Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Expressions of Gratitude: Pastor Shawn: “I’m There!”

When Matt and I initially started researching how Annie could benefit from medical cannabis to manage her epilepsy, we “broke the news” to our family, not sure how anyone would respond. Everyone was super supportive. The more “in-depth” and public our advocacy became, we felt we should inform our pastor, Shawn Berkebile, what we were pursuing. We belong to a small, conservative congregation in Adams County and just wanted to be up front with him, as we would be involving press and media along the way. I can’t exactly recall how the initial conversation went…whether it was in person or over the phone…but what I DO know, is that he was also supportive…immediately. We were blessed to have his support, as well as the congregation at St. John’s Lutheran Church standing with us.

In the beginning, there were phone calls, press conferences, post cards and a local town hall informational session on medical cannabis, which over 200 people attended. We asked him to speak publicly on our behalf, and after some reflection and prayer, his response was, “I’m There!” And from that point, he was by our side every step of the way. He became, as he would say, “a voice for the voiceless.” Joining us in Harrisburg on countless occasions, boldly speaking out at press conferences and accompanying us in some pretty heated meetings with legislators was becoming a regular thing for him. Over time, his response, when being made aware of upcoming events was always, “I’m There!” followed by, “What do you need me to do?”

He was “there” to do whatever was needed…show support, speak or go door to door helping to educate legislators. And he wasn’t just “there” for Matt and I. He came to know many of the families, patients and advocates quite well…some that even lived in his own district. P. Shawn, as Campaign for Compassion sometimes referred to him as, was a force to be reckoned with during meetings and was also a comfort to so many, especially on the days where we all just needed a friendly word of encouragement, in a sometimes, hostile environment. We all took comfort in a conservative pastor saying, “I’m there…I got your back on this.”

Shawn took a leadership role and worked tirelessly with fellow advocates to pull together a clergy event at the Capitol to demonstrate that he was not alone in his support and compassion for the voiceless. With the help of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a new website was launched on the heels of a very successful multi faith press conference entitled, “Clergy for Compassion.” Shawn and fellow faith leaders across the state continue to astound us in number, support and passion for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable.

Shawn was able to be present the day of the final passage in the House, as well as the signing ceremony, enabling him to see the hard work of so many across the commonwealth come to fruition. The Sunday of the bill signing, which began at 1:00 pm, he jumped in his car immediately after church, to ensure he had time to travel to the capitol, as his favorite saying, “I’m There”, stayed true till the very end.

We would like to thank Pastor Shawn for being so open-minded from the beginning and taking a chance on joining a very compassionate, and sometimes crazy, group of advocates. He was “there” with us through the good, the bad and the ugly. His support and guidance never wavered…not once. Pastor Shawn…you’re the best.

Much love and respect,

Angie and Matt Sharrer and the team at Campaign for Compassion

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