Happy Birthday IJM!

I tend to try to keep things on this blog personal and light-hearted. Superficial, even, sometimes. This week, however, is the 15th birthday of, in my mind, one of the greatest humanitarian organizations in existence today, International Justice Mission. So without further ado, allow me to celebrate!

I first learned of International Justice Mission my freshman year at Eastern University. As a part of our introductory freshman curriculum we read a book written by IJM's founder, Gary Haugen, entitled The Good News About Injustice. The book began as he recounted the horrors he witnessed as he stood surrounded by the slain bodies of Rwandan victims as the U.S. Department of Justice's Genocide Investigator. He sat on a bus en route to his job days later looking around at his fellow passengers and thinking, "Excuse me, friends, but did you know that less than forty-eight hours ago I was standing in the middle of several thousand corpses in a muddy mass grave in a tiny African country called Rwanda?"

Gary (yeah, I like to think we're on a first name basis) was soon challenged with how to reconcile what he'd witnessed with the suburban comforts of his own life. And so he courageously embarked upon a journey to found International Justice Mission.

For those who don't know, IJM is a faith-based human rights agency whose aim is to bring justice to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. They work with local governments to bring slave owners to justice, they send undercover investigators into brothels to release young girls forced into prostitution and they provide counseling and after-care to help the rescued assume a happy, healthy life.

The success stories that come out of IJM's work are unbelievable and with that in mind I decided I wanted to be a part of it. The summer following my semester abroad, one of my best friends and I decided we were going to head our campus' chapter of IJM. We led weekly meetings filled with prayer about IJM's casework, we organized fundraisers with 100% of proceeds directly benefiting the organization and we organized a trip to IJM's 2010 Global Prayer Gathering.

Gary Haugen and I at the 2010 Global Prayer Gathering. I was completely starstruck!

Ultimately, we both felt so fortunate to bless IJM in even the smallest ways that we were able. But the reality was, we were far more blessed just to be involved with them.

If you'd like to learn more about IJM, visit their website here. And if you feel you have 5 minutes to spare I'd really encourage you to watch this video celebrating IJM's 15 years and making plans for an amazing 15 more.

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