By: Seth Thomas
“God instituted prayer in order to lend His creatures the dignity of causality.” – Pascal
“This post summarizes International Justice Mission’s Global Prayer Gathering which took place in Washington, D.C. in April. The author, Seth Thomas, attended along with a group from the Justice Ministry of Traders Point Christian Church. TPCC’s Justice Ministry is actively engaged in combatting human trafficking and partners with Ascent 121 in our local anti-trafficking effort.
You might ask, what is a global prayer gathering? In fact, it is truly just that – a gathering of people to pray from all over the world. As pointed out during the keynote address, God gives us the “dignity of causality” through prayer. Big words that essentially mean God invites us to be a part of His work in the world through prayer. We hope that this summary of their experience encourages you to pray daily for justice in all areas of our broken world.
Thursday Pastor and Ministry Leaders Gathering
TPCC sent its Justice Ministry leaders to an opening meeting focused on church justice ministry. Key highlights from that meeting included:
IJM’s Jim Martin explained the Biblical foundation for Christians and Advocacy. Noting the phrase from Nehemiah “So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said to the King” he recounted several Biblical instances of Christian advocacy in the work of justice.
Seth Wispelwey further explained that the process of advocacy, particularly in the context of human trafficking typically goes like this:
- Oh that’s awful, someone should do something about that.
- Good, someone is doing something about it (IJM)
- What are WE doing about that?
Seth gave an update on the End Modern Slavery Act, an initiative currently pending before Congress that would establish a public private trust to fund anti-slavery efforts. The legislation will authorize a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” that will fund programs and projects outside the United States that must:
- Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery.
- Set clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
- Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.
The initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80 percent of which will come through matching funds from the private sector and foreign governments. Sources of funding are as follows:
- $251 million in authorized funds from the United States over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022.
- $500 million from other foreign governments. (Double the investment of U.S. funds.)
- $750 million in private funding. (Triple the investment of U.S. funds.)
Our leaders were also able to hear a panel discussion on how to Encounter, Explore, & Engage in the work of Justice. One church used offerings given in their children ministry to free children from modern day slavery. Their Kindergarten/1st grade classes put up a cut-out of a child on the wall for every $500 raised (which represent a rescue operation.) Even after kids graduate, they come back by to put their offering with IJM because they love it so much.
Another church organized a 5K “Run for Justice.” The whole church got behind it because it was totally new and fresh for the body! They connected it with the local running store and had 500 registrants. The race raised $16,000 for IJM. The church then offered a family fun day which attracted local politicians and an IJM speaker came to speak at the event.
Perhaps the most compelling moment of the day was when someone said “You can do mercy ministries with love and grace, but attacking evil requires greater wisdom and strategy.” This is so true.
After that, Nancy Ortberg spoke about how her church (Menlo Park Presbyterian) had invested in Justice Ministry. If you have not heard Nancy speak live, it was electric. She has a dynamic and distinct manner that helps identify truth in clear packages. Some key quotes from Nancy:
Justice cannot be a side show.
Justice is going to be our calling card to Jesus. This is what will get their attention.
Values are not values until they inflict pain. And when we lead out of our values, that’s what changes churches, and that’s what changes people.
“You create culture by the stories you tell and the heroes you create.”
Finally, IJM’s founder, Gary Haugen, talked to the group about where IJM is going. He explained that the world is waking up to:
- the violence that is in the world.
- Realization of slavery in the world. (35 million people are enslaved)
- Church is waking up to the ministry of justice.
He noted that the problem of slavery is the problem of sin. Slavery is a function of impunity. More than 50% of modern day slavery takes place in 3 countries. More than 70% takes place in 10 countries. Gary was asked “What is the greatest challenge to being a Christian Organization?” His answer: being truly Christian. Doing life in a Christ-like manner authentically. Gary was asked “What is the biggest misconception about sex trafficking?” Answer: People think it’s a product of poverty. Rather, sex trafficking in the world is a byproduct of impunity. Slavery exists because laws that prohibit it are not enforced.
This ended a great day of connecting with other churches and justice ministry leaders. The event filled our cups full of ideas and encouragement on how to draw our churches closer to the God we love: how to learn to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with him.
Friday and Saturday was the main event for the Global Prayer Gathering. Over 1400 people packed in front of the conference room doors before it started. Soon the doors opened and people rushed in to pray, worship, and hear from IJM leaders about the work that had been conducted in the past year. We split our time between large group sessions, and smaller groups focused on a particular country. Large group sessions were taped, and we’d strongly encourage you to view them if you did not get to attend. They will encourage you in praying for our partners at IJM.
