One month after I graduate from Johnson University Florida (May 2, 2014), I will begin what I hope (and expect to some degree) will become one of my life’s greatest adventures this side of heaven. This adventure is one in which I am fully confident I will tell repeatedly to my children and their children. If ever I am pressed for time when sharing the particulars of this long anticipated undertaking, I will summarize everything into the following: I lived my dream of interning with International Justice Mission.
International Justice Mission is a Christian human rights agency headquartered in the Washington D.C. area. This amazing organization works to bring rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of oppression. Gary Haugen (President and CEO of IJM) started the agency seventeen years ago; it now runs a multi-million dollar annual budget, with eighteen field offices across the developing world. To date, IJM staff members and their collaborating partners (local law enforcement, aftercare facilities, casework alliance partners, etc.) have rescued thousands of men, woman and children from some of the most heinous types of oppression imaginable. To God be the glory, because IJM’s vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.
At this point you might think, “This organization sounds like they do a lot of great work for some of the most oppressed people on earth, but so do several other organizations. What makes IJM so special?”
First, IJM exists because their several hundred staff members want to live out God’s command to seek justice. IJM’s framework for seeking justice comes from Isaiah 1:17, which reads, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (ESV). The IJM staff gives their lives to answering the biblical call to do justice because they know seeking justice is not just something the Israelites were supposed to do; it must also be a part of our daily rhythm as followers of Christ Jesus.
Second, IJM looks at oppression and sees that it matters to God. Rightful ownership of property matters; a fair and honest trial matters; citizenship rights matter; living a life free of rape and abuse matters; having a family who knows not a life of constant toil as slaves inside the confines of a brick kiln matters. Justice for the poor matters! IJM staff members live by this. When victories do not seem possible, they turn to the Father for help. In fact, all of them begin their workdays with prayer – prayer over the work that lies on their desks and prayer for the day ahead. Several hours later, the IJM staff convenes to pray with and for each other. Although this organization collaborates on cases with community-based and other non-religious groups, at the heart of this organization is a drive to seek justice in Jesus’ name, through the power of the Holy Spirit, because of the Father’s command to do so.
Finally, IJM is committed to excellence. All staff members at headquarters, whether it be the gentleman who is marketing manager of digital and social media or the woman who is senior vice president of structural transformation, and everyone in between, is required to wear business suits. They do this because Haugen believes since the rich can afford lawyers and other advocates who will dress in such attire, the poor are just as worthy of having their advocates look professional.
Now that we all understand why International Justice Mission is so worthy of respect and support, let me unpack for you how I came to be involved with IJM. During my first year of college, I joined JUFL’s IJM Campus Chapter because I was aware of the existence of trafficking of persons and other forms of oppression, and I wanted to do something about it. Well, it just so happens that Professor David Peters, as well as student leaders in that cohort of justice-loving people, encouraged me to do more. “More” could mean buying garments and groceries not made by slaves, praying for the exposure of corruption of public justice systems in the developing world, and advocating for the oppressed. I was given several opportunities to work as an advocate. I spent two years with Florida Abolitionist (an Orlando-based anti-trafficking organization) as a regular volunteer, and then later as a volunteer staff member. What is more exciting is that I, along with fellow students and alumni of JUFL, traveled to Cambodia to visit Rapha House (a non-profit that exists to love, rescue, and heal children who have been rescued from trafficking and sexual exploitation). The purpose of the trip was to understand how God could use each of us mightily to help abolish slavery. We visited RH as well as several other
organizations and businesses that work to either prevent or combat human trafficking, including the IJM field office in Cambodia. It was during that visit that I knew I wanted to be a part of the incredible work IJM does, so two years later I applied to intern with them.
A few weeks after my orientation at IJM headquarters commences June 6, three other interns and I will move to Delhi, India. From that point forward for the next ten months, each of us will assist office staff in correcting oppression and freeing the oppressed. Whether it is filing paperwork, compiling documents for a staff meeting, or serving the regional government by meeting their requests with excellence, we all get to be a part of something truly special. I will serve as the national interventions administration intern. In 2011, Google Inc. gave IJM and its coalition partners an $11.5 million-dollar grant to create a successful anti-slavery model for purposes of taking it to scale in other countries. I will serve the director of national interventions, India, by assisting with political advocacy efforts in the Delhi area, as well as helping with logistical matters concerning freeing people from bonded labor (slavery). This internship will require much of me, more than I ever thought I was capable of. However, God will guide me and give me strength whenever striving towards this form of righteousness seems most difficult. God wants excellence in everything his people do, and IJM’s clients need it desperately; I am hopeful it can be done.
I began learning Hindi recently in order to become a more effective intern, and I will soon send out my support letters (the internship is unpaid) to friends and family who desire to collaborate with me in this endeavor. I still need $18,500 to fund my internship. If you are interested in collaborating with me, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org