Nine weeks sure can go by quickly. It seems like just yesterday Caleb (Rollins) and I were settling into our positions as CAPS Fellows here in D.C., and with the turn of the calendar, our final day at LSA has passed. This summer has been certainly been a growing and learning process for me, and I'm appreciative of the opportunity to serve and learn here at LSA.
The final week did not come with any shortage of work for the end of the summer. I have continued to assist Bob Francis, LSA's policy and advocacy director, and a big task of ours recently has been to curate new content for the advocacy section of a new website LSA will be launching later this year. From aggregating information about federal agencies, to writing biographies about members of our Public Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC), I've had a hand in putting together this content. I've also been putting together a social media transition plan for our advocacy department, especially as LSA transitions to new leadership in the policy realm with Bob's departure at the end of this month.
On the legislative front, exciting news came from the House last week on the bill I have been tracking this summer. On July 26th, the House passed H.R. 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Families Act, by a voice vote under the suspension of the rules. The bill now moves on to the Senate, which will hopefully pass it sooner rather than later – but unfortunately, not before my time at LSA ended. In fact, in the final hours of my last day, we received word that a single Senator is holding up passing of the legislation in the Senate. One of my final tasks as a Fellow was to draft an advocacy alert for our members about the bill, encouraging them to contact their Senators with their support for H.R. 4980.
In my final weeks, I have also been conducting some hill visits of my own, specifically with the Members and staff from my home state of Colorado, as well as Indiana, the state I have called home during my college years. The experience of meeting with congressional staff has been a useful one for me personally, and I've enjoyed the challenge of trying to pack as much information about LSA into a small period of time. Raising the visibility of the network is something we've talked about at LSA during my time here, and I hope I have played even a small part in moving things forward on that front.
I want to express my gratitude to the staff at LSA, especially Bob Francis for all of his guidance this summer and facilitating and incredible learning experience for me. Leaving LSA and heading back to Valpo for my final year of undergrad is a transition. In times of transition, I turn to the words of Paul – "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:3-14).
Caleb Rollins - Development Fellow
The fellowship is over. Nate (King) and I have finished our time here at Lutheran Services in America. Coincidentally, our last day was the same last day as Bob Francis, the Director of Advocacy and Policy. In the morning of our last day, Bob shared a devotion with the staff on the topic of vocation. He quoted Reformation historian Kurt Hendel who wrote in an essay that Luther believed vocations "are the specific opportunities God provides to serve God and the neighbor." These words really got me thinking. What have my vocations been at LSA?
The title of my position at LSA was Development Fellow and in this role I have had a few distinct opportunities to serve God and neighbor. I provided some benchmarking of the associate membership categories of other organizations to help form our own new associate membership class. I also sifted through our donor records to provide a basic understanding of the individual giving history of LSA. And I helped out in other areas where I could, providing the little insight that I have to specific situations. But examining these opportunities of service made me ask another question. Did I actually make a difference in these vocations and if so, how do I know?
It would be nice to think that I have made a difference. I hope that my help in developing a plan for associate membership will help make more connections in Lutheran social ministry and make Lutheran communities of service around the country stronger and more resilient. I hope that my help in providing a story of LSA individual giving will help this organization build its capacity to assist its members and the people its members serve. I hope that my thoughts on certain ideas in the LSA office will help to spur growth and visibility of Lutheran social ministry. But honestly I can't be sure to what extent these things will actually happen.
And I believe that is one of the great mysteries of vocation. We are given these "specific opportunities" of service and we can take advantage of them, but it is truly hard to know our impact. Sometimes these "specific opportunities" are giving up our seat for the man with crutches on the Metro. Sometimes they are responding to questions about our time in DC that our grandmother sent us on Facebook. And sometimes they are working in a fellowship for a Lutheran social ministry umbrella organization for two months. But in all of these it is hard to know what we have actually done. We continue on to the next Metro stop, begin to scroll through our News Feed, or head back to our college in Northwest Indiana. And often we are left ignorant of our true impact on the neighbors that we serve.
But then again, that is never the opportunity. The opportunity of vocation is to serve. It is not to know. We may want to know our impact for our own sense of pride and satisfaction, but vocation is not about us. Vocation is about God and our neighbors. So I hope that in my time here at LSA I have fulfilled my vocations as the Development Fellow and served God and my neighbors. And I thank God and the amazing staff of LSA for providing this opportunity and helping me fulfill my vocations, even if I don't know the true impact of my service.
Editor's note: We are so grateful for the blessing of Nate and Caleb as summer fellows with LSA. They made significant contributions to our work in advancing Lutheran social ministry, and brought a very thoughtful and insightful perspective to the experience. They will certainly be missed! We wish them the best in their future educational and professional endeavors.