Beginning And Remembering

A week from today our team for Front Range FREEDOM Tour will gather for the first time.

This beginning reminded me of an ending, the final official gathering of our IJM Freedom Tour team. There were hugs and good-byes and pictures and tears. It was a bit like the last day of summer camp with an enhanced sense of impending separation and loss. When people share this sort of struggle and sacrifice, strong bonds develop.

Our last meeting occurred at the headquarters of International Justice Mission. We toured the offices, met and prayed with the staff, and learned a bit more about the day-to-day operations of this amazing organization.

The offices are secured. Entry is by electronic keycard, no photos or video permitted. I found that strange for an ordinary-looking office filled with folks in business suits until I realized that IJM is at war with organized crime.

Human trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing illicit enterprise. Highly organized, ruthless criminals generate huge sums trafficking humans along with drugs and weapons, and they don’t hesitate to employ violence against those who interfere with their operations. IJM receives regular threats.

The headquarters also houses information about worldwide field operations and personnel, client backgrounds, and affiliated organizations in other countries. If compromised, this information would place hundreds of individuals in extreme danger.

This isn’t a nice, safe, insulated academic exercise where people sing Kumbaya and reflect on God’s grace. These are boots-on-the-ground warriors engaged in a life-and-death battle with evil.

People are rescued as individuals. We passed offices and cubicles in which worldwide law enforcement operations and legal proceedings were being developed and supported. We heard about specific cases: a sex assault victim testified successfully this morning, a long-planned raid on a brothel rescued five women, the operator of a brick kiln was ordered to provide restitution to a child who labored for years in deplorable conditions.

The people in this office knew names, faces, and circumstances of oppressed individuals all around the globe. We prayed for them and celebrated specific successful outcomes in which freedom and justice prevailed.

I thought about a familiar scripture from Matthew 25:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

I believe Jesus intended to put a face on every victim of injustice. I believe He invites us to look at those individual faces, so easily lost in distance or numbers, and see His face. I believe He asks us to remember: He’s the child laboring in a rice mill under constant threat of beatings. He’s the man deprived of freedom and sold into forced labor. He’s the young girl trapped in a brothel, assaulted and raped hundreds of times per month.

He’s not a cause or a statistic. He’s not a collection of ideas. He’s not some made-up picture in a clean, white robe.

He’s a real person. Right now He’s beaten, raped, and oppressed. He’s hungry, thirsty, and unjustly imprisoned.

He’s that individual face in the crowd. He’s asking me to visit, feed, clothe, and rescue Him.

(This material first appeared on July 25, 2012.)

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