RILA and Matthew 25

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The Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) team is excited to announce that RILA has received a $25,000 matching grant from the Matthew 25 Initiative. This initiative started with a vision from Archbishop Foley Beach and his desire to use a generous grant from an anonymous donor to help churches reach the poor and needy in their communities.

These granted funds will enable RILA to hire a part-time Program Manager to expand and solidify the work already being done. It will also provide a small stipend to RILA’s Intake Coordinator.

Currently, RILA is serving over 50 immigrant families, most of whom are seeking asylum. This is hard work, requiring patience, perseverance, and dedication.  In each case, the RILA team invests time to build relationships with our clients and their families, many of whom have stories of trauma that led to their being here in the United States. In fact, many immigrant families that RILA represents fled their home countries within days or weeks of having their lives – or their children’s lives – threatened. In some cases, they had already been harmed and were  forced to leave to avoid being harmed further.

A handful of RILA clients are children who journeyed to the United States alone, fleeing imminent violence in their neighborhoods.  The RILA team is committed to walking alongside immigrant families and advocating on their behalf.  Though the stories we hear are heartbreaking, RILA has begun to see some successes.  However, we also believe we are successful as we listen well to our client’s stories and show compassion, in the name and way of Jesus.

We are SO thankful for the large and diverse group of volunteers at Restoration that enable this work to be done. We are continually humbled and inspired by our volunteers’ hard work and willing hearts.  Working together as the church to accomplish the enormous task of running a neighborhood immigration legal aid clinic is such a joy for all of us.  From praying to note taking to providing hospitality and translation, each RILA case is surely a team effort, demonstrating the body of Christ serving Restoration’s neighbors in need.

Support RILA here to help us meet our match!

If you are interested in learning more about RILA or getting involved, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are specifically looking for volunteers with fundraising experience, as the Matthew 25 initiative grant is a matching one. But translators, attorneys, researchers and general clinic volunteers are always welcome! Our holistic vision is to join God in the renewal of all things and to witness the transformative power of loving and serving our neighbors through giving immigration legal aid to the immigrant families in our neighborhoods. We’d love to have you join us on this journey!

You can learn more about the clinic here.

With thanks from the RILA team.

 

Some ideas to walk alongside refugees

Refugee MapWondering how to respond to the national conversation about refugees?  Here are some thoughts and ideas to motivate your prayer and action.

We are compelled to love our neighbor.  Jesus assumed that His followers would.

We are convicted by the clear teaching of the Bible.  Here is a small sample of the 51 mentions of the ‘sojourner’ (what we would call a refugee or immigrant) which consistently caution against oppression and encourage justice and compassion.

  • Exodus 22:21    “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
  • Deuteronomy 10:18  “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt”.
  • Deuteronomy 27:19    “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
  • Zecheriah 7:10 “…do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

We are grateful for organizations like World Relief which has served the vulnerable and marginalized for over 70 years and is sounding the clarion call to serve the refugee and immigrant in our midst.

We are grateful for a united shout from Christian leaders for the current administration to reconsider it’s proposed reduction on refugee resettlement.  All of Restoration’s clergy signed this excellent letter last week.

We know that there is more that we can do to serve those who are most in danger of being lost or forgotten.  As opportunities come, we will invite you to come with us… because we must, because Jesus was a refugee who had to hide in a foreign land when His life was in danger (Matthew 2:13-23);  because God our Father told us to welcome the stranger;  because we should assume that fear, racism, and greed are always at work in our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) and they get rooted out by deliberate choice to say no to them;  because we are called to love people, to serve and not be served (Mark 10:45), to lay down our lives for our friends (John 15:13).  

