Despite its outward facing nature, the internal benefits of Grace Care Center are vast and, more importantly, intentional. Committed to transforming their church body, Grace’s service-oriented endeavors also provide its congregation with new experiences meant to help increase both ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. Keith says, “We’ve had a passion for a long time of getting our people out of the comfy confines of Hamilton County and our suburban neighborhoods and inviting them further into different places in the world where they may see a different view of God’s kingdom.”
Rachel VanTyle, the lead staff attorney for RAD, adds that mass volunteer events like this are important for the community and for efficiency’s sake. She says, “What it would take me 4 months to do, we can do in 8 hours with this many volunteers.” Such days also give the Clinic the opportunity to provide services for which we might lack funding. Rachel explains that each application, if completed by a paid attorney, would cost roughly $500 per client. Therefore, by relying on volunteers to help so many people at once, the Clinic is able to provide more than $25,000 worth of services that might otherwise be impossible.
At the Clinic, we deal with the legal complexities of suffering in many of its guises. Poverty. Abuse. Betrayal. Relational baggage. Debt. Mental anguish. Homelessness. Death. It’s all there: suffering persistently parading its wares in open mockery of the goodness of God’s creation.
And yet, for James, suffering gets turned on its head. Indeed, for the beleaguered, for victims of injustice who cling to vibrant faith in a God who suffered deeply and traumatically, suffering gets transmuted into something beautiful. Suffering becomes redemptive. Death leads to resurrection.
This month was one of our busiest of the year. Between Justice For All celebration preparations, various CLEs and trainings, and UVisa Day there was barely a free second for our staff. However, our theme for this past month has also been Renewal and so even in the midst of the craziness, we took time to reflect on what it means to be renewed in all the different areas of our life and work.
If you were unable to attend JFA on September 23rd at the Westin Downtown, you can still see the fun photos above in this month’s collage. You can also watch the video that we premiered at the end of the event and that tells the story of three different clients and the attorneys and staff who worked with them.
Our organizing theme for JFA 2015 was Renewal. At the event, Executive Director Chris Purnell talked about where we’re headed as an organization and why renewed passion and purpose for Christ and for our clients is so important. He then told the story of a couple he was able to assist early in his career at the Clinic. After he helped the couple, the wife mentioned it was her birthday and began crying. When Chris asked her why she was crying, the woman responded, “This is the best gift I’ve ever received.” Chris then asked attendees to prayerfully consider a donation to the Clinic, reminding them that this donation might be the best gift someone else has ever received.
Carlton says, “It used to be, back in the past—1800s, 1700s—people committed crimes because there was something inherently flawed in them—that was the thought. And that’s still the mindset: you are a deviant because that is what you are.” Carlton is quick to point out, however, that most of the people he sees made a mistake when they were young. And yet a crime committed 20 years earlier might prevent them from finding sufficient employment even into their middle age. “If you don’t have a job, you’re not making any money. Not making any money, you can’t pay your child support. Can’t pay your child support, you can’t have your license … so your livelihood just goes, ‘Boom!’” Carlton makes an exploding gesture with his hands. “You can’t pay your bills, and then you’re in a position where bankruptcy is an option.”
There is rest to be had in ministering to others. As Tim Keller points out, there is a freedom to self-forgetfulness. Serving others, fulfilling others’ needs, actually fills you. But there is a rhythm that’s modeled for us in the Bible. After fashioning everything from nothing, God set aside one entire day for rest. God rested to show that he was God and that His creation was good. When we enter into that rest, we too are renewed by the understanding that God is God and that His creation is good. When I rest, I realize, shockingly, that the world doesn’t depend on my awesomeness in order to continue. It depends on God’s.
During this last month of summer, we at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic focused our minds on the theme of Forgiveness. The blog highlighted Project PEACE, a program that helps those who are going through a Family Law conflict resolve their issues outside of a courtroom. We met an immigrant couple who became tangled up in the confusing and convoluted tax code, but who then received assistance through our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, as well as financial forgiveness from the IRS. Michael Hurst, Executive Director of Legacy House, discussed the free counseling services their organization provides to victims of violent trauma. And finally, we invited you to join us at our biggest annual fundraiser, Justice For All, which will take place on Wednesday, September 23rd. There’s still time to support the Clinic and the work we do! Please purchase your tickets here.
As the brother of a homicide victim, as well as the brother of a suicide victim, Michael is no stranger to the pernicious effects such tragedies can cause. “I know what it’s like to grow up in a household that has experienced trauma,” he says. When Michael was only nine, his mother received the call that her older son had been killed. She was paying bills at the time. Michael says, “Every single time that she sat down to write a check in the years that followed, she was reminded by that act of the violence that the family had experienced.”