We Shouldn’t Forget
I’ll always remember the day we snapped this photo.
Our gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial marked the conclusion of IJM Freedom Tour. Hugs and good-byes and pictures and tears…a bit like the last day of summer camp.
We met the next day at the headquarters of International Justice Mission. A rare tour offered opportunity to understand a bit more about the day-to-day operations of this amazing organization.
Doors are secured, entry by electronic keycard, no photos or video permitted. Strange for an ordinary-looking office filled with folks in business suits…until I realized that IJM is at war.
IJM receives regular threats. Human trafficking – the sale of human beings – is a multi-BILLION dollar illicit enterprise. Highly organized, ruthless criminals don’t hesitate to employ violence against those who interfere. IJM 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.
These folks don’t sit around singing Kumbaya. They’re boots-on-the-ground warriors engaged in a life-and-death battle with evil. We passed offices in which worldwide law enforcement operations and legal proceedings were developed and supported. We heard about specific cases: a sex assault victim testified successfully, 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:
“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.Matthew 25:35-40
“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 His face on every victim of injustice. I believe He invites us to see Him in individuals so easily lost in distance or numbers. He’s the child laboring in a rice mill under constant threat of beatings. He’s the man 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 or 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 do what I can to visit, feed, clothe, and rescue Him.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We shouldn’t forget.
(This material first appeared on July 25, 2012.)