Editor’s note: Casa Chirilagua is a Christian not-for-profit outreach that seeks to develop relationships with families Chirilagua, a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. This post originally appeared on their website. Permission was given by the moderator to repost.
“Miss Sarah, what does justice mean?”
Cristóbal, a rising sixth grader, asked this question of one of our summer interns after reading and acting out the story of Jack and the Beanstalk during their tutoring session. Ironically, he had asked the very question that our interns had come to explore.
For the past four years, Casa Chirilagua has accepted college interns for the summer from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, an on-campus ministry that seeks to disciple students in the midst of their college years. The summer internship program goes by the name Bridge DC, but it mostly looks like this: College kids meandering around the neighborhood looking lost for two weeks, followed by two weeks of the same college kids meandering around the neighborhood getting swarmed by kids who have grown to love them.
These students come to explore what the gospel has to do with life on this earth, and particularly what Jesus’ words and life say about how to address justice in our society. During the seven weeks of the program, we invite them to experience how Casa Chirilagua has answered God’s call to seek justice.
This summer, our interns lived in the same apartment buildings that our Kids Club students inhabit. They survived on thirty dollars a week. They shared their lives together. They went house to house in the neighborhood for reading lessons with the kids four days a week.
Sarah answered Cristóbal’s question by explaining that “justice is when you treat people according to who they are so that everyone has an equal chance at good things. It’s about balance, even though sometimes it does not seem fair.”
Cristóbal seemed confused by this answer. We illustrated by saying that in a game, for example, we treat younger and smaller kids differently than older kids, so that both stay safe and still get a chance to play the game.
“Oh, because if you push the little one he’ll fall, but the older one will be okay,” he said, seeming to understand.
“Exactly,” she said, “so that even though they’re being treated differently, and so it’s not ‘fair,’ it’s justice so that each of them get an equal chance at having fun.”
Cristóbal paused for a moment, then nodded. “I think I get it.”
Each year, the summer passes quickly, but the mark that the Bridge-DC program leaves on both the interns and our students lingers. Our kids’ reading ability improves, giving them a much needed boost for the fall. Our interns return to their Colleges and Universities having walked a mile in the shoes of our families.
As a staff, we closed this summer of reading intervention and Bridge-DC smelling the scent of justice as Cristóbal learned about it in the air. For more than anything, the summer partnership takes people out of their normal routine and brings them together. Through this yearly collision, God can treat our families and our interns according to who they are, so that everyone has a better chance at a very good thing: seeing a piece of His kingdom on earth.
Elizabeth Moraff works as an elementary after-school program director for Casa Chirilagua. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2012 with degrees in English Language Literature and Psychology, and spent four years working in the bilingual family literacy program, Partners in Print.
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