the beauty of an advocate

kathyescobar incarnational, injustice 14 Comments

the beauty of an advocatea lot of you know that my husband, jose, went to law school about 6 years ago to become a pro-bono lawyer on behalf of women.  it’s a really fun story that started when he began volunteering at a domestic violence shelter helping women move out of scary situations.  we are grateful that he has a full-time job that gives us benefits as a pilot at united airlines, which frees him up to be able to do this.  the clinic he works at, the justice and mercy legal aid clinic (JAMLAC),  is one of the sweetest, most amazing ministries i know of.  it is part of milehigh ministries & offices at joshua station, which provides transformational housing for families here in denver (they rock).  JAMLAC’s founding director, steve thompson, is truly an awesome person and is dedicated to advocating for the poor & oppressed in all kinds of beautiful ways.  their staff is lovely–a wild mix of people-working-for-barely-anything and dedicated volunteers.

the clinic serves all kinds of clients, but primarily women who are domestic violence victims.  almost every woman who is trying to rebuild a new life has some form of violence in her past–sexual, physical, or emotional.  this team stands on their behalf for free or barely anything, representing them in court, guiding them through the legal process, and helping them get custody of their kids, obtain their papers, and begin to move toward self-sufficiency and stability.  without good legal help, the possibilities for many of these women is slim to none.

here’s a little excerpt from JAMLAC’s latest letter-to-their-supporters:

“close your eyes and hold out your hands.”

tina diaz, immigration director at the justice and mercy legal aid clinic (JAMLAC), places the card the size of a driver’s license in rosa’s* hands and tells her to open her eyes.  as she does, she sees a piece of identification with her name and photograph on it.

rosa begins to weep–with joy.  we rejoice with her. tina does her “happy dance.”  rosa hugs all of us, thanks God, and exclaims “he will never touch me again!”

several months earlier, rosa lay on the kitchen floor in her home, unconscious and bleeding from the head, because her husband had hit her over the head with a blunt object.  the next morning, a neighbor noted her injury and insisted she go to the hospital, where she was stitched up.

rosa marshaled the courage to finally press harges and to follow through in cooperating with authorities.  because she lacked money and connections, she sought help here at JAMLAC.  we helped her obtain custody of her children and, eventually, permission to work in the unite states.  a government issued identification with her name and photograph–a simple plastic card–became the path to empowerment and self-sufficiency.

like many of our clients, rosa first walked through the door of JAMLAC beaten, broken and impoverished.  she had no control over her own life, and no idea how to change her situation.

here are some of the typical threats our clients report their abusers make:

“if you call the police, i’ll make sure you never see the kids again.”

“if you go to the hospital, i won’t file the necessary paperwork with the immigration authorities for you.”

“if you call the police, you will be arrested and deported.”

unfortunately, low-income women caught in this cycle of abuse and control generally do not have the knowledge or resources to break free.  at JAMLAC we provide help and hope to women like rosa, who are in abusive situations and poverty.

today, rosa is a beautiful and confident woman.  she is employed and creating a productive life for herself and her children.  we thank God for the opportunity we have to advocate for women and children as they move from being victims to being survivors–from being beaten to thriving.

*the client’s real name has been changed to protect her identity

as i re-read this letter, it gives me chills. i have had the privilege of meeting some of JAMLAC clients over the past few years and their stories of transformation are amazing.   in the work of the refuge i have seen what can happen when women get the care and support they need to break free from the cycle of abuse. it is glorious.

amazing things can happen when the poor & oppressed have a loving advocate.

JAMLAC is always understaffed, underfunded, and overworked.  the needs far outweigh the resources, and they do brilliant work on a shoestring.  they have developed beautiful partnerships with community agencies here in denver to work together on behalf of women.  if any of you are interested in supporting their work, they can always use the love.

at the same time, in every single city around the world there are advocates who are working on behalf of women.  they are running shelters, transitional housing programs, legal aid clinics, and empowerment programs for women.  faith-based or not, they are advocating for  God’s children & always need love & support.  there are so many ways we can encourage this kind of work on behalf of women–with resources, time, and heart.  i would love to see more and more of these agencies & ministries around the world be flooded with help!

i just wanted to share that today.  thank you JAMLAC for being beautiful advocates for women & children. you remind me of what’s important–restoring dignity where it’s been lost.