October 22-28 is National Pro Bono Celebration Week. As we celebrate the work of pro bono lawyers let’s seize the opportunity to do significantly more to rescue and restore neighbors through justice. Here are three valuable opportunities to make that happen:
1. Rescue by seeing the problem.
A Priest and a Levite walked past an injured man on the Jericho road (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus said they saw the man, but did not see the opportunity to rescue and restore him.
You live on the Jericho Road. Whatever your address there are neighbors near you who need legal help. The 2017 Justice Gap report demonstrates 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in the past year received inadequate or no legal help. 86%! The math results in more than one person every second, over 100,000 a day and 36.6 million a year. That’s not justice for all!
Behind every number is a neighbor. A senior citizen being exploited or overwhelmed by government paperwork. A person with disabilities trying to get help. A homeless veteran. A child and her single mom. 1 in 4 low-income households experience 6+ civil legal problems including 67% of households with survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Do you see them? Will you rescue them?
You have an opportunity. Start by understanding why America ranks 65th in the world – tied with Pakistan! – for providing affordable access to justice.
Visit our Learn More page. Download this infograph. Download a small-group five session guide – Do Likewise, Living the Gospel through Compassion and Justice.
2. Rescue by living the problem.
7 in 10 low-income Americans facing a civil legal problem say the problem has significantly affected their lives. Have you ever been contacted by a lawyer? Even if you are wealthy or have several PhD’s, you will likely lose sleep, worry and feel oppressed. Now imagine you have no resources and the issues at stake involve shelter, your child, your livelihood, independence or health. You feel you have to deal with the problem on your own. But that can make matters worse.
Jennifer walked into court. A single mom she needed support for her daughter. The dad had a lawyer who seemed completely at home in this confusing place. Jennifer didn’t know what to do. The judge called her name and she came up and handed the judge her papers. The attorney sneered, objecting to anything she tried to say. No one seemed to care that a girl’s life was at issue. Instead the judge yelled at her for improper papers and threw them back at her. Jennifer ran out in tears.
The prophet Isaiah declared:
But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!” Isa. 42:22.
Who would rescue Jennifer and her daughter? Who would see them restored?
Visit a Courtroom
If you want to feel the weight of your neighbors visit a courtroom. You will enter a building through a metal detector. Inside the courtroom you will see much activity. Feel the weight of people whose fate is hanging in the balance. In minutes their life can be irrevocably impacted by rules, procedures and forms they do not understand. You will see the law at work, but where is justice?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. Hab. 1:3-4.
Habakuk learned justice is not found in the law, but in the law giver. As you understand God’s heart for restorative justice, you will see the opportunity to be the Good Samaritan whose compassion drove him to risk time and money to rescue a neighbor in need.
3. Restore by engaging the problem.
Across America we are celebrating the pro bono work of Attorneys who understand their law degree is not only for their good, but for the public good. Many are men and women of faith who believe deeply that God gave them their law degree for His good. And that means loving and serving neighbors in need.
Dee wasn’t looking for more to take on. A busy mom, she was happy with her life free from the demands of a six minute legal clock. But God was convicting her of the missed opportunity for life-changing impact. She courageously stepped out of her comfort to form a church justice team.
Jennifer came to the church. She’d never stepped foot in a church before. She would not have come to meet a pastor, but she came to meet a lawyer. Walking into the church was dramatically different than the courtroom. Everyone was friendly. They offered Jennifer and her daughter treats and something to drink. There were toys and books for her daughter as Jennifer completed forms. A volunteer watched the girl as Jennifer met with Dee.
Dee asked if she could pray for Jennifer. No one had ever done that. Jennifer cried. Not out of humiliation, but from overwhelming compassion. Dee helped her put together the right papers and coached her in how to present. Jennifer met with another person after to ensure she understood her next steps. More at ease Jennifer opened up about her life. Before she left Jennifer accepted Christ and walked out with court papers in one hand and a new Bible in the other.
Jennifer would write back thanking everyone for their kindness and restoring her hope. Dee and a team of compassionate volunteers rescued Jennifer from crushing humiliation. They restored her hope. You can too.
Rescue & Restore
If you are a lawyer or know a lawyer please have them visit our lawyer page to hear from Dee and download our guide – How to use your law degree for life-changing impact.
Lawyers can’t do this alone. Join them. Watch the video below and become an advocate. Allow God to rescue you from routine to living His mission of restoring all that is broken through His restorative justice.