A RILA Volunteer Comes Full Circle


Ana, a regular Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) volunteer, can’t say enough about the difference that RILA volunteers make in clients’ lives:  “People listen.  They will commit to you to the end, no matter what….RILA is so valuable.”

As a volunteer interpreter and translator, Ana has been a witness to this commitment.  As a former client of RILA, she has also been on the receiving end.

Ana’s introduction to RILA came almost two years ago, at a desperate point in her life.  She was a victim of a cruel deception that brought her to this country and led to near captivity.  Ana, along with her daughter,  experienced isolation and deprivation in their first two and a half years in the US.  During this time, she sought the assistance of private and nonprofit attorneys, but they claimed her case was hopeless – or would be prohibitively expensive to pursue.  Eventually, her circumstances led to hospitalization, and her daughter was placed in foster care.   Ana describes this time as “terrible,” but she knew her daughter was safe and that this could be a turning point for them both.  Upon release from the hospital, she found work first as a cleaner and then as a teaching assistant.  At the same time, she learned of Restoration Immigration Legal Aid through her daughter’s foster parents. 

She was thrilled that RILA was willing to take her case—and at no charge.  She explained that RILA helped her secure a work permit and prepared her expansive, well-supported application for a visa.  Throughout the one-year process, Ana marveled at how much the RILA staff were willing to help her.  There was great celebration when Ana’s visa was approved – the first success for RILA and, more importantly, a chance for a new start for Ana.

One year later, Ana, who is a physician in her home country, works at the Virginia Hospital Center as a technician.  She makes time to stop by Restoration during RILA office hours to help translate documents.  She and her daughter are also regular volunteers at RILA clinics.  Ana’s own life experiences allow her to empathize and advocate for clients during the clinic sessions.  It gives her great satisfaction to help in this way.   She notes, “You won’t find another group like RILA.”

Ana explains that when she was persuaded to come to this country, she was seeking the “American dream.”  Having overcome much and received the gift of freedom, she now understands the American dream in an entirely new way.

If you would like to volunteer with RILA or be part of a new prayer team, please email Kate.

RILA and Matthew 25


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.


Meet the RILA Team!



What a team! Sadly Michelle was missing when we took this…

We all know that our church is full of some amazing people offering their time, treasure and talent many times over.

But do you know who is behind the launch of our very own Restoration Immigration Legal Aid Clinic (RILA)?

Check these folks out – and come on Tuesday February 16th at 7:30pm to learn more.

Jason Braun is the volunteer attorney who will provide legal oversight for our clinic. He has experience in family and immigration law. To prepare for this role with RILA he has been taking Continuing Legal Education classes in specific areas of immigration law and volunteering with various local legal aid clinics. He and his family have attended Restoration since 2011 and usually attend the 9am service.

Natalie Foote is a licensed clinical social worker who has completed an Overview of Immigration Law course through CLINIC (one of our partners!) She has training in asylum law as well. She also volunteers at local legal aid clinics. Natalie and her family have attended Restoration since January 2015 and usually attend the 5pm service.

Michelle Swearingen has a Master’s degree in Public Policy with a certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies, which included coursework on Refugee Law and Policy.  She is currently taking the Overview of Immigration Law course through CLINIC. Michelle and her family have attended Restoration since 2014 and usually attend the 9am service.

Aiding these three masterminds are Liz Gray (Associate Rector for Prayer and Outreach), Erin Owen (Interpreter), Susie Wallin (Committee Chair) and Christine Jones (Vestry Liaison).

Now that you know the team, come and join us in the Fellowship Hall and learn about the clinic at the Legal Aid Introduction Night Tuesday February 16th at 7:30pm. We look forward to meeting YOU!

Why Immigration Legal Aid?

So, maybe you have heard that Restoration is starting a Legal Aid Ministry this Spring.  Why legal aid when there are so many other issues out there?

We are choosing to serve in this way because God invites us, throughout Scripture, to love, show compassion and mercy, and to do justice. Why are there dozens of Scriptures in which God tells us to love and care for those who are far from their homes? We believe that the unique experience of the immigrant and the migrant moves God and He hears, sees and responds. God is inviting us to do the same – to hear, see and respond.

