In 1992, the vision for the Legal Clinic was first expressed in a Palm Sunday sermon by Dr. Frank Kik at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. The church was located in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood and the sermon noted the incredible need for pro bono legal services in the area. Six Christian attorneys who were in attendance that day answered the call and founded what eventually became Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
God is what he does, and he does what he is. For us mortals, this is tough—we do things that don’t corroborate who we are all the time. We are divided, desiring to do the good that God has put in front of us, but choosing the bad because, well, you know, things and reasons.
At the Clinic, we say we “promote justice” through the work that God has called us to do. And as we celebrate our 25th year of service to the community this January, I’ve been contemplating what this actually means. Superheroes continue to clean up at the box office and issues of social justice fill our newsfeed—but true justice is so much fuller than our humanly conception. So what, then, is the biblical core of justice?
Sherry explains the mission of Raphael: “Our mission is to serve everyone with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, regardless of their race, ethnicity, language, ability to pay. We care for anyone.” And because Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, they are particularly passionate about providing care and support to new mothers and infants. “We really focus on the things we can do to keep mom and baby safe through that first year,” she says. “If we can get them through that first year, our chances of setting them up for a healthier and safer life are much higher.”
After suffering from a nearly fatal bout of malaria while he was in India many years ago, Raio began to understand the connection between compassion and justice. “I wanted to build a place that incorporated those values into everything we did,” he says. Over the course of his career, he often saw an imbalance of justice that disproportionately affected survivors in a negative way—and he wanted CVHR to fight against that.
There are times when I want the whole world to stop for just one second so that I can get my bearings. But change is ever-present, and the needs of the moment continue to batter my psyche. Whether I have relational stress because of getting together with family for the holidays, or financial stress because I’ve overextended myself, or environmental stress from living in a world that badgers me about the things I should care about during the holidays—our lives are made harder by media and people beckoning us to the shoals of dark distraction.
This November, we celebrated our amazing volunteers with a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at the Indianapolis Bar Association! On the blog, we introduced you to one of those faithful volunteers, Peggy Mindrebo, and the unique way she gives of her time to the Clinic.
What I love most about my work here at the Clinic are the sweet and precious moments—God moments—that I get to experience with my clients during the journey of a tax case. Just last week, I had two of these experiences.
“One of the biggest successes of spiritual direction is helping people interpret their past, their present, and their future through the lens of God’s loving gaze. And that’s not easy,” says Peggy. “But for those who are open to it, I think it can bring a sense of not being alone in their life.”
Babra has spent much of her career working with vulnerable communities, even before coming to the United States. As an immigrant herself, she has faced many challenges that continue to influence and confirm for her that she is in the right place with the Clinic now. “My faith leads the work I do because that is my source of strength each day,” she says. “I remind myself every day that God … uplifts our spirits and others and that our faith in him provides guidance and answers where we are challenged.” Babra loves to serve clients and is currently working toward becoming an Accredited Representative so that she can assist with immigration proceedings in the future.
This month was one of our busiest with our annual Justice For All Gala on October 18! Thanks to your generosity, we raised the most we’ve ever raised before: $173,121! We also shared a video about one of our Consumer Justice Program clients, Ms. Dora Turner.
More and more Christians need to take responsibility by just being present to recognize that the disparity isn’t just God’s blessing. There is a lot of injustice that results in that. We need to think about, to really ask the question, what does it mean to be a great city? Or a great community? Does it mean certain people can make the city their playground or is it a place where everyone has an opportunity to participate and to be part of the rising tide of what’s going on economically?
A huge thank you to everyone who came to our Justice For All Gala! Nearly 400 people were in attendance and we raised a total of $173,121! That’s the most we’ve ever raised during a JFA celebration—and it’s all thanks to our amazing supporters and friends! Thank you for caring about justice in your community!
Northview Church is proud to stand alongside Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in their efforts to fight for justice for the vulnerable so that all may flourish. In a world where the gap between those that are vulnerable and those that are secure continues to widen, we see the work of the Clinic as a critical bridge for the local church to live out our mandate to do justice. Through their compassionate staff and volunteers, they are on the front lines providing expertise in legal services for those that are stuck in broken cycles and systems.
At the Clinic, we cry together due to the myriad ways that humans have devised to harm each other. As we pursue justice, we grow weary at how difficult once-simple petitions have grown. Our immigrant clients come to us for assistance, but the remedies for them recede into the distance.
This month, we released a new video for our annual Justice For All Gala. As a non-profit civil legal aid provider that serves over 10,000 low-income people every year, the Clinic relies heavily on the support of our community. Attending or sponsoring Justice for All is one of the primary ways you can support the Clinic and help provide accessible justice for your neighbors. Get your tickets now for October 18. Join us for an uplifting and unforgettable evening.
In some regards, getting to know these individual stories has helped to contextualize Cynthia’s own history. “Growing up with my family, my grandparents were immigrants from Mexico,” she says. “I didn’t appreciate the sacrifices that my family has had to make until I saw how much getting a Green Card or a work permit or any help from the Clinic has meant to people who sacrificed everything to come here. That’s opened my eyes.”
This month, we announced ticket sales for our annual Justice For All Gala. Through September 21st, tickets are only $40! Join us for an unforgettable evening with NYT best-selling author Bob Goff. If you haven't checked out his latest book, Everybody, Always, add it to your reading list today. Get your ticket now as you won’t want to miss one of the best storytellers in the country!
Since 2013, the Legal Clinic has partnered with Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) to meet the legal needs of homeless veterans in Indiana. Celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, HVAF has come a long way from their first housing project when they established a residence for five homeless veterans. In 2017 alone, they served more than 1300. Bryan Dysert, Director of Programs and Services at HVAF, says, “[We have the] capacity to house 158 veterans on any given night. And while they’re in that program, they’re receiving case management services, employment services, legal services—really anything that they need to get back to self-sufficiency.”
This summer, Van Sui assisted in our Immigrant Justice Program for her internship, helping with contacting clients and providing Burmese translations and interpretation. Currently a senior at Taylor University, she hopes to pursue Law School in the future. "I would like to gain experiences while pursuing my further education in U.S.," she says. "After, I would want to actively involve in Burma government with all my abilities in the processes of transitioning into a democracy country." She loved her opportunity to work at the Clinic, melding her career goals with her faith. She says, "It was interesting and inspiring to see the organization not only standing for Psalm 82:3-4, but practically applying it by assisting with various issues and standing up for vulnerable people with love, care, and passion."
Where you come from can say a lot about you and what you care about. What you do for a living can be a helpful pointer to deeper things about you. But, as we know, this can go very dark very fast. Whenever we think that a person’s nationality, ethnicity, or some other category can sum them up in some simplistic way, we have veered off into some dangerous territory.
This 4th of July, we celebrated three different clients who recently became U.S. citizens. We also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program by releasing a video with stories of how it benefits the community.
Although Cameron served faithfully in the U.S. Army for many years and was honorably discharged in the late 1980s, he had encountered many difficulties since that time. As a result, he became addicted to drugs. This addiction affected every aspect of his life, snowballing until he was homeless, without a job, and carrying a lifetime suspension on his driving privileges.
This June, we released our most recent episode of our Courting Justice podcast on Community Development Corporations. And Executive Director Chris Purnell shared his thoughts on the difficulties and necessity of building a community of trust.
What are Community Development Corporations and what is their role in your community?
In this episode of Courting Justice, host Ashley Caveda speaks with Mike Bowling from Englewood CDC and David Cederquist from Brookside CDC, along with Clinic Executive Director Chris Purnell. Together, they address the above questions and share their stories of relational ministry within their communities, as well as the pitfalls of gentrification and how true community development can combat them.
It’s tough, this community thing. On the one hand, I desperately want it. In fact, when my sweet 7-year old daughter asked me what my biggest fear is, I told her, “Well, Kiddo, it’s a little complicated, but I am deeply afraid of being alone. I mean, I like my ‘me’ time, but there’s a part of me that is worried about being abandoned by everyone I love.” She had a what-the-heck look on her face, so I asked her the same question. Her eyes got big as she said, “Fires,” followed up quickly with, “Also, burglars.” We really connected.
This May, we met a client who fell behind on her mortgage after a series of misfortunes before she found her way to the Clinic's Housing Department. Also, we celebrated the fact that one of our long-time volunteer attorneys, Chad Pryor, was recognized by The Indiana Lawyer's LEADERSHIP IN LAW feature for 2018. And our Ft. Wayne office held its third annual Jazz 4 Justice at The Phoenix!
I first became involved in access to justice issues when engaging in pro bono during my first year in law school at Georgetown. While at Georgetown, I volunteered a few hours a week for the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, primarily conducting intake. I also became interested in interdisciplinary legal thinking in my first year in law school, though psychology has interested me for many years. Personal disclaimer: My wife is a professor in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and my father is, and my grandfather was, a psychiatrist. Indeed, but for being a lawyer, I might have been a psychologist!