Here are the opportunities this week:

  1.  Wednesday, Feb 15 at 12:15pm at Restoration:  45 minutes Mid-Week Eucharist with a short homily by Amy Rowe showing us God’s heart for the refugee.
  2. Wednesday, Feb 15 at 7:30pm at The Falls Church Anglican:  “In response to all the chaos and angst over the travel ban, we are having a prayer night.  We will spend time in confession, repentance and prayer for the church, the nation and for refugees and immigrants – all are welcome!”
  3. Sunday, Feb 19 after the 11am service at Restoration:  “Two West Asia church leaders will be sharing with Restoration about what God is doing among Syrian refugees in the Middle East.  Pastor R. serves a West Asian church in the ‘city between the continents.’  He is the head of the mercy ministry arm of an alliance of West Asian churches.  Pastor D. is a leader with the Samaritan Purse branch in West Asia and is also the director of First Hope Association.  FHA is the first West Asian Christian non-profit organization in West Asia that focuses solely on Syrian refugee ministry in the Middle East.”  Come have lunch and hear their story.
  4. Read.  Listen.  Ask Questions.  Did you hear the podcast on This American Life?  Did you read the text from David Griffin’s homily at our Mid-Week Eucharist a few weeks ago?  Have you read this article in the New Yorker about immigrants?  What has been helpful to you as you sort through your own response to what is happening in our country?
  5. Did you know that the volunteers at RiLA [Restoration Immigration Legal Aid] have focused their work on displaced persons who are seeking political asylum in the United States because of the threat of violence in their home country?  If you have found yourself outraged, sentimental, or confused about events in our country in the last few weeks and if you have wondered, “what can I do?”  The easiest and closest place to start is the first floor of Restoration Anglican Church on Wednesday, February 22 at 6pm.  We have dozens of people of all ages who come to our church hoping that our RiLA team can help them legally find a way to stay in our country.  There are opportunities for you to serve our guests–  to play with their kids, to translate (looking for Spanish speakers), to say, “Welcome!”, to serve snacks, to pray.  If you are feeling a desire to do something, come do something with RiLA.  If you are willing, we have a way you can serve, just ask.

So that’s this week.

I am sure more opportunities will emerge as we faithfully make ourselves available to God for the work He is doing.  I invite you to jump in with us.

-David

RILA: just doing something…

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RILA has been holding monthly immigration legal aid clinics since March of this year. It has been our privilege to work with immigrant families in our neighborhood, to hear their stories, and advocate on their behalf.  We have been amazed at the passion, talents and commitment of the many volunteers from our congregation.

The people of Restoration make RILA possible!

Over the past several months, we have narrowed our focus to assisting immigrant families in applying for asylum, and, specifically, families who live in our neighborhoods.  Oftentimes, families seeking asylum are not able to secure affordable legal counsel because there are not enough non-profit organizations to meet the need, and private attorneys are prohibitively expensive.

Through a connection with Arlington Public Schools, we became aware of a student at a neighborhood school who needed help to file an application for asylum.  He is a teenager, who fled his home country in Central America due to a profound amount of violence in his city.  His home country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, outside of a war zone.

By the time we were aware of the student’s situation, there were only seven days before his deadline to file his application.  Because we want to prioritize helping those who have little to no resources, are a member of a vulnerable population, and live in our neighborhoods; we chose to take his case.

We worked with one of the assistant principals at his school, and the student, to complete and file his application for asylum in time.  It was a team effort!  We completed a task that normally takes a few months, in a few days.  This is just the first step in a long and often complicated process.  However, it is a critical step in giving this student the best possible chance at being granted asylum.

Later, the assistant principal we worked with sent us a note to say “thanks.”  She also said,

As I’ve worked with this population [of immigrant families] for almost 15 years now, I constantly meet folks who say, ‘I really wish there was something I could do.’  Yesterday I saw what happens when people just start doing something, and it was amazing.

This is the heart of RILA, which is rooted in the heart of the Gospel.  This is loving God with our whole hearts and loving our (immigrant) neighbors as ourselves.

~ Natalie Foote
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Liz adds: Would you like to get involved with RILA? There is always room for more volunteers! Reach out to Natalie, Michelle, Jason or me and we can get you connected (firstname@restorationarlington.org). No specific skills required, though attorneys, translators and people who can make coffee and smile are all particularly welcome! 
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