Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Appeal to Michiganders

While studying for my MacroEconomics class earlier this week, I came across a quote from economist Frederich Hayek. It made me think of the good people of Michigan:

"Society's course will be changed only by a change in ideas. First you must reach the intellectuals, the teachers and writers, with reasoned argument. It will be their influence on society which will prevail, and the politicians will follow."

In Michigan, we proven this statement to be true about a lot of things. We have consistently gotten the attention of the politicians, making sure they prioritize those things which we value most. We have debunked the myth that people are "powerless" to affect change.

This week, my classes at Oakland University are wrapping up. Two more finals, one more paper and I'm done. For eight weeks I'll have no classes, no homework, no tests. Eight weeks. It's not a lot of time, but I'm already making plans. Plans to contact Detroit city leaders and ask for their help in the fight against human trafficking. Plans to contact both state and federal legislators and ask for their support of existing and pending human trafficking laws. Plans to begin (and maybe finish?) production on a Michigan-specific video aimed at raising awareness. Plans to network, connect, and mobilize people around this well-hidden but undeniable truth: modern-day slavery exists in Michigan.

Yep. Lots of plans. And they're good plans. But here's the thing; I need your help. There is a handful of people in Michigan who have taken up this fight, but we need more. A handful of voices against this issue just isn't enough. Hayek was right, politicians will care only when we care. Holly Burkhalter, VP of Government Relations for International Justice Mission, has told me the same thing. Human rights legislation is initiated in response to society's cry for justice.

Will you become an active contributor to that collective voice? Will you help us fight for those who can't fight for themselves?

You may be asking why. "Why should I put my time and energy into defending people I don't know? We have a lot of problems in this state/country. Why pay attention to an issue like human trafficking? It doesn't really affect me."

You're right. It doesn't affect you. Not directly anyway.
I'd ask you to consider this: victims of injustice rarely have the ability to help themselves. They're violently controlled - often physically and/or emotionally abused, may not speak the language, and simply don't have access - even in America - to the systems that are meant to protect them. They're forever trapped in their lives of oppressive, abusive slavery unless someone comes along and helps.

So... will you help? There are so many simple things you can do. Write an email, make a phone call, sign a postcard. Things that take just a few minutes, or a few seconds.

Think about it. Leave a comment or email me if you'd like. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

True Heroes

This weekend, I am privileged to be in Washington, D.C., participating in International Justice Mission's annual Global Prayer Gathering (GPG). This is the second year in a row that I've attended, and - just like last year - there's one group, more than any other, that moves me to tears: the IJM Investigative Team. This is a group of men and women who have committed their lives to investigating violent oppression and abuse, holding perpetrators accountable, and bringing freedom and justice to victims. They go into some of the world's darkest places, and the kinds of abuse they encounter leave no doubt that true evil exists in this world.

The job of the investigative team is to do just that - investigate. When IJM receives a tip or referral, it's the investigative team that gathers the evidence which leads to rescue operations, and the arrest and eventual conviction of the perpetrators. Their investigations often require them to go into the very places where abuse, exploitation and oppression are happening. Their evidence gathering includes hearing stories from the victims themselves - women and children who have raped, men who have been enslaved and tortured, men and women who have been illegally detained and beaten. As you can imagine, those kinds of stories linger in a person's mind. One investigator said he can still see the faces of girls whom he and his team haven't yet been able to rescue.

They face situations more horrible and seemingly hopeless than you or I could ever imagine. Yet they are more hopeful and certain of God's sovereignty and faithfulness than any group of people I've encountered. One of the investigators who was interviewed tonight said that the reason he doesn't lose hope is because he knows God is bigger than the "big shots" who commit abuse and oppression. "We're going to win. It's just a matter of time," he says.

Tonight they shared stories of abuse, exploitation and oppression. They also shared stories of victory, rescue and freedom. These are men and women who continually come face-to-face with people who could do them great harm... even kill them. These are men and women who intentionally come face-to-face with the brothel owner who's subjecting young girls to systematic rape-for-profit; to the slave owner who brags of his ability to deceive, abuse and control his slaves; to the "family" that's kicked a widow out of her home, leaving her to fend for herself on the streets.

They admit that it's hard, scary and painful. "We're not supermen," one of them said. "We bleed. We bruise." One of the investigators put it well tonight when he said that they "walk into a place, covered in prayer," and walk out "covered in sin."

They may not be supermen, but they are heroes. Men and women who daily sacrifice their safety and comfort, and risk their very lives to secure justice for men, women and children whom the rest of the world has forgotten. They are God's hands and feet. They are also His compassion, faithfulness, joy, steadfastness, justice and mercy.

It was an honor to pray for them tonight. It will be an honor to continue praying for them in the weeks and months to come.