How to restore HOPE through legal ministry

A couple of weeks ago over 100 people gathered from 11 states to attend the Restore 117 Conference at Judson University.  The conference involved powerful worship, prayer, main stage speakers and workshops to help explore how to restore hope through legal ministry.

First, understand the environment of your community

God has placed you in a zip code for a purpose.  Understand your neighbors.  Learn their needs.  Get out of your comfort zone and bring the incarnational truth of Jesus to the streets.  That was the message Noel Castellanos brought as he shared a powerful word from Nehemiah on neighbors serving together to restore a community.

You can learn about pockets of poverty near you through an interactive map found here.   But the best way to learn is through relational conversations.  Sit with neighbors.  Meet with area service providers.  Discover the untapped assets in the community even as you work together to break barriers inhibiting progress.  We guarantee that among those barriers you will find legal issues.

Second, understand legal issues underlie other issues

Matt Soerens of World Relief spoke from the main stage helping us understand our Biblical call to welcome refugees.  These neighbors often encounter several legal barriers from employment, housing and contracts to adjustment of status.  Kim Fay from Administer Justice led a workshop on providing practical legal guidance to immigrants who face similar challenges.  Brian Dunkel and Sha’na Harris from Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic led a workshop on helping our formerly incarcerated neighbors break barriers to employment, housing, contracts, family law and consumer issues.  And Judith Miller and Kelsay Raves helped us understand challenges faced by domestic violence victims and broken families.

To learn more order the audio tapes of all main stage and workshop sessions for $25.  E-mail [email protected].

Third, understand the Bible could be called Restore.

I spoke from the mainstage on the Biblical call to Restore.  The Bible begins with God creating a perfect world for us to worship and work.  We did this in perfect relationship with Him.  The Bible ends the same way.  We will again worship and work together.  God has work assignments based on how well we served Him in our short time in our imperfect bodies.  Glorified we will once again worship in perfect relationship with God.

But between Genesis and Revelation the Bible relays the story of restoration.  Satan entices us to sin and we willingly disobey God.  Everything breaks.  Work and relationships become strained and difficult.  Death enters as we and all creation groan from the effect of sin.  But God immediately instituted His plan of restoration.  The Old Testaments points toward the Messiah.  Jesus would come to restore men in relationship with God and man.  So the Bible’s great themes are to love God and love neighbor.  Get restored with God and restore others.  This is why we were created and this is our great opportunity to glorify God through our worship and our work.

Several of the workshops at Restore provided practical tools for how to do this, particularly through legal ministry.

Fourth, recognize the law can be a vehicle to restore hope

A major report entitled Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA followed hundreds of residents over an 18 month period of time.  Extensive interviews over that time period revealed 2/3 of adults experienced at least one of 12 different categories of civil justice situations.  The most common situations involved employment, money, insurance and housing.  Nearly half (47%) experienced fear, a loss of confidence, damage to physical and emotional health, or verbal or physical violence.

Sadly individuals did not seek help because 21% were too embarrassed while another 56% were resigned to being judged as “part of God’s plan”.

What an opportunity to break a false view of God, meet significant needs, break barriers of isolation, and restore hope to neighbors.  And the very laws that contribute toward despair can become the means for restoring hope.  As neighbors are able to meet with compassionate lawyers to receive guidance and connection to resources, we restore hope.

At Restore 117 we shared that HOPE is an acronym for Help, Overcome, Plan and Empower.  Help is provided through practical guidance in legal, spiritual and social issues.  We listen, pray and come alongside our neighbor in need.

Volunteers Overcome unconscious bias as we work to destroy all barriers through Jesus (Eph. 2:14).  We encourage overcoming barriers of isolation by connecting with a community of faith and help create a Plan recognizing God already has a plan for their life (Jer. 29:11).  The step by step plan of action helps clear confusion and promote peace.  We Empower people to use their skills in resolving problems with professional guidance and coaching.  We do not do for the poor what they have the capacity to do themselves.

Fifth, hope is provided in partnership with experts

At Restore 117 we spoke of the truth that no one does justice alone.  You may have a burning desire to help people caught in unjust circumstances.  You know that behind all the statistics is the harsh reality of a single mom, a homeless veteran, an elderly grandparent.  They sit in your McDonalds and walk your streets.  Do you just pass them by?  You want to help but are overwhelmed by what might be involved.

As my friend Rich Stearns says,

“Poverty is rocket science.  Simple solutions simply don’t exist…Most of us don’t know what to do, but someone does!  Some people are pouring every ounce of God-given wisdom into the resolution of these problems.  We need specialist organizations.”

We are that specialist organization for legal ministry for the poor and vulnerable.  God called me into law, provided wonderful opportunities in private practice before having me pour every ounce of God-given wisdom into legal ministry for the poor.  After 27 years, we have the experience to provide all you need to live out the passion God placed on your heart.

Sixth, just say ‘yes’

The book Gospel Justice advocates a clear choice – will you say ‘no’ to God and return to your routines, or will you step out by faith, say ‘yes’ and ‘go and do likewise’.  You are never alone.  Jesus goes with you and He connects you with others.  Will you follow Him on the path of joy He has for you?

We welcome a conversation of what that looks like.  Gospel Justice Initiative establishes chapters across the country operating under our umbrella so we handle all liability.  Our team provides you with the training, materials and tools to establish a time-tested effective justice team.  We give you a cloud-based client management system for tracking and reporting impact.  You will be flown to Chicago so you can visit an operating Gospel Justice Center, see how it operates, ask questions of volunteers and receive personalized training.

And we do all this at no cost to you.  No catch.

We will match you with a donor who provided the launch funds so you could pursue the passion God gave you.  You will collect $20 administrative fees as an important issue of dignity and buy-in from clients which you will remit to us so we can continue to cover your cost.

You will be part of a national network, participate in monthly calls as able, and hopefully join us at Restore 117 on June 7, 2018 in Chicago – we will cover that cost as well.

Don’t delay any longer.  The Devil will whisper multiple reasons not to do this.  Jesus will whisper one – “Whatever you do for one of the least of these, you do unto me.”

Please say yes.  E-mail Justine today to get started – [email protected].