By Matthew Schmidt. Matt is a summer intern at Gospel Justice Initiative. He is entering his senior year at Loyola University in Chicago. He plans on attending law school after graduation.
During my time as an intern for Gospel Justice Initiative, I have heard many stories about the positive effects of justice. And I have read even more in Bruce’s book, Gospel Justice, which contains a number of stories about lives that were changed through the work of men and women in organizations such as Administer Justice. Attorneys and other volunteers help to run a clinic that provides free legal consultations to people who could not otherwise afford an attorney. Until recently, these were simply stories on a page to me; I did not have any firsthand experience with gospel justice. I was able to change this by spending a Saturday morning at my local church shadowing the volunteer attorneys.
These attorneys and volunteers meet on the second Saturday of every month from eight until noon, which allows for four time slots of 45 minutes per appointment. It was obvious to me that what helps make the ministry a success is the team of volunteers. Whether it be providing legal advice, prayer, hospitality, serving as a translator for non-English speakers, or helping with the administrative tasks, each individual is essential to the success of the ministry as a whole.
After completing forms a client receives a 45-minute appointment. During this time, they are able to meet with a volunteer attorney and receive the advice and guidance necessary to navigate the often-complicated legal issues facing them. I was able to sit in on two separate meetings with a client. One of those was with Hank (not real name).
Hank was married at a young age. He and his then girlfriend had started dating during high school, and when she became pregnant, they decided to take the next step and start a family together. However, several years into the marriage, Hank’s wife expressed discontent having been with only one man her whole life, so she announced that she was leaving to “experiment” with other men. Several months later, Hank and his wife reconciled and committed to attend marriage therapy. However, she soon began to miss the appointments, and eventually stopped going altogether. Hank found himself alone to care for his daughter after his wife left home a second time.
Hank came to the church legal clinic seeking advice on how to proceed with a divorce, as well as advice on the complicated issue of child custody. By consulting with an attorney, Hank was able to understand his situation, as well as receive spiritual advice on what the Bible teaches on divorce. Hank left knowing what needed to be done and what to pray over as he sought to raise his daughter.
Early on I saw why a church legal ministry is so important. Even with a basic understanding of the American legal system, I still found the issues difficult to understand, and I would have a tough time navigating it on my own; the wisdom and advice of a trained lawyer is an absolute essential. It was inspiring to see God working through the men and women at my church who were making a difference in providing justice to people in need. I am glad to be a member of a church that understands the importance of justice and is working to make a difference in the lives of those around us.