Seek Refuge; Be a Refuge: A Message from Executive Director Chris Purnell

Chris June 2015

Executive Director Chris Purnell

What makes you feel safe? I gravitate towards the tried and true things in my life: my faded and pilly green sweatshirt, my musty and thinning blue blanket, a familiar movie that makes me cry, and pizza, the reigning king of comfort foods in my culinary world.

My solace is in the boring. But why? There’s something static and consistent in it. At the core of my humanity, no matter how progressive my politics, there is an ardent conservative who longs to feel at home, that longs for refuge. Threadbare jeans and an irrational attachment to those decade-old pajama pants testify to it. I want sanctuary; I desire it zealously.

We all long for home. But, this side of paradise, we all are homeless, restless. St. Augustine famously wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Augustine hit on something profoundly human here. Whether we are homeless or have lived in the same house for forty-seven years, there is a restless striving that is baked into life.

So, what’s the solution? Some of it is unanswerable: life is simply a meandering journey that is rife with peril and false destinations. But the Scriptures sing and scream about God making us at home with him, even in the midst of a tortuous journey that is filled with heartbreak:

                  God is our refuge and strength,

                                    a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1)

Augustine and the psalmist were right: our home is where God is. And this is littered throughout Scripture as well. The Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert—and the prophets looked back on that time with misty-eyed romanticism because they wandered with God. David ran from dank cave to opposing kingdom to flee the murderous rage of King Saul—and in the Psalms he looks back on that time with a full-heart because he fled with God. 

When I encounter trouble, do I rest in God? Or do I rest in something smaller, something meager and paltry, a mere token of consistency instead of God himself? As we rest in God, we are able to help others find their rest in God as well. As we seek our refuge in God, we become a refuge. Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1:4).

At the Clinic, we encounter people lacking comfort and refuge. There’s the veteran who risked his blood for our country’s cause in the wider world, only to confront the brutal challenges of transience once he reaches “home soil.” There’s the asylum-seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo seeking shelter and stability in the United States. There’s the man longing to clear his criminal record so that he can provide the normal, quotidian comforts of home for himself, for his children. We are able to be a refuge for these folks. And oftentimes, their faith is a refuge for us.

Seek refuge. Then, be a refuge. May you turn people to the one who comforts us in all of our distress. May you be the embodiment of a threadbare sweater for someone else.

Until justice and peace embrace, 

Chris Purnell e-sig Black 2015





This month, we’re asking you to consider the theme of “Refuge” more intentionally than ever before by participating in a photo contest! To participate, please follow these simple steps:

1. Take a picture that embodies the meaning of “Refuge” to you

2. Go to Instagram* and search for our account “nclegalclinic” and then click + FOLLOW

3. Post your photo to Instagram with the following hashtags: #StoriesOfJustice #MyClinicStory #Refuge

4. Tag us in the photo @nclegalclinic

Prize: At the end of the month, we will choose one winning photo to be featured and highlighted on all of our social media pages!

Please contact Ashley Caveda at if you have any questions. We can’t wait to see what “Refuge” means to you!

* If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can still participate by liking “Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic” on Facebook, uploading your photo with the above hashtags, and tagging the Clinic in your photo. Or you may follow us on Twitter @NCLegalClinic, post your photo, and use the above hashtags as well.

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