At Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, our faith in Jesus is the foundation of all the work that we do. Inspired by a powerful sermon to create the Clinic, Abby Kuzma and the other founders relied heavily on their faith to make this dream become a reality. Abby recalls being especially encouraged by Ephesians 2:10 in the early days: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Now, 25 years later, we continue to serve everyone regardless of their beliefs, and the Clinic’s driving principle of demonstrating Christ’s love through legal representation and education has not changed. While this faith does not always come up in court or during a client meeting, we spend time together as a team every single week, re-engaging with one another and the purpose behind our work.
During our staff meeting on Thursday mornings, we do devotionals, reading the Bible together and discussing relevant topics. Executive Director Chris Purnell usually leads us. “Our weekly meeting is meant to be more than just a time to share information,” he says. “It’s a time to share our burdens, our joys, and our frustrations in a spirit of camaraderie and prayer.” Indeed, when we are faced with difficulties beyond our control or we are simply waiting for a judge to adjudicate on a case, prayer is where we turn.
This time together helps reorient us as a staff and draws us closer. It is also important to our clients. Certified Housing Counselor Michael St. André says, “There have been many occasions that I have shared with my clients that we pray for them. This seemingly small detail can mean the world to them.”
But this spirit goes beyond just our weekly meetings, and there are times when a staff member may offer to pray with a client directly. On these occasions, in case they have differing beliefs, Paralegal Angie Simmons is careful in how she approaches clients, saying, ”Before you go, can I ask a blessing over you and your family?" Very often, they will say yes.
At other times, clients who share their story will overtly ask for prayer. Immigrant Advocate and BIA Accredited Paralegal Noemí Gallegos recalls a former client who was sitting in the waiting room one day. The client had recently lost a family member and wanted prayer. Noemí and another staff member prayed for this client while she wept. “I wanted her burdens to be washed away, if only for one second, so she could be still and know that it would be okay.” Although there was no legal work to be done in this situation, Noemí could still listen to the client and remind her that she was not alone.
The hardships experienced by our clients would be too heavy without Christ and we rely on Him for everything. “It is His compassion that I need to minister to clients. It is His power that I use to hear the story behind the story,” Angie says. And, in all things we do, it is His love that we seek to demonstrate to those we serve.