the beauty of an advocate

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

14 Comments

  • Jose, Steve and all the people at jamlac and Joshua station have been and are changing lives. Kudos to them all!!!

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  • Beauty… Oh, this just makes my heart beat faster. Thank you, JAMLAC…

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  • As I read this I thought “we need a ministry like this in Finland too!” I wish those God has called for this, would respond. It’s just that here the state takes care of so much, or people think it does, so they leave it for the state social workers rather than getting involved. Or they just don’t want to get messy. We ignore that problems like this exist. I think we could still use with something like this in here too, or something with much more visibility and substantiality!

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    • thanks mimosa, yeah, that’s a good example where we can “leave it the professionals” instead of being part of restoring dignity in a tangible way. i’d love to hear more about what the agencies are like there.

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  • Oh Rosa’s story is *such* an important and powerful one. I think that it is significant to note too, that one of Rosa’s very first advocates was her neighbor, who helped her summon the courage to do some of that even harder work later. Sometimes I think that it is hard for some to even realize that they are in desperate need of help, on all different levels of the spectrum. Those advocates have such an important and tough job, in gently challenging the awareness for healing. Thank you for being that for me. 🙂 I so love hearing about people who all contribute to the process of restoring dignity, so that people find their voices in beautiful places like JAMLAC. Truly incredible.

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    • i am so glad you brought this up–her neighbor who took time and cared and stopped and was her advocate, her voice when she didn’t have one–what a lifechanger & an example for all of us in different ways.

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  • Kathy, I bookmarked JAMLAC’s site. They’re doing such important work. To us, this looks and smells so much like Jesus. Why does so much of the church throw their attention, time and money into maintaining an institution and have so little left for groups like JAMLAC? Thank you to Jose for taking his time to go to law school so he could provide free services for these women.

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    • sam, yes, they are awesome. i love those words “this looks and smells so much like Jesus.” that imagery is gorgeous. and yes, the money that could help perpetuate this ministry that gets spent on high def TV screens is hard for me. i am glad for denver university, too, which offers scholarships to people who are willing to work for social justice issues in all kinds of ways–on behalf of women, children, the poor, the environment, etc. across the globe.

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  • full disclosure: i have been steve thompsons brother in law for 30 years- and he is like a brother in law to me.
    not really, he is way better than that, and he truly lives out his passion for justice. what might come as a surprise in this world of superstars, that although steve founded a ministry that sees 300+ clients a year he is without doubt the most humble man i know. i admire, love and respect him and value his friendship at the highest level.

    no doubt, if only a few folks were like steve and jose, the world would change.

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    • we are so glad we knew you, so then jose could know steve. what a beautiful gift in all kinds of ways. yeah, with more and more steve and jose’s, the world really would change.

      Reply

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