Please Help Our Story Continue
A few months ago, nationally renowned law professor Mark Osler wrote an op-ed about our work and our story. Please check it out here: “An Act of Faith, Not a Promise of Wealth”. Affirming and humbling, Prof. Osler’s words share the heart and vision of Mission Waco Legal Services. Although the editorial focuses on our program’s Director, Kent McKeever, it truly is about so many more people that make this program possible. Please consider joining us in our efforts to seek love and justice with our community by becoming a donor. We cannot do this necessary work without your help. And this is your opportunity to be a part of something that you may not have any other chance to participate in. Donate here or contact us for other ways to get involved. Please make sure to designate your gift to Legal Services. Thank you for your support!
The First Year: Looking Back, Surging Ahead
For the last year, we at Mission Waco Legal Services have developed from scratch a legal services program that ministers to the poor and marginalized in the greater Waco community. Well over 150 individuals or families have been served by our program in some form or fashion. Specifically, 136 clients have received direct representation or other technical assistance concerning their legal affairs. And we now have the infrastructure and experience to expand our services to even more folks in need of advocacy and justice in our community.
As we have developed our program from nothing, we began to focus on three main areas of direct legal services: immigration, housing, and employment. These three areas represent major gaps in legal service provision in our community and also provide clients with the advocacy and tools necessary to overcome obstacles to self-sufficient and fulfilling lives. As we sharpened our focus on these three main areas of direct service, we continued to receive numerous phone calls and other requests for information and advice concerning other areas of the law. Thus, the needs in our community again led us to create another major component of our program, the First Monday Legal Clinic.
In the Clinic’s first two months, over 30 different attorneys, law students, and other volunteers have joined together to serve over 45 Clinic applicants. These low-income individuals and families have received thorough, understandable, and competent legal advice regarding legal issues such as family situations, housing problems, employment issues, wills and estate questions, and many other pressing concerns. Most of these folks have no other way to receive this solid legal advice, especially from attorneys providing affordable and compassionate services.
As we surge ahead, Mission Waco Legal Services will grow its impact on our community in service to those who have nowhere else to go. By providing increased direct legal services combined with social service case management, supportive legal advice, and empowering legal education, we will continue to join the broader Waco community in efforts to creatively solve social and communal problems that drastically affect each and every one of us.
Love and Justice
“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice,
and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last week, I thought a lot about Jesus’s trial before the legal authorities of his day – how Jesus’s life led to this encounter with the powers of this world. Here’s what I came up with: Jesus knew what it was like to be innocently caught up in the cogs of an unjust system. Jesus embraced the use of his power – the ultimate power of Life and Love – to willingly confront the powers of this world – the dominion of death – with the Power of another world – the Realm of Life Eternal and Abundant. Jesus died because God is a God of Justice, and Jesus ultimately reveals to us what these words truly mean. Justice at its best – where else do we see Justice at its best than in Jesus’s life – is power – and what greater Power is there than the Love of God in Jesus Christ – correcting everything – all the powers and principalities and the dominion of death – that stands against Love – creative, redemptive goodwill for all creation.
Will we follow this Jesus in sacrificial confrontation with injustice? How might we use the power we have – for we ALL have powers that are the gifts and graces of God – to overcome everything that stands against love, to pound our fists at death, and to wake our world up to the new morning of Light and Life and Love? At Mission Waco Legal Services, one case checklist, listening ear, explanation of the law, and legal service at a time, we will humbly attempt to follow Jesus and use what power we have to correct anything we can that stands against Love. Jesus shows us the way to follow him from wherever we are and with all that we are as we join together with God in God’s mission of love and justice! For “(We) know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12, and this knowledge and humble attempt to follow Jesus lies at the heart of who we are and what we will attempt to be here at Mission Waco Legal Services. Thank you in advance for your prayerful support!
Holistic Advocacy Project
I am very excited to announce that Mission Waco Legal Services has created a partnership with the Tarleton State University Social Work Program, housed locally at McLennan Community College, to combine legal services and case management to meet community needs. Through an innovative collaboration, this parternship will provide holistic advocacy for our community’s low-income and marginalized individuals and families. Our efforts will initially focus on the needs of immigrants in our community, but will also address needs in the areas of employment, housing, and education. Not only will we leverage resources to holistically address the legal and social needs of folks in our community, but the project will also provide a new and creative program to educate professional social workers likely to stick around post-graduation in service to Waco-McLennan County. It will also provide development of a stronger model to address the holistic needs of the poor and marginalized.
All in all, the Holistic Advocacy Project aims to faithfully meet the needs of low-income and marginalized families living in the Waco-McLennan County area, especially immigrant children and families, by helping to provide legal services and case management that serve to remove legal and social barriers to a healthy living environment, productivity, and self-sustainability. Please let us know if you would like more information on how you can get involved and support this exciting new project.
Education, Engagement, Empowerment
Close to 85% of McLennnan County households are not being adequately served by the justice system. 85%! It seems overwhelming, and it is in many ways, but it is not a situation without solutions when our community comes together to provide problem-solving collaborative efforts to confront and overcome. Thus, together with the support and help of Baylor Law School, local lawyers and other community members, Waco ISD, and other community-based organizations, in the next month or two we will offer our first Legal Advice Clinic, and we are developing plans for community-based Legal Education Programs that will be offered through Waco ISD programs and other community-based organizations. The underlying principle of these programs is that an educated citizen is an empowered citizen and an empowered citizen is an engaged citizen.
Knowing and understanding our rights and responsibilities before the law will allow for our entire community to more fully seek justice and work together so that all people in our community have access to the legal system. Low and moderate income individuals and families need access to attorneys (who they normally can’t afford) who will provide competent and efficient legal advice and counsel, sometimes leading to further representation and sometimes finding success through coaching an individual to take care of matters him/herself. Either way, the Legal Advice Clinic and Legal Education Programs are crucial pieces of a solution to the overwhelming problem of lack of access to the justice system that plagues our low and moderate income households. Let us know if you want to get involved — We need all of you, not just “experts in the law”!