraging seminary students to apply for scholarships to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days. When I read the email, I knew that I had to apply for one of the scholarships. Despite the time crunch, I immediately filled out the application and submitted it. 

Why was I so interested in applying for the scholarship to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days? The answer is really quite simple — I see advocacy as an essential part of our call to love our neighbors as ourselves. Growing up as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, I witnessed firsthand how advocating with and for the vulnerable in society revealed God’s love in the world. For instance, one Sunday evening when I was about 10 years old, church members gathered around tables in the church fellowship hall to write letters to their elected officials concerning hunger around the world. Prior to that evening, I had not understood that our individual voices could join together to make a difference. That evening helped me understand the integral role advocacy plays in living out our faith on a daily basis. And from that point forward, I knew I wanted to advocate with and for the vulnerable, the silenced, and the oppressed.

But even then, I did not fully connect a life of advocacy with a life of ministry. Because of my strong desire to advocate with and for those in need, I attended law school and worked in the legal field for several years. But my strong passion for hunger and poverty issues and advocacy continued to find its home in the church, not in my legal work. As I served on committees such as the Social Ministry Committee, the ELCA South Carolina Synod’s Ministry Team for Outreach, and the South Carolina Synod’s Taskforce for Operation, I became very aware that I needed a theological foundation to truly advocate in the way in which I felt called.

The ELCA Washington Office scholarship to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn about ways in which I can advocate from a theological lens and also gave me concrete ways in which I can advocate for issues related to hunger and poverty. Through advocacy work, we as Lutherans have the opportunity to live out the very foundation of our faith by helping our government officials remember that all people in society are children of God who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Thus, as I read that email last January, I knew with certainty that my last minute trip preparations had to be put on hold — it was far more important for me to apply for the scholarship. For, in my experience, advocacy is where my faith truly comes to life.

The ELCA Washington Office is providing a limited number of scholarships for participants to attend the 2013 Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Click here to apply by February 4.