A Rockingham pastor walking to Washington, D.C. will attend an interfaith rally and prayer service at the Jefferson Memorial on Monday with others working to protect Medicaid benefits for the medically fragile. After the rally, the group will walk with him to congressional offices.
The Rev. James Brigman, 52, and pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church, decided three days before he set out on his nearly 400-mile trek July 7 that God was calling him to act on behalf of his daughter Lauren Faith, 9, who needs Medicaid to stay alive. He made no real plans, except to walk, setting out from Harrington Square.
Since his departure, the Facebook page “A Voice for Lauren Faith Brigman and All Medically Fragile Children/Adults” has relayed Brigman’s progress via Google Maps, as well as pictures and posts from scores of well-wishers, including those who have intercepted and walked with him.
“It was an honor to spend an hour with you to hear your story and feel your passion. Walk on!” one post says.
Most poignant are the photos of other medically fragile children, whose parents have told Brigman he’s walking for them, too. Proposed federal budget cuts threaten to reduce Medicaid or cap lifetime spending for such children.
“As a parent with a special-needs child, you learn there are not many by your side,” says one mother of a child with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. “Bring the politicians back to Rockingham and let us show a day in the life of our children. That way, they can see a glimpse of what we go through …”
Brigman’s wife, Lori, said Friday that it was amazing how many people had taken up Brigman’s banner. Many of those helping also are members of the United Methodist Church, who have fed and sheltered Brigman.
“He really feels like the Lord sent him on this mission,” Lori Brigman said. “I just know there’s a bigger reason … than health care, the way he’s walked in that heat. It’s got to be the favor of the Lord on him.”
Earlier this week, Lori Brigman asked her husband how he was holding up. Wasn’t he at least tired?
“Being tired’s irrelevant,” he told her. “I have a job to do.”
That “job” — to plead with members of Congress not to reduce or eliminate Medicaid insurance coverage for people who need it to stay alive — will begin in earnest Monday.
At 8 a.m., Brigman will be at the center of a rally organized by the self-proclaimed “sacred resistance” of Foundry United Methodist Church of Washington, D.C.
Attendees will walk from the Jefferson Memorial rally to the United Methodist Building on Maryland Avenue for an interfaith prayer service at 10:30 a.m.
At 11, participants will escort Brigman to U.S. Senate offices on Capitol Hill.
Church members and other advocates for the disabled are working to make sure the Brigmans meet North Carolina Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, as well as Rep. Robert Pittinger, all Republicans. Lori Brigman said the family also had been contacted by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, both Democrats.
“They’re (all) interested in meeting, but we have to lock down a time and day,” Lori Brigman said. “That’s what we wanted to appeal to … people (of both political parties) to come together for things that are right.”
Lori and Lauren Faith will drive up to Alexandria, Va., on Sunday, with a nurse, family and friends. Brigman reached Alexandria on Friday and is scheduled to preach there Sunday.
The entire family will stay in Washington for a week in order to reach as many officials as they can, Lori Brigman said.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.