Wednesday, November 14, 2012

International Justice Mission // Guest Post by Jessie

"One of these words just doesn’t belong here: shock, disbelief, disgust, grief, hope.  How can hope be mixed in among the reactions we have to the horrors of injustice that grip our world today?  In 2008, I was first confronted with the knowledge that more than 27 million people are literally enslaved across the globe, many of them women and children.  I learned that little girls as young as 8 years old are sold to brothels where they are abused by up to 20 “customers” per day.  I learned that boys my sons’ ages work in rock quarries 16 hours per day, 6-7 days per week, in blistering heat, beaten if they are ill, rather than going to elementary school.  I learned that widows in Africa are forced from their homes, leaving them with no livelihood to provide for their kids, while young men are illegally imprisoned, no longer able to provide for their families.  Twenty-seven million people, sons and daughters of the King, living under oppression, violence, corruption and darkness: I was shocked, disbelieving, disgusted and grieving.  And still, a ray of hope: a sliver to me then, a blazing beacon to me now…
International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) is a Christian human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression.  Since 1997, IJM's staff has stood against violent oppression in response to the Bible's call to justice (Isaiah 1:17): Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  They are extraordinarily strategic and effective, working with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare.  IJM professionals are changing the justice equation in the darkest parts of our world, ensuring that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor.  IJM is made up of over more than 400 lawyers, investigators, social workers and other staff - approximately 95% of whom are nationals of the countries in which they serve.  They collaborate with local and state authorities to bring about not only rescue, but system-wide change to make their vision become a reality: To rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible.  God is using IJM to, quite literally, change the world.
I first learned of IJM in 2008 at a Leadership Summit through Willow Creek Church, and I wept for the victims whose stories broke my heart.  “It’s not okay, it’s not okay, it’s not okay” was my refrain as I gazed at the pictures and videos of beautiful young people being bought and sold like commodities.  I was also seized with the conviction that it would be equally “not okay” for me to sit on the sidelines in this battle for justice.  God had my full attention, but what could I do?  That is the question that plagued me as I prayed and wrestled with Him in the days and weeks after the Summit.   It is also the question that I inevitably get asked time and again when I speak about injustice and the work of IJM.  Fortunately, there is an abundance of good answers to that question.
Just as I have become increasingly convinced that God is at work in IJM, using them to blaze new paths to justice in our generation, I have also come to realize that each of us can do SOMETHING in this fight.  When confronted with an impossible task, feeding 5,000, Jesus said to his disciples, “Bring me what you do have.”  They brought 5 loaves and 2 fish, and HE did the miracle.  When we bring what we have to this impossible problem, HE does the miracle.  God multiplies our offerings, and when we join Him where He is working, people get saved, in every sense of the word.  What did I have to bring?  What were my 2 fish and 5 loaves?  Well, I have a big mouth…I could TELL people about injustice and about IJM.  I did that right off the bat.  I am blessed with a good job as a physical therapist, yielding financial flexibility for giving and providing connections to people who might care if only they knew.  So, I signed up to be a Freedom Partner and I told my colleagues and patients about it.  I love to run and have girlfriends who are caring and generous with their time and energy.  So, we decided to put on a run/walk event, the Just Us (ordinary people for justice) Run/Walk.  We’ve done that for the last 5 years, exposing literally thousands in our community to the problem of modern-day slavery.  I’m unafraid of the spotlight, so I talk about IJM wherever people will give me a microphone.  I can pray, so I signed up to be a prayer partner for IJM.  I had more than I realized that can be used against this “impossible” problem!
The list of ideas for “what can I do?” is limitless.  God has given each of us gifts.  He has made us the body so we can move on behalf of the oppressed.  We can be creative…ABCs for abolition:  Act, Blog, Cycle, Draw, Equip, Fast, Give, Hike, Investigate, Jog, Kneel, Lobby, Minister, Notify, Open, Pray, Question, Read, Shop, Tithe, Understand, Vote, Walk, eXamine, Yodel, Zeal…  I know of a small group who gathers monthly for a meal and “pays” the host what they would pay at a restaurant for a similar meal.  That meal money then gets donated to IJM.  I know of people who recruit teams for the Just Us run and get their company to match their donations.  I know of kids who set up lemonade stands and teenagers who act in skits depicting injustice.  As Christmas approaches, purchasing items made by freed slaves or those in preventive programs just makes sense.  
The options for seeking justice are limited only by our creativity.  We all have time, talent, treasure and influence—it’s just a matter of what we spend it on.   We can join God where He is already at work, through IJM or similar organizations that grip our hearts, through relationships, through prayer… we CAN do SOMETHING.  And the joy that comes from following Christ into this battle is the surprising side-effect, as He does the miracle with our loaves and fish.  The blazing beacon is the Son himself, and we get the privilege of being used for the good works, that he created in advance for us to do.  Pretty dang cool if you ask me!"

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