Rockingham pastor tries to change hearts in Washington, D.C.

By: By Christine S. Carroll -

James and Lori Brigman will be home Sunday, after a whirlwind week of asking members of Congress to protect children like their daughter, Lauren Faith.

Appointments were difficult to come by at the first of the week, when senators had yet to vote for a third time on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. But when the latest iteration of the repeal failed Thursday, James Brigman said Friday, doors to congressional offices began to swing open.

“Now they truly want to sit down and work with us,” Brigman said of himself and others concerned about preserving a Medicaid program that protects people like 9-year-old Lauren Faith.

To emphasize his message, Brigman had spent nearly two weeks walking from Rockingham to Washington, D.C. He arrived Monday.

“I really think it’s a success,” he said of the trip, during which the family has met with members of the N.C. delegation, as well as other congressmen from around the nation. “God stepped in and moved, and showed all that he can do.”

Brigman said that at times, he was surprised by the ignorance surrounding his daughter’s and other children’s need for Medicaid assistance. But he understands it now that he has seem similar ignorance in Congress — some “senators and congressman have never heard of” the program that pays for medical assistance for Lauren Faith.

The family will be back in Rockingham on Sunday evening, said Brigman, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church. And though Brigman’s nearly 400-mile walk and the meetings this week are over, the work is not.

“We’ve got a lot of things in motion,” he said. Just now, “a lot of it … we can do over the phone. We’re focusing on getting information to people.

“We may have to make a few trips” back to Washington to lobby for Medicaid protection and, possibly, expansion, Brigman said. But “I’m not walking this time.”

Both Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., voted for the bill that died in the Senate this week. U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., has said the government must make some tough decisions to pare its budget. All three have promised to work with Brigman on new legislation.

Brigman said he had seen hearts change this week — he had witnessed miracles.

Now, he said, if everyone in the country — and in Congress — would do what is right, “everyone will be standing in my shoes” and seeing them, too.

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.

By Christine S. Carroll