IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering began over a decade ago with a few dozen people meeting in a room together to pray for the work of justice. Today, it is a full weekend held at the swanky Gaylord Resort, with over 1,200 attendees and room to grow. As an intern, I had the true privilege to serve and participate in GPG this year. These are the reasons this past weekend was awesome.
All 18 international Field Office Directors pause their work abroad to take part in GPG. There is nothing like hearing a story firsthand from the people actively engaging in the fight to protect poor people from violence. Christa Sharpe, the FOD in Cambodia, is a force of positive energy and action, and her update was especially exciting. She shared that a decade ago, the Cambodia office faced rampant impunity – acts of violence went unpunished, so perpetrators disregarded the law Christa shared that police are actually protecting underage girls from sexual exploitation. Today, it is difficult to even find cases of underage sexual exploitation anymore, and rehabilitation centers there are some of the best in the world. The Cambodia office’s next long-term goal is to eventually pull out and allow the country to handle sex trafficking crimes independently.
Griselda, a former Guatemalan client who now works at IJM, even came to share her story personally. After such hardship, she still beams with joy and confidence, grateful for the work IJM has done on her behalf.
Both Griselda’s renewed life and the fact that the Cambodia office may be nearing its end after only ten years are incredible – evidence of a mighty God moving forcefully through the world.
4. Hard work
I recently learned that IJM doesn’t do GPG at a more convenient time when more people could come (like the summer) because they so heavily depend on interns to pull this huge event off. That’s alright with me, though; I thrive in long, laborious days in which I am freely serving and contributing to something far greater than myself. It’s great bonding time, and there are even pockets of fun to be found, like riding on hotel dollies at the age of 21. After a week of GPG prep, the interns packed up, played real-life tetris loading everything into one U-Haul, unloaded countless boxes, set up prayer rooms…and then did all of those tasks again in reverse order. Fortunately, the exhaustion didn’t hit until GPG was over, so I had Sunday to recuperate.
|Go to all measures – including the floor – for GPG|
|Show us how you really feel (She’s actually a good sport…I just think this picture is funny)|
|GPG planning extraordinaire|
|Luggage dollies: Useful for moving: a) luggage b) GPG boxes c) people d) all of the above|
|Planning a big event takes a lot of organization|
If you step out of your group, you’re bound to meet some cool people at GPG, and all of them shared stories of great things God is doing in their lives. As I set up the Rwanda prayer room, I met the FOD and was later able to give him a small prophetic word of encouragement. My neighbor during the Thursday evening dinner happened to be the former mayor of Tennessee, who wants to use his retirement years to confront sex trafficking in America. There is a couple from Texas who were integral in a race benefitting IJM, which, ironically, I had been using to create a toolkit at work. The list goes on. In each interaction, I got the sense that they were, if not ordained, at least affirming the way the Holy spirit moves in other people’s lives.
|Post-dinner: Room for a dang lot of people|
I love worship because I’m able to glorify God with lyrics far more artistic and full of truth that anything I could come up with in prayer. It’s a good time for processing and personal reflection, too (more to come on revelations and my future plans soon!). Plus, Sara Groveshas an angelic voice, and she was kind enough to take a picture with the interns. As another intern said, I’m “practically famous” since I’m standing right next to her. J
|Yes, that is Sara Groves. Yes that is me on the left.|
1) Justice re-calibration
When I’m in the thick of IJM for eight hours a day, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture and lose sight of why I do the work that I do. Or why I care about justice and advocate for it at all. In Gary’s opening talk, he said that we must use God’s light to Shrink the Shadows, Dispel the Darkness, Melt he Mountains and Call Forth Healing. I’m not going to go into the metaphorical details of each of those steps, but GPG is a reminder that God invites us into a monumental challenge that we cannot accomplish by ourselves. Not only does He want us to be a part of it, but He wants us to ask Him for help. We have prayer as a real tool that bears results far greater than what we ask or imagine.
|My prayer in the Rwanda room|
Even after the work of justice is well underway, Gary discussed a final step: we must Persevere to the Dawn. This applies literally to casework in the field, to keep moving forward in tough cases and convict criminals, but ultimately to press on until all things are made new. Persevering to the dawn is for all of God’s people, too, though. We are to persevere in remaining close to the Father through His word, and persevere in talking to Him about His work. We will rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. I’m already looking forward to GPG next year!