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.