Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) recently expanded its New Americans Program to Charleston, South Carolina, and partnered with Parkside Church to open an office in the church’s education building.
Rev. Colin Kerr, the pastor of Parkside, said the ministry is a perfect fit for his congregation and faithful use of the space. The church itself is relatively new, although it operates in a historic space.
In 2019, Parkside Church held its first worship service at the historic Saint Barnabas Lutheran Church. The congregation’s members, which are a blended group from Parkside and Saint Barnabas, are mostly millennial and Generation Z. Kerr says it is “two congregations working together to do ministry jointly.”
“Our new model doesn’t include a lot of space usage, so the question was how do we use the space faithfully,” Kerr said. “So, when we were approached by LSC about looking at that space, it seemed like a great idea. Our congregation has a heart for immigration and refugee issues.”
Once the partnership was solidified, LSC needed an area manager for its office. And as it turns out, that person was already a member of the LSC family.
Julia Poppell started her career with the nonprofit as a full-time case manager for its Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP) in Wilmington, North Carolina. That program assists foreign-born victims of trafficking in North and South Carolina.
Her passion for helping these populations started at a young age.
“I became passionate about working with immigrants when I went on a mission trip to Mexico. I became really invested in learning Spanish and traveling,” Poppell said.
This path led her to join AmeriCorps where she worked as a bilingual literacy tutor in Austin, Texas. After that, she took a position in a charter school teaching college seminar to first-generation students. In the evening, she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
Eventually, she decided to move to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend graduate school and get her master’s degree in Latin American Studies. She then moved to Wilmington to start her career with LSC, which she said was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
“It ended up being good for me to start with Lutheran Services Carolinas,” she said. “God worked everything out in my life in a way I wouldn’t have thought of myself.”
When the news about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan started to spread, Poppell felt compelled to do something to help the families who were fleeing the country.
She quickly signed up with another organization to volunteer with intake and processing of the refugees. She worked with them for two weeks before coming back to Wilmington.
“I felt strongly about the work. On some of the bases, there were thousands of refugees, and it was heartbreaking,” Poppell said. “But it was empowering to see so many different sectors of society come together to respond to this crisis.”
When she returned from the trip, she felt like she still wanted to do more. That’s when God opened the door for her to move to Charleston. She has family in the area, and she saw that LSC was opening the new office.
So, she applied, and the rest is history.
“I’m excited. I feel really good about it,” Poppell said about the office. “I feel great about the support we’ve received all over Charleston from different organizations, churches, the school district, and law enforcement. I’m excited to be in Charleston. God worked everything out for my life.”
An Open House to celebrate the new Charleston office is set for Sunday, March 6 from 2-4 p.m. Those that attend will have the opportunity to meet LSC President and CEO Ted Goins and New Americans Program teammates as they share more information about refugee resettlement efforts in the area.
The office is located at 45 Moultrie St. Charleston, SC 29403. Please RSVP to Tracy Staley at 704-603-1692 or email@example.com