“Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
Natalie Maust ’09 has kept the words of Psalm 126 close to her heart as she’s worked with immigrant victims of domestic violence and violent crime at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in the Chicago metropolitan area.
The stories Natalie has heard on the job haunt her—stories of child sexual abuse, forced marital relationships, and of women who could not escape violent partners or become economically independent without help in changing their legal status.
Convinced that the seeds sown during times of weeping eventually bear fruit, Natalie recently decided to pursue further training as a law student at Northwestern University, in hopes of becoming better equipped to serve the “most vulnerable, yet most resilient” in her community.
Her path was confirmed when she received a $40,000 Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship from the Chicago Bar Foundation in September 2013.
“The selection committee was inspired by Natalie’s passion, record of public service, and dedication to serving vulnerable immigrant populations,” says Andy Marovitz, chair of the committee.
Natalie’s calling to advocacy is a family legacy. Her missionary journalist father, John Maust ’78, covered the Peruvian church’s efforts to help victims of violence during the Shining Path insurgency. He served on the founding board of the human rights organization Paz y Esperanza, where Natalie later completed her HNGR (Human Needs and Global Resources) internship during her senior year at Wheaton. Many on Natalie’s mother’s side of the family came to faith at a Peruvian revival in the 1970s, and some now serve as missionaries while others lead social justice or service organizations in Peru. Exploring her bicultural roots has strengthened Natalie’s sense of vocation as a bridge-maker and cultural broker, attributes she brings to her work with immigrants in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where she now lives.
Dr. Christine Kepner, associate professor of Spanish, describes Natalie’s attitude as one of “simple obedience” and “quiet presence.”
After majoring in Spanish and anthropology at Wheaton, Natalie worked for four years as a paralegal at NIJC, eventually becoming the coordinator of the U Visa and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Pro Bono Project, which helps immigrant victims of violent crimes.
As she worked late into the night writing affidavits in the first person to convey the urgency of individuals’ stories to the judges who would decide their future, Natalie found her faith challenged and her heart changed. She saw clients empowered by the fact that she heard their stories and could tell them in ways that would offer them future protection.
Though she doesn’t know exactly where she’ll land after she completes her law degree, Natalie’s plan is to pursue a career providing legal services to low-income individuals who can’t afford private attorneys. Andy says, “We have no doubt that she will become a fixture in the Chicago legal aid community for years to come.”