Remembering MLK

Roanoke may not have given me the day off, but in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I spent an hour reading and meditating on King’s “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered in Memphis, Tennessee hours before his assassination. Below are a few parts that really stuck with me.

 

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Supporting Maria

At the end of May, I met a great gal named Maria who will be moving to Thailand to be the Director of Business and Relationships, North America for an organization called NightLight, which employs women out of Bangkok’s sex industry.

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Persevere to the Dawn

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.

5. Testimony

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

Preparing journals!

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

3) Community

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

2) Worship

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!

The Locust Effect

The first American pioneers were a scrappy, unfortunate lot. For emigrants settling the unknown frontier, there were plenty of very real dangers to those who embarked on the journey; people did not make this trek for kicks. Other than the lustful adventurer or risk-taking businessman, most who left were desperate for new lives, drawn by the allure of free land under the Homestead Act of 1862. Poorer than the dirt they would soon be tilling, these hopefuls believed that with diligence and hard work, fortune would turn in their favor. They staked their plots, sowed seeds and, with a few months of favorable weather, were encouraged by growing, luscious crops. Soon, the farmers would reap a plentiful harvest.
                                               
But no one anticipated the nightmare arriving at noonday. A dark shadow descended from the sky, and in mere minutes, droves of locusts descended upon the land and decimated the farmers’ crops. Almost nothing was salvageable, as one farmer quipped, “They ate everything but the mortgage.” After departing from familiarity and venturing into a new life, after all the grueling manual labor and menial farm preparations – the sunrise to sunset workdays, the aching backs, the lack of resources –,  after the hopeful expectation of a rich harvest season, these pioneers found themselves in a more dire situation than before they moved west.
Today marks the official launch of The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). With it, the conversation on our approach poverty is about to change. Haugen compares the locusts of the American frontier with a much greater pest present and thriving today – namely the bullies of everyday violence. In the stream of humanitarian efforts toward those living in poverty, a broken leak is significantly reducing the effectiveness of our help. Like locusts destroying unprotected crop, those of power take advantage of the helplessness of the poor. A widow in Zambia cannot utilize donated farm tools if she is a victim of land grabbing. Girls who endure regular sexual assault are not benefiting from their school scholarships. Legal entitlements to the poor in Thailand are of no use if a birth certificate was never issued. A micro-loan entrepreneur cannot run a successful business when he and his family are kidnapped into a brick factory and work fourteen hours a day as modern day slaves.
Everyday violence – this perpetual cloud of fear hovering over the unprotected – is the poor’s constant reality. In America, laws are generally enforced; police seek to protect citizens. Sadly, for the majority of the developing world, this is not the case.  When it is more likely for a rapist to be struck by lightning or slip in the bath tub and die than be imprisoned for his crime, impunity is rampant. In The Locust Effect, Haugen provides a few facts and statistics, but he mainly invites readers to discover the stories of regular poor people. Rather than violence restraining the oppressed from lives of freedom, it is time for us to fix the leak in the system and begin restraining the hand of violence. Fortunately, we are dealing with simple bullies who lack courage. When they realize that there are repercussions for their actions, they back down. Beyond rescue and aftercare for victims, IJM works to imprison perpetrators and create structural transformation within the justice system. Their vision is “to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.” The exciting part is that IJM is showing that it is possible, and it is happening.
If any of this motivates you or catches your interest, I invite you to join me in three easy actions you can take today.
First, with the launch of The Locust Effect, you can  buy the book*. Not only will all proceeds benefit the mission of IJM, but this week only, for every book bought, a generous IJM supporter will donate $20 to help bring justice to the poor. The goal is to make it on the New York Times Bestseller list – not to brag about book sales, but to gain more credibility and attention behind the concept of protecting the poor from everyday violence.
Second, read the book. Take these stories to heart. Preparing for the launch of The Locust Effect has been the predominate focus of my marketing internship at IJM thus far. Even though I may already know the ideas behind The Locust Effect, I will be joining you in this endeavor. I have heard it’s not the lightest reading (What?! Reading about the tough lives of poor people isn’t for your coffee break? No!), but it is enlightening and important. Together, we can learn more about the problem of everyday violence and begin a more global, united conversation on changing our approach to poverty.
Third, please sign the petition urging the UN to protect the poor from violence as it decides its 2015 long-term goals. It is short, and you can opt out of receiving e-mail updates if you choose.
All of these steps will help you easily engage and begin to join the team of those committed to protecting the poor from violence. This is an exciting time, and momentum for a tidal wave of change is building. You can be a part of it.
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  -Isaiah 1:17

*If you buy more than one book, please buy them from somewhere other than Amazon.com, such as Barnes & Noble. No matter how many books bought at once on Amazon, the whole purchase only counts as one book bought on the bestseller list.