In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, this is a repost of an interview held with International Justice MIssion staff member Lauren Johnson in early 2010. IJM currently is one of the world leaders in combatting slavery today.
Last month I visited the International Justice Mