Roger Reece serves on the Clinic Board as part of the Ft. Wayne Committee. He is also the Executive Director of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, a faith-based organization that boasts membership from 140 congregations. According to Roger, because of the vast size and reach of Associated Churches, they are able to focus their efforts in many different arenas. “There’s a whole host of ministries,” he says. These ministries include food pantries, programs that support military families, partnerships with inner-city schools that offer parenting classes, and regranting projects to urban childcare facilities, just to name a few.
Associated Churches first became acquainted with the Clinic through their mutual service. “Because we serve a diverse population, the Clinic was already doing ministry in the same places that we were,” says Roger. “We were providing emergency food relief for the food bank and the Clinic was providing intake at the same location.” This put the Legal Clinic on Associated Churches’ radar, and thus, a new relationship was borne.
Although the partnership between Associated Churches and the Legal Clinic was perhaps inevitable, Roger’s path to both organizations was less direct. As a young man, Roger was a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne division based in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. “I used to jump out of airplanes for a living,” he says. “It was just--how do you say it? The situation was favorable for an encounter with God.” Through his experience in the Army, he came to know what a personal relationship with Jesus looked like. “The Jumpmaster called throughout the airplane, ‘Ten seconds!’ and I can tell you how long it takes to say the Lord’s prayer.” After his service, Roger received his Master of Divinity from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. For a time, he worked as a Director of a homeless shelter, until he became the Executive Director of Associated Churches in 2009.
One of the ways Associated Churches is able to support the Clinic is by sharing its mission, upcoming events, and financial and volunteer needs with all of its congregations. “We are able to rally and convene people who probably wouldn’t otherwise know much about the Clinic,” says Roger. But the partnership is not simply a one-way street. “I oftentimes meet people in a certain place in their life in which they’re experiencing difficulties,” he says. “And if there are legal issues, I know who I can call, and that’s a wonderful feeling to have in your back pocket.”
Roger believes the work done by the Legal Clinic and Associated Churches is more necessary than ever. He shares the story of a woman in his congregation from Haiti whose hometown, where her fiancé still lived, was devastated by a flood. Through the help of the Ft. Wayne office, the Clinic and Associated Churches were able to bring her fiancé to the United States. “It was just beautiful to see God’s hand at work in so many different talented people,” says Roger.
“I think now, especially now, when there’s so much rhetoric about immigration--it’s so important for the Church to be reminded of what does hospitality mean,” he says. “What’s the scriptural basis for welcoming? What are we called to be and to whom are we called to reach out? All of those things are really encompassed in the Legal Clinic.”
To learn more about Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, please visit their website.