Extending Justice & Mercy to Markham

CGLA“David leaves his home in Harvey, IL at 6:30AM. He walks to a Metra Station, transfers to the Blue Line, and gets off at the Daley Center at 8AM. When he finally steps off the elevator and turns the corner, his heart skips a beat. He’s one of the first twenty-five people in line this time!  Last time he didn’t get here early enough and left empty handed.  He prays that he qualifies for help. He has done everything else he needed to do. He stayed out of trouble. He enrolled in job training. He even had a great job offer in hand only to have it rescinded after a background check came up positive.

Except for 30 miles he had to travel, “David” is a typical person we serve at our Expungement Help Desk at the Daley Center.  He is an African American male between thirty and fifty years of age. His last arrest was nearly 10 years ago, and his last conviction is older than that. He is unemployed but looking hard. It is a huge relief when David learns that, like 33% of the people in line each day, he is eligible to clear his entire record.  If a judge signs the petition that CGLA helps him to file, he’ll be able to get a job and provide for himself and his family.

“David” is one of the 4,000 people who visited the Daley Center and met with a CGLA attorney this year. He is also one of the 250 who traveled from the southern suburbs to receive that help. Soon the need for that trek will be gone. On September 5th CGLA will be launching the 6th District Expungement Help Desk in Markham.

Daley Center Chicago“David” is one of 4,000 we served. He is also one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record. More than one in four Americans have been arrested for a crime. Each of them, regardless of whether they were charged, let alone convicted, has a permanent criminal record that will serve as a barrier to employment, housing, and educational opportunities for as long as that record remains public.

Illinois law allows people like David, whose crimes were minor and long ago, to ask a judge to clear their record, removing the barrier. CGLA’s role in Chicago has been to ensure the legal process is accessible and efficient. We help people to escape the cycle of opportunities lost and potential squandered.

Our impact in Chicago has caught the attention of judges in the suburban districts of Cook County. Recently, Judge Marjorie Laws, the Presiding Judge of the Sixth District, invited CGLA to open an Expungement Desk in her courthouse in Markham. Thanks to the generosity of CGLA’s donors, the 6th District Expungement Desk in Markham will launch on September 5th.

This is the first time that CGLA has provided a formal service offering outside the city limits of Chicago. That said, CGLA, as the statewide leader in clearing criminal records, is uniquely positioned to meet this need. There’s precedent for expansion as well. CGLA has a long history of following the population we serve. In 1973, we served exclusively residents of Cabrini Green. In the mid 90’s, when the city began tearing down the projects and dispersing residents, we followed our population out into the rest of Chicago. On September 5th, 2012, CGLA will follow the need once again, this time into southern Cook County.

Wiconi International & REACH Ministries-God at Work in the Pacific Northwest!

In July, I traveled to the Pacific Northwest in order to speak at two fundraisers for ministries to which EAPE is deeply committed. While there I heard two moving testimonies that I want to share with you.

In Portland, Oregon we are affiliated with Wiconi International, an organization founded by our friend, Richard Twiss, a Native American from the Sicangu Lakota/Sioux tribe. This ministry not only has an extensive array of activities that communicate the gospel through the ceremonies, music, dances and other cultural expressions of Native people, but also serves along with other indigenous people in similar pursuits worldwide, such as the Maori people of New Zealand and the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Canya is a Native Hawaiian woman who explained how she was ashamed of being part of a people that had been conquered and “Christianized” and whose land was “annexed” or taken by the Americans. She talked about how she had tried to become Christian in the ways that Euro-American missionaries offered, but that she always felt inferior and an outsider in the “white” Church. Through Wiconi International Canya came to know both Christ and herself in new ways. She discovered that “Christ was not an American,” but identifies with every tribe and nation in the world, and that she didn’t have to become what she was not (an Anglo), but could affirm her Hawaiian ethnic identity and be herself. Today Canya worships with her native Hawaiian culture and fellow Hawaiian/Polynesian believers who worship God in the native tongue, music and hula dances of their people in expressing their love for Christ.

From Portland, Oregon I traveled up to Tacoma, Washington where I spoke for REACH Ministries, which EAPE has supported since 2001. REACH started out providing summer camp experiences and mentoring for boys and girls who were infected with HIV and other children and teenagers who had AIDS. This ministry now has expanded its outreach to include troubled teenagers who are in the foster-care system.

Sammy is a young adult who was born HIV-positive and has suffered from the complications of AIDS. She came to REACH as a little girl and grew up participating in REACH programs for more than 15 years. You would have been moved to tears had you heard her testimony. With God’s help she has been able to battle against fears and rejections that came her way from classmates at school and from those who live in her neighborhood. She is quick to acknowledge that it has been through REACH that she gained the spiritual empowerment to be “more than a conqueror” over the prejudices that could have destroyed her. Her story is one of triumph, and REACH mentors have been beside her, providing strength and a support system for many years. Her dream is to be an inspirational speaker, and indeed, she was, inspirational!

When you give to EAPE, you help to sustain the programs we founded years ago and create new ministries, such as Connect Leadership Ministries in Toronto, Canada that I mentioned in last month’s newsletter. You also support ministries – such as REACH and Wiconi International – that desperately need help in order to carry out the work God has given them. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for partnering with us in ministry, but I must tell you that we have a lot more to do and we need your ongoing help to do it! So please – continue your support.

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