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5 Good Minutes with: Gary Haugen – Founder International Justice Mission

The Humanitarian Jesus Interview Series

Gary Haugen

There exists an intensity behind the eyes of every great lawyer who knows what it takes to win.  It is that extra force of nature that quietly tells the opposition – “you can beat me or fight me, but you won’t outlast me.”  It was the first thing I noticed in Gary Haugen when we sat down in his DC office.  Gary started International Justice Mission, IJM, in 1997 after returning from his United Nations appointment to head the investigation of the Rwandan Genocide.  There is no question that he brought the credentials and experience to do the job, but he brought something else with him that palpably filled the offices and staff of IJM on the day I was there…

CB: When you wake up every day, what are you waking up to do?  What is “This is what I’m about”?

GH:I think every day is about living a life in God.  That is to say, my life has been given to me by God and has been given to me for a purpose and a way of living that is His.  And so every day is about living in that life that He has given and invited me to.  And that is pretty much summed up by Jesus by living a life of love for God and a life of love for others.  As far as I can tell that’s pretty much it.

CB: Did you grow up wanting to do what you do now or was there a point when the light switched on for you?

GH: No, it was a very incremental process.  It is a paradox that so much of my life now with International Justice Mission (IJM) in recent years has been dwelling in these places of great suffering and violence, brutality and evil in the world because I grew up in a place that couldn’t have been further from all of that.  I grew up in a nice suburb of Sacramento, California, in a nice Christian home, going to church and all the rest. 

But I did have an earnest yearning for God and by the time I was in college there seemed to be something I didn’t understand of intimacy with God.  My world was very, very limited, very, very sheltered from the massive reality of human suffering in the world.  I had this sense that I really wanted to know God more deeply, but there’s whole parts of who  He is and who I am that I was just not even getting to because I was living outside this deep reality of the world.

So it started as this very incremental toe in the water process of taking steps to experience human suffering and hurt in the world.  Once you’re there, you have to start asking the questions -- What does it mean to be alive to God -- to love Him and love my neighbor here?  That just got incrementally challenging, and incrementally interesting, and incrementally powerful.  God made Himself so manifest in those places that the thirst was fed by that and continued to proceed incrementally in that way.

CB: So in ’97 you left United States Justice Department and found yourself here.  Was and is there anything fundamentally different by what you did then and what you do now?  Obviously you were in Rwanda as a state/UN official.  Now you are fighting the same or maybe different injustices, but you’re doing it from a different chair.  What’s fundamentally different?

GH: The thing that is different is that I am doing it in a community of fellow believers.  I’m doing it in an intentional Christian community of prayer and spiritual formation.

The other thing that is different is I have a sense of missional purpose in inviting the rest of the body of Christ likewise into the work.  This was not what I did previously.  The technical work is in many ways very, very similar, but I’m choosing to do it in Christian community, largely for my own sense of health and well being and sustenance in doing it.  I have done this work in the absence of Christian prayerful community and one’s a lot better than the other for me.  The other is this sense of missional purpose in wanting to invite and encourage the rest of the body of Christ to do these things as well.

About the Book and Interviews  “A corrective and a call to action all in one, Humanitarian Jesus shows that evangelism and humanitarian works can and should coexist harmoniously. In an accessible and non-academic style, Christian Buckley and Ryan Dobson outline the biblical case for social and humanitarian investment and engage the topic through interviews with leading Christian thinkers, activists, and humanitarian workers—including Franklin Graham, Gary Haugen, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson, David Batstone, and more.”  For a complete list of interviews and more information go to


This a very interesting post. I really appreciate your views on life and the relation of humanity to nature. - Brenda Lee Reed

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This is about looking at truth from the other side of the road. It is about Why more than What and almost never about How. As for me, I just never want to look at the world the same way again.