Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is a DHD favorite. Her stories are unique and inspiring. I recently wrote a DHD that offered my six favorite articles written by Zylstra. The one she wrote this week could replace a story on that list.
In “Saturday Justice: How Church-Based Legal Aid is Growing,” Zylstra made me aware of a unique kind of ministry, and the development and the results of this ministry-led legal-aid clinic are astounding. This story almost reads like a movie script that would feature George Bailey, Atticus Finch and Father Flanagan.
So with that, here’s six takeaways I have from reading “Saturday Justice.”
- Bruce Strom’s inspiring story
Bruce Strom is the founding lawyer of Administer Justice. Similar to other rising attorneys, Strom started his own firm and thought his role in regards to ministry was to be a financial supporter—sitting down every six months and writing checks to different ministries asking for support.
Then he and his wife Helen struggled with not having children. After a season of struggles, questioning God and pleading prayers, the Stroms were blessed with twin boys. The story quotes Tim Keller who said, suffering “will not leave you as you were.” This defines the turning point in Strom’s life.
He starts Administer Justice and experiences a long journey while offering legal aid to many and sharing the love of Christ.
- Supportive volunteers
It’s been said that the model Christian life involves having a Paul, a Barnabus and a Timothy—a teacher/discipler, an encourager and a disciple. Every Christian needs a mentor, an encourager and someone to disciple.
I’ll get to who I believe represents those role in Strom’s life, but there’s an additional group to mention who are very important.
Administer Justice works effectively and successfully due to following, what Strom describes, the model of a “Baptist congregation.” This legal-aid clinic incorporates volunteers who greet, pray and offer support to those who need legal help.
I love this implementation of what Strom learned from being in church. It’s a challenge for churches today to be this welcoming and supportive of those who come to their church buildings, not inquiring legal help but needing spiritual guidance and encouragement.
- John Robb the mentor
John Robb has a small section in this story, but I loved reading it. When I looked at his picture, Robb reminded me of Lurch from the Addams Family, but it’s apparent he had a giant impact on Strom and his ministry.
Robb’s testimony reminded me of my dad’s, as he made a profession of faith in Christ when he was 40. God used Robb, a much older lawyer, to influence Strom to ask his pastor about offering legal-aid clinics at the church. That was the spark that started the fire.
- Penny Rens the disciple
“When I first met Bruce, I was a wreck,” Penny Rens said. “I was completely overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I could barely breathe. Unlike the other attorneys I’d met in the past, Bruce listened with compassion and understanding. I can’t tell you the difference that made.”
Rens isn’t another attorney, but she became Strom’s first employee. She is a prime example of Administer Justice’s effectiveness–receiving legal help while also getting involved in church.
- Tempia Courts the encourager
Tempia Courts is an attorney, and I loved reading her perspective of dealing with clients.
“Clients often come in a way that’s hesitant,” said Courts, who has volunteered with Administer Justice since 2016. “They’re cautious because in some cases they’ve tried to get help and been turned down, or they’ve been searching for a way and can’t find it. Their posture is a little bowed; their shoulders slumped; their voice is a little low; they are not looking you directly in the eye.”
After they meet with Administer Justice attorneys like Courts, their countenance changes. “They’re sitting up straight,” she said. “You can hear the change in their voice. Their eyes are up. They’re feeling more encouraged.”
This comment from Courts reminded me of Barnabus. Like the faithful disciple, she offers encouragement to those who need it, especially when they may not expect it.
- The impact
There is so much more to take from Zylstra’s article. As always, she finds stories of Christians, churches and ministries happening today that are inspiring. This one ranks among her best.
Check out Strom’s fundraising model for Administer Justice, as well as the model for how lawyers operate with the clinic.
One of my favorite statements in the story is “God’s will doesn’t usually come with step-by-step instructions.”
Administer Justice now has 58 locations and have helped more than 72,000 people, many of whom are now serving faithfully in churches.