In September 2002 a small group of Christian lawyers decided to establish a legal clinic in Philadelphia where they could serve the urban poor for the love of God. With the help of many friends, Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia (CLCP) came into being.
Even before the doors first opened, we raised our effort in prayer. Over the years, we sought courage and comfort, cried out to the Lord for guidance, grieved our losses, and expressed gratitude for our victories. Our prayers spoke of faith in difficult times, sin, suffering, and redemption. Above all else, they knit us together as family, and reminded us all — legal professionals, law students, social workers, donors, pastors, prayer partners, clients, and ministry supporters alike — why our venture was started.
As CLCP enters its second decade, we still offer prayers in the hope these will continue to bless and strengthen us for the work to which God has called us…yet in the certainty it is not our own strength which undergirds this work, but His.
“And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations” (Is. 61: 4).
Drive through Philadelphia, and you will see firsthand that this is a broken and impoverished city. The gleaming towers of Center City give way to older neighborhoods whose residents are barely hanging on. Sagging roofs, collapsed porches, boarded windows in what were once stately Victorian homes, and potholed streets signal the change. Addicts shuffle by from time to time, staying close to brick walls in a vain search for warmth. Young men stare emptily into space, their lives draining slowly away.
Children are not born without hope, in Philadelphia or elsewhere. But hopelessness is something they learn all too quickly. Teen mothers whose youth is already gone pass the lesson on. Outings to Chuck E. Cheese or the zoo are indefinitely deferred for want of bus fare. The fridge holds nothing but a half empty can of soda, and a couple of shriveled pieces of pizza from the night before. School is a combat zone. One way or another, the point is made.
Every last one of these – man, woman, and child – was made in the image of the selfsame God that you and I were. We are not in any way superior material, more deserving than the rest. In fact, the burden is on those of us who know God to demonstrate His love to all.
That requires more from us than an envelope in the basket Sundays. Compassion is messy and inconvenient because that is the way life is. To restore this city or any city, to restore these lives, we must commit our own – our time, our talents, our hearts. That is what God is calling us to do. That is the very reason we are here.
May God give us strength for the task at hand. Philadelphia is waiting.
A Lawyer’s Prayers Copyright 2010 Anna Waldherr. All rights reserved.