How Beautiful is our God

Well, it's about time I get back to this whole blogging thing and if any time was an appropriate time to update you all, now would be it!

For the past three years I've taken part in my Campus' Chapter of an organization called International Justice Mission and this year I've taken the lead as President of the group. It's been a tough lesson in just how difficult it can be to be in a position of leadership and get people motivated to work for change, but all-in-all it's an opportunity that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. This year, my roommate Laura (my co-leader) and I decided we wanted to make it to IJM's Annual Global Prayer Gathering for the first time for our group. So after a LOT of planning and last-minute disruptions we led a group of 9 students down to Washington DC for a weekend of learning about IJM's current operations, as well as much worship and a LOT of prayer. It was easily one of the best experiences I've ever had.

The first 5 of us arrived to DC in time to make it to the Student Gathering during which campus chapters and high school youth groups from as far as Washington state, California and British Columbia shared what their groups had been doing to support the mission of IJM and encourage each other in prayer. The night continued on with a dinner reception and banquet during which we got to speak with some truly incredible people including IJM's founder Gary Haugen, himself. I was so 'starstruck' being able to speak with him that all I could do was mutter about how amazing he was. He is such a humble and down-to-earth man, and we all commented afterward on how he has the rare ability to make you feel like you're the most important person in the room when he's talking to you.

Following the dinner, we listened as IJM's Vice President of Justice Operations Sharon Cohn Wu helped to prepare our hearts for the remainder of the conference and Christian artist Lamont Hiebert and his band Ten Shekel Shirt led the group in worship. When all the festivities had drawn to a close our group of Eastern students met together to debrief what we had experienced and share some insights with each other. It was a time of great Christian fellowship and I think we all walked away feeling more enlightened and on fire for the Lord.

The following morning, we arose early to gather together for worship, reflection and prayer. After which, we went our separate ways to pray for specific IJM global operations. I attended the prayer gatherings for IJM Rwanda and IJM Uganda (of course). It made me truly miss my African home, but more importantly it provided me an amazing opportunity to pray for the casework in these countries. While there are many cases of child sexual violence and police brutality, the work in both these countries deals primarily with illegal property seizure (when a husband dies, often his family or strangers will kick the widow and her children off her own land leaving her completely destitute with no way to provide for herself and her family). IJM has performed miraculous feats during their time there, but they have so much further to go.

First, they encouraged us to pray for the continued courage of clients to not only recognize when their rights are being violated and exploited, but to take a stand, and with the help of IJM, seek justice against their perpetrators. Perhaps the biggest obstacles standing in the way of IJM's lawyers and investigators are the governments of countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. Not only can the government at times be very corrupt, but they very often lack any system for organizing legal documents. The head of the IJM Uganda team informed us that over 1/3 of legal files are lost. Continued prayers are needed for the cooperation of governments. For without them, IJM cannot continue to do its work.

The weekend gave me incredible insight into the character of God, the power of hope and prayer, and my own potential as a servant of Christ; which is ultimately why I wanted to share this blog with you all today.

During Saturday morning worship and prayer the Holy Spirit moved me to begin really considering the stories of men like Moses and the disciple Peter. I am so thankful that the Bible provides us with illustrations of completely flawed and imperfect men rising up to transform lives, and history. For even Moses killed a man, and repeatedly doubted God's calling to end the enslavement of his people and lead them to freedom from their oppressors. Then, there's Peter. Perhaps the most-well known disciple, infamous for denying his Lord, went on to become the cornerstone of the Church and was crucified for his beliefs. All I can think when reflecting on Peter's journey is how thankful I am that he DID deny Christ. It provides us with a deeper insight into Peter's humanity and provides us with the encouragement that although in our sinful human nature we may doubt and deny our Savior, we are still capable of rising up to become the light in the darkness.

One of the several speakers on Saturday morning also brought up the character of Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday. Our Sunday School perception of this event provides us with the understanding that Jesus rode through the streets atop a donkey while his followers worshiped him. We rarely address what Jesus was doing amidst all this chaos. He wept. He gazed into the crowd and saw the brokenness of the people around him and he wept. Jesus sees our hurt, our pain and our brokenness and he desires that we be released from it and truly experience love. The love of God, the love of ourselves and the love of others. As Jesus has rescued us, we have the ability to rescue our brothers and sisters from their oppressed and impoverished circumstances. If we are to truly embody the model Christ set for us, seeing their hurt and their brokenness should call us to weep on their behalf, but to further do something to end that pain.

The story of David and Goliath was also used. A story was told by aftercare workers in Cambodia who work with 9, 10, 11 year old Cambodian girls who have been sold into brothels and have been severely sexually abused. Let me repeat that- NINE YEAR OLD GIRLS. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart broke as I heard more about how these beautiful children had their innocence completely robbed of them. The aftercare workers shared with us what they told the girls to encourage them to stand up against their abusers in trial. They shared the story of David and Goliath. While Goliath far surpassed David in almost every way, David had one thing that Goliath did not. A rock. In light of David's story, the aftercare workers provided the girls with a rock to hold while they sat and testified against their perpetrators. On this rock was written the word, "Truth." This made me think- no, we are not sexually abused Cambodian girls, but we are weak and broken people. We are attempting to face head-on the Goliath of social injustice and in every way it appears that we are going to be beaten. But we have a secret weapon- the Truth. With the power of the Almighty on our side, we will not be beaten. Along these same lines, another speaker shared with us Psalm 124- "If the Lord had not been on our side- let Israel say- if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would've swallowed us alive."

I suppose it's about time that I wrap up this post as it's already gone on long enough. But I genuinely wanted to share with you just a taste of the hope and encouragement I experienced at the Global Prayer Gathering this weekend and I hope you leave feeling that same hope and faith in the power of God. I would also ask that even if you are not familiar with IJM's work, you would continue to keep them in your prayers as IJM investigators are literally risking their lives to ensure the justice of their clients. If you're interested in supporting and learning more about their mission visit their website at IJM.org

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