Addressing the legal and practical needs of immigrants is one way we can join God in these things. Our human experience is necessarily connected to that of immigrants. We are all longing for a home and have been ourselves welcomed by God into His house, the Kingdom of Heaven. We are choosing to join God in caring for those who are far from home, welcoming them into this country and inviting them into the Kingdom of Heaven.

There is also a present and real need for honest, inexpensive legal services in our area.  We are the Church, reflecting to the world who God is and what God is like.

And when we pour ourselves out for others, sourced by the living water that is poured into us, we bring the light and reality of God’s Kingdom into our own hearts and into the world.

And if you want to hear why other churches are serving the immigrant, check out this presentation at Willow Creek Community Church where Bill Hybels interviews author Matt Soerens on the issue of immigration from a biblical perspective.  Bill’s introduction (the first 10 minutes) is very helpful if you don’t have time for the entire 60 minutes presentation.

~Christine Jones on behalf of the RILA Team (Christine Jones, Natalie Foote, Jason Braun, Liz Gray, Erin Owen, Susie Wallin, Michelle Swearingen and more!)

And RILA has an email: ila@restorationarlington.org  feel free to get in touch!

RILA? Soooo – what exactly is that?




Question: What is RILA??

Answer: Restoration Immigration Legal Aid, a ministry being launched by Restoration in March 2016.

RILA’s mission is to holistically support the immigrant community in our neighborhood through providing low-cost immigration legal assistance, advocacy, and community building events.

RILA’s objectives include:

  • Creating a hospitable, comfortable and safe environment.
  • Providing immigration legal services, including consultation and initial assessment, and legal representation in areas of immigration law in which we choose to focus.
  • Providing appropriate referrals for legal services that exceed the scope of the services we offer.

For over six months, a dedicated team has been working to make an immigration legal aid clinic at Restoration a reality. And the clinic’s doors open in March! On February 16th we will share in detail the vision, plans, and ways you can get involved. You’ll meet the team, learn about our community partners and learn about why Restoration has chosen to launch this ministry.

If you have any questions, Nat Foote or Jason Braun can answer them.   But we encourage you to come to the Fellowship Hall, 7.30pm on February 16th.

~Christine Jones on behalf of the RILA Team (Christine Jones, Natalie Foote, Jason Braun, Liz Gray, Erin Owen, Susie Wallin, Michelle Swearingen and more!)


Christmas giving….


And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

Every Christmas Eve we love to give ALL the offering away to a local charity – or not-for-profit –  a group or groups that are doing things we are passionate about as a community.

Over the course of this year we have been gradually getting our ducks in a row for launching an immigration legal aid centre here at Restoration in 2016. We are inching closer… 

BUT – one thing we have learned through all our research is that work of this kind is complicated and needs lots of solid backup! Two organizations locally have been enormously helpful to us as we have researched and thought, and our admiration for the work they do is vast.

We plan to partner with both of them in 2016: Good Samaritan Advocates (GSA), and Catholic Immigration Legal Network, Incorporated (CLINIC).  GSA is a local organization that provides general legal services pro bono, or at a reduced rate.  Partnering with churches to provide access to legal services and counsel is central to GSA’s mission.  CLINIC is a national organization that works exclusively in immigration law by providing low-cost immigration law services, as well as supporting immigration law programs.  By partnering with CLINIC, we will receive direct supervision from experienced immigration attorneys, as well as access to immigration law resources.

So this Christmas Eve we’re going to ask you to dig deep as we give to CLINIC and Good Samaritan Advocates. They will be continuing to help us – and supervise all we do in 2016 – so we would love to bless them liberally up front!

To hear more details about what we are up to put 7.30pm – 9pm Feb 16, 2016 on your calendar NOW. We are having an info night in the fellowship hall for all who want to hear more about this; GSA people will be there, our team will be there, all potential volunteers (does that include you?) should be there….

More info: Restoration Immigration Legal Aid  or ask Natalie Foote, Jason Braun, Michelle Swearingen, Susie Wallin, Erin Owen, Christine Jones or  Liz Gray to fill you in.

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