Halfway through trial today, I sat at lunch astounded yet again. Fidgeting with a wrapper on the table, I was trying to make some small talk as we waited for the food to arrive, wondering why I even ordered. Although starving, I didn't have much of an appetite. I had been there interpreting since the first time the attorney visited our incarcerated client. After a year and a half of this case, the day of trial seemed surreal.
When by the end of the day you find out whether you walk free or spend the next 10 years in jail, one might expect for the client to be at a loss of words too.
Being accused of a serious crime in a country where you don't have family and don't speak the language could be really frustrating. And it was.
Spending one year in jail for a crime that there is no evidence you committed could be really frustrating. And it was.
Getting out of jail to find out that you lost your house and your vehicle was stolen along with thousands of dollars of work tools could be really frustrating. And it was.
Waiting over a year and a half for your case to go to trial could be really frustrating. And it was.
My client spent that time getting to know the Lord as his refuge and strength. He was so excited to hear that Paul, who wrote most of what we know about Jesus through many books in the New Testament, was imprisoned too!
And my client was at no loss for words. All he could talk about during lunch was how good God is. All he could do was testify to God's grace. About how when he got out of jail, a pastor he didn't know very well opened up his home for him to stay there. About how the next day someone from the church gave him a cell phone. About how 2 days after he got out of jail somebody gave him $500. About how 4 days after he got out of jail he got a job. About how 10 days after he got out of jail somebody paid the down payment for him to get a new truck. About how just 4 months after he got out of jail he had already paid off then the truck and is renting a small place of his own. About how he had already seen what God could do so he had no reason not to trust God with today and each future day.
There I sat, nervous, trying not to let it show, and this man, whose next 10 years are at stake today, was showing me Philippians 4:6-7 first hand! Day in and day out my clients teach me what it means to let go and let God. They teach me what it means to courageously take steps to change the things you can. They teach me to let go of the things you cannot control.
They teach me.â€¨ They teach.â€¨ They.
Since November I have been looking for a word to replace "client." One that reflects solidarity instead of transaction. Tonight after the trial my client taught me once again. He approached me and he said "Hermana!" which means "Sister!" And it clicked. Exactly what I've been looking for. It may seem so obvious for us church folk, but you know how sometimes the easiest things to miss are in plain sight? Duh! My clients are my sisters and my brothers.
The two sweetest words you can hear in the world of public defense were spoken tonight: NOT GUILTY.
My brother. Not guilty.
God restores. My brother is preaching soon at his church. I cannot help but think of how he has faithfully agonized and lived out each piece of Psalm 142:6-8: “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Psalm 142:6-8
My prison.â€¨ What prison do I need to be set free from?â€¨ What prison do you need to be set free from?â€¨ What prison do we need to be set free from? â€¨I can think of a few.
Many people look down on prisoners. â€¨Many people look down on immigrants.â€¨Jesus was both.
Injustice: In this country, prisons have become a lucrative business. You can even buy stock in the prison industrial complex.
Injustice: We imprison more people per capita than any country in the world. We are the prison capital of the world. And those being impacted? Overwhelmingly disproportionately poor people of color.
Injustice: In New Orleans our DA office is funded at six times our defense. The defense represents 85|PERCENT| accused of crimes. Those numbers don't add up. The fight is hella rigged.
It is called a criminal justice system. Not a criminal INjustice system. We need restorative, healing changes. I'm so blessed to get to work with individuals who uphold the cause of the oppressed (Psalm 146:7). I couldn't be prouder to be OPD!!! And I couldn't be more thankful for how this work, my colleagues and my clients – oops scratch that – my brothers and sisters – daily point me to Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.