Sarah Sullivan is the President and CEO of Jericho Road Legal Services Ministry, a Christian legal aid based in Saint Johns, Florida. She became aware of the unmet need in her community while working as a clinical professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. Moved by her pastor’s challenge to live out her faith seven days a week, she began taking steps towards loving her neighbors through full-time Christian legal aid. She has found it both challenging and rewarding. Sarah and her husband, Jonathan, have kept their gaze on Jesus while weathering the sometimes tumultuous waters that answering God’s call to “step out of the boat” can bring. They have found Him to be the Calmer of every storm.
GJI: Tell us about your journey to Justice Champion. How did you find Gospel Justice Initiative?
SS: The first time I heard about Gospel Justice Initiative (GJI) was while searching for faith-based legal services. GJI’s website came up. My mentor, David, told me about Willow Creek Care Clinic which led to an answered email from Kellye Fabian and an introduction to Bruce. At that point, I had already read Gospel Justice and was thrilled to meet the author who was encouraging me to dive into the deep end and answer God’s call. The WHOLE book spoke to me – I bought 10 copies and gave them out to people.
For the past twenty years, whether at my own firm, a state agency or working as a clinical professor, I have remained anchored in public interest law. I think I have always been working toward this. It is a culmination of years of experience and years of feeling compassion for the hurting. So many things– my eye-opening work at the law-school clinic, my pastor’s challenge, my city’s drastic reduction in funding, a successful pro-bono experience (in which the client became a Christ-follower), and a “chance” meeting of someone who ran a legal-aid clinic in Chicago — brought me to the place where I knew I must include my faith in my work.
GJI: What was the biggest fear or challenge you had to overcome before “jumping in” and living out your faith through your work?
SS: Putting my family through the major life change of going “all-in” with a new job/career/adventure. I read Gospel Justice and prayed. My husband prayed with me, and we wrestled with the “how” and “when” of this new opportunity. My husband believed we should wait for the best time to leave my work at the law school.
Even though I am a “go big or go home” gal, I listened to my husband (he is my partner in this endeavor – my non-profit expert). This allowed me the financial security we needed to feel more secure moving ahead. God was present in the details. He provided a generous friend from Holland and Knight, LLP, who handled all my incorporation and non-profit application without cost. This was an answered prayer which allowed us to hold our first clinic in September of 2017.
GJI: What was the greatest misconception you had about starting Jericho Road?
SS: That because it was my calling, it would be easy. I have often thought of Matthew 14:25-33. Like Peter, we are called to step out in faith. Then, like Peter, waves of doubt come—When is the right time to expand? When is the right time to start? What’s best to make the biggest impact? We can quickly find ourselves sinking as he did when he turned and faced the wind. We must keep our gaze on Jesus; He is our one true Savior. If He is for us, how can anyone prevail against us?
GJI: Tell us about the community in which you serve.
SS: I focus on the beaches area in Jacksonville. The community is separated by the Intracoastal from the rest of the city. There is a perception that all beach residents are well-off. However, there are many working poor that are physically separated from a lot of the benefits and programs in the urban core. The beach is a great home for Jericho Road because there is a lot of need and the faith community has supported efforts to meet those needs.
Recently, I was able to help a host family gain decision-making authority for a very sick child from Africa by domesticating a foreign judgment. The couple in need were true believers—acting out their faith. They were being the hands and feet of Jesus by caring for this stranger/neighbor. And the baby was truly a miracle…an adorable one at that!
GJI: Is there a Bible verse that really became your heart’s cry during your journey to start Jericho Road?
SS: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
GJI: You certainly have shown the LOVE of our Savior to Jacksonville. How can we pray for you and for Jericho Road?
SS: Pray for sustainability. I want Jericho Road to last in the long term. We are praising God right now for a $10,000 grant received. We are working through challenges with the Florida bar as they decide how best to receive Jericho Road’s innovative model – we don’t quite fit into their boxes. Pray for swift and smooth resolution with that. Your prayers for clients and volunteers are always needed and sustain us.
GJI: Final thoughts?
SS: God has perfect love for us. There will be storms and there will be wind – your own personal storms, your professional storms, your client’s storms. Through it all, surrender to Jesus, listen to Jesus and turn your eyes upon Him; you will find your way.
For more information, visit www.jerichoroadlegal.org and like and follow Jericho Road Legal Service Ministry, LLC on Facebook.