Friday Morning –
Introduction – A common brokenness – View this short-intro that explains the common thread of violence in the world and God’s call to us to be his agent of change in the world:
Prayer Matters – An introduction from Gary Haugen about how God calls us to pray.
A Story of Transformation: Cambodia – Blair Burns – Regional Director for IJM “We long for the transformation of our world, we long for the kingdom of God.”
A Message from an Unlikely Anti-Trafficking Hero – “I was only a small fry, a young man without a purpose. Becoming a Christian changed me. God had a purpose when I did not.“ – Cambodian IJM Lawyer
We then spent Friday afternoon rotating between prayer rooms. We met with the Cebu, Philippines Field Office team who told us about how they are seeing the PNP (Philippine National Police) take the lead on cases of sex trafficking. This never happened before, but now the system has been changed and is working on its own. Nevertheless, IJM-Cebu is focused on a new and growing form of violence, online exploitation of children. The task is complex and we spent time praying for the team and their work.
Next we visited the IJM-Gulu,Uganda office. We prayed for the government that they would stand up for the rights of the widows that were being abused. We prayed for the IJM staff that sometimes has to come in close contact with perpetrators to get to the widow’s land. We prayed for the field office director and his wife, who just recently learned that they are expecting their first child.
At dinner, we were able to sit down and talk closely with IJM-Cebu field office director Jesse Rudy. He expressed his gratefulness to Traders Point, and to the other partner churches, for their investment in the team at Cebu. He spoke candidly about personal prayer requests and we learned more about the difficulties in the work that he is leading.
After dinner, we came back to the large sessions. We heard three different speakers talk about the specific prayer requests in their region:
Praying for System Reform in Guatemala – Brad Twedt asked for prayer that the Church would lead a profound and significant transformation of the country of Guatemala.
Praying for System Reform in the Philippines – Sam Inocencio – When we started, human trafficking was not on the police’s agenda. Today, the Philippines has one of the strongest anti-trafficking laws and we are regularly winning convictions under this law.
Praying for System Reform in Cambodia – Christa Sharpe updated us on the amazing progress in Cambodia. The government is speaking up more boldly, and collaborating together on key initiatives. We are excited to see the church reaching out to their hurting neighbors more courageously.
Praying for System Reform in Thailand – “Now I am a person, now I can do everything other people can do. Now people cannot look down on me.” IJM client after receiving citizenship
Our hearts were full after more worship with Sara Groves and 1400 like-minded abolitionists seeking God in his work of justice.
The morning started again with a great large session. We heard an updatefrom Kaign Christy, IJM Field Office Director, in IJM-Ghana, the newest field office. IJM works to rescue boys trapped in forced labor on Lake Volta. Kaign told the horrific story of Gideon and how Gideon pleaded for rescue when they were conducting the necessary investigation required to conduct the first rescue operations. Following prayers in GPG14, IJM-Ghana was given the necessary approvals by the Ghana government, and the first rescue operation began. The operation appeared to be a complete failure. But as the IJM team cried out to God in their daily prayers – the message came through – Gideon was saved!
After the morning update, we traveled to additional small rooms visiting field offices including Kenya, Rwanda, and the Dominican Republic. We heard amazing and tragic stories of police brutality, sexual assault of children, and commercial sex trafficking of minors in the Caribbean. But each office offered hope and specific prayers on how we could see systems be truly transformed through the power of God.
We closed the GPG by partaking in Communion together. We heard Jim Martin tell us “God wants to rescue all of us from the power of sin…this is why we celebrate this sacrament together. Our God is the God of deliverance. We are invited into this family business of rescue.”
Finally, IJM President Gary Haugen closed the final session by encouraging us with Jesus’ words to “Always Pray and Never Give Up.” Each GPG is closed by asking, what will drive us back to prayer until we gather again. What helps me to not give up: 1. Don’t go very far away from Jesus – pray everyday; 2. Hold onto one another. 3. Come back next year!
The session concluded with a great recap video depicting the weekend’s event. Enjoy it here!
Seth Thomas: As an attorney, I’ve been passionate about justice since I was a young boy. Long ago, I heard about Christian organizations (e.g., International Justice Mission) who were working on the front lines of the battle against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Today, I am excited that the Church is awakening to that work. I am privileged and humbled to help lead justice efforts with Traders Point Christian Church. I truly appreciate our local partners who are co-laboring in these efforts, including Ascent 121.