Monday, September 15, 2014

Time and Relationships: Cultivating Traffic-free Communities Here and Abroad

Last month I had the privilege of traveling to the Dominican Republic with International Justice Mission as part of a team of people looking to better connect youth with the work of IJM and issues of justice. As someone who has spent the last couple years building an anti-trafficking task force in my own small corner of the world, this experience was such an encouragement. While I have seen IJM from a distance as a powerhouse in the fight against trafficking, this trip proved that anything worthwhile is built through the same principles of time and relationship. I think we have a tendency to miss this stateside, which leads to movements that start with compassion but often end in paralysis, as we are overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue.

Yet God’s not yet kingdom is so ready to burst forth here and now. 

But, it takes cultivation through the slow and steady movement of faithful people like those I met working in the Dominican Republic. The IJM office in the DR is relatively new; they’ve only been there about a year. While some of their locations around the world operate like well-oiled machines, this one is still working out their kinks, which is such a beautiful thing. They did not set up as the American know-it-all NGO, but their diverse staff approach their work with a spirit of humility. They are putting in the hard, time-consuming steps of establishing relationships and proving themselves team players alongside those already involved in anti-trafficking work and encouraging those whose voices are needed.

The team is working in a society with complex systemic issues that lead to apathetic attitudes toward trafficking. According to the Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report, large numbers of street children, working children, and undocumented Haitians are particularly vulnerable. While the government has made significant efforts to eliminate trafficking, they still do not comply with minimum standards (U.S. Department of State, 2014). Changing cultural attitudes and empowering women and children toward better lives takes years of hard work and education. For organizations such as IJM, it takes the faithfulness of God’s people showing up day after day, even when it seems little progress is being made.

Nothing worthwhile or sustainable happens overnight. Sometimes we want microwave justice, but a quick fix that helps us feel better is not justice at all. This was such an important reminder. It is always a matter of small steps forward, creating pockets of hope in a world where all sometimes seems lost.

For all of us in the middle of what feels like small, insignificant work on matters that are big and overwhelming, we are not alone. We may be scattered, but we are not alone.

We ache for God’s grace shown in tangible ways. We want those empty spaces to be filled with something, and hope that that something could really be God’s love.

So we wait.
We hope.
We work.
And we wait some more. 
In joyful expectation.
Because no matter how hard it gets, or how futile our efforts appear, we know that Jesus is already reigning. He defeated the powers of darkness.

He defeated the powers.

However, we still live in this tension of a world gone mad.
This is the beauty of organizations like IJM. They are living well in that tension. They are faithfully stepping into that space between darkness and hope, making a bridge for those who have been traumatized to find healing. It’s slow. It sometimes feels fruitless. But it is worth it.

It is worth putting forth the effort when you want to give up.
It is worth continuing difficult relationships when you want to shut down.
It is worth the time when you would rather do something easier.

Being a part of God’s work in this world, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is always worth it.


* United States Department of State, 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - Dominican Republic, 20 June 2014, available at: [accessed 8 September 2014]