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.”
Every year, thousands of refugees flee to the United States, seeking protection from the violence and persecution they face in their home country. Many mention their hope in finding a new life and a fresh start in the U.S.; they are excited to be able to give their children and family members a new place to call home. What they do not dream of are the difficulties they may face when they get here, like financial woes, hard-to-understand tax codes, or the language barriers that will make it hard for them to leverage the fresh start they’re hoping for in a successful way.
For 25 years, Deetta Steinmetz worked as an attorney in adversarial divorce litigation. The cases were plentiful; the money was great. But Deetta just couldn’t do it anymore. She was tired of being part of a process that she felt meant one person winning at another’s expense. She says, “How do you win a Family Law adversarial proceeding? It’s by making the other person look bad.”
This year, at Justice For All, we’ll be looking ahead to the Clinic’s next 20 years of service, celebrating the renewal of our communities as we continue our commitment to seek justice for our most vulnerable neighbors.