Friday, April 13, 2012

Stories of Hope: International Justice Mission

Last month I started a new series, Stories of Hope. For April I want to tell you about an organization that is all about hope, International Justice Mission


Five years ago I sat in the Catholic Center at NYU to hear from two speakers. They were brought together by The Veritas Forum to speak about the lessons they had learned doing international social justice work. The room was full of energy as the talk was about to begin.

It was a stark contrast to how I usually found the Catholic Center. On most days, it was quiet, dark, and cold. During my days of classes in the busy city, I often snuck in to the drafty building for prayer and Bible reading. Some days a musician would be practicing in the corner. Most, I was alone on the cold hard pews. I loved it. There's something about praying on a kneeler in the dark that suits me. The space had become a holy place to my heart, a place I quickly sensed the presence of God.

As the crowd settled in on the wooden pews, the two speakers prepared to share how Christians and nonChristians could work together for the sake of the disenfranchised of the world. One speaker was a professor at NYU, a man whose name I don't even remember. The other was Gary Haugen, the founder, president, and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). I had heard of IJM before the event, but not much. I had never heard of Gary Haugen before his name came up in conversation about this event.

In the Catholic Center that night, Gary Haugen told us the story of IJM, a story that started when he realized that the poor of the world didn't need money or charity, they needed enforcement of justice. They needed legal resources for when their landlords tried to swindle them. They needed the police to pay attention when they were sexually assaulted. They needed the slave traders who took their youngest and brightest to be discovered and persecuted. And Gary realized that he wanted to do something. So as a young attorney with a young family, he took a leap of faith. 

When I left the event that night, my life was changed a little bit, not because I felt a specific call to vocational justice work, but because I had been given a vision of hope. I don't know how to explain that vision; it was a vision for the Church, but not only for the Church. It was a vision of the Kingdom advancing, but in ways that even nonChristians wanted: justice for the oppressed, freedom for slaves, agency for the disenfranchised.

And to top it off, it gave me so much hope to hear from a man working in social justice who wasn't doing it to prove his worth, find purpose in life, or play the savior. I can smell that a mile away. Gary Haugen wanted to advocate for the poor because he realized he was poor and Jesus advocated for him, he was a slave and God freed him. As he sat there talking, I saw a humble man who was simply doing what he could to share what he had experienced. He realized that his membership in God's family freed him to work on behalf of others instead of living for himself. It was a radical vision of how the Gospel's impact on one man could affect so many people.

As the video above celebrates, it is now IJM's 15th anniversary. And I am grateful that IJM exists. Of course I am grateful for the work that it does, but I am also grateful that IJM's work gives me hope. That might sound selfish, but it's true. I'm cynical and jaded, but the Kingdom is moving, and I see it moving through IJM. I'm proud to support the work of IJM, and I pray that over the next 15 years IJM sees thousands rescued and millions protected.

Ways to learn or do more:

Follow IJM or Gary Haugen on Twitter. Both are fascinating feeds.

Like IJM on Facebook.

Donate to IJM's work investigating, rescuing, and restoring.

Spread the word about IJM to friends you know who want to work on behalf of others. They often have job openings.

Watch more of the videos on IJM's Youtube page. They are informative and inspiring.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...