The Joy of Serving with RILA

By Jan Haugen

Sometimes all the chatter, bluster and noise of the news and current events can wear me down.  And so about a year ago, I stepped away from my daily scrolling of social media and news alerts, and began looking for a place where I could lean into love, connect with tangible kindness and do the work of loving my neighbor in community with other people who love Jesus…..and I was thrilled to find RILA!

My volunteer role at RILA has been note taking at our clinics.  I sit in on our client interviews and hear stories of bravery amidst pain, of sacrifice and travail while clinging to hope.  My heart has been touched. Many nights after a clinic, I’ll sit in my car before heading home and weep. And when my breathing slows down and I can think straight again, I have opened my heart to my God, the maker of the universe and lover of my soul, and pleaded for His goodness and presence to cover me and cover our clients and bring success and victory to the lawyers, advocates and all who work at RILA.

So, yes, working at RILA has exposed my heart to pain and brokenness, but it has also opened my eyes to see the small and big kindnesses that ripple into our world because of the work of RILA.  I witness the goodness of small groups from Restoration Anglican Church hosting dinner for our clients – just the sweet and simple ministry of bringing good food and caring for others by sharing a meal can make such a difference!  And I’ve seen how some other local churches have now started providing meals – such kindness and love! I witness volunteers entertaining the children of clients during clinic so parents can share hard parts of their story without worrying that their child will hear the retelling of their family’s trauma.  I witness volunteers who speak multiple languages give of their time to translate at clinics – they enter the soft, vulnerable space where humans express themselves in language and hear the details and nuance of our clients’ painful stories and then say it all over again to our interviewers and lawyers. I witness our volunteer organizers and greeters who show up to make our clinics run smoothly and by doing so express respect and dignity to our clients.

Just last week, RILA asked me last minute to help with a transportation need.  Columbia Baptist Church had provided complimentary credits for RILA’s pregnant clients at its annual children’s clothing swap (yet again, I was witness to MORE wonderful people doing mundane and magnificent work!).  These ladies needed rides to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. I had space in my day and so I said yes – and was exposed, yet again, to more joy!  

I drove a client, who was in the last weeks of pregnancy, and her 3-year-old daughter. Our trip was over an hour each way, and neither of us spoke each other’s language!  I’m a chatter, and so three hours in a silent car felt challenging, but I was game and settled in for a long, quiet ride. For a while, I observed the tender, easy parent-child chitchat between my two passengers, and then the sweet, tired mamma fell asleep.  I decided to try playing kids’ songs in Spanish and was delighted when the 3-year-old began singing along immediately! The songs were happy and peppy, and my heart was bursting at the cuteness of this little girl singing. I couldn’t get the smile off my face when she started singing Frozen’s “Let It Go” in Spanish – just belting out as loud as she could with dramatic hand motions.  Such JOY!

This was a holy moment for me.  I was in the presence of two people who I didn’t know and I couldn’t communicate with, and I felt like I was in the company of angels –  or even Jesus himself.  

Emily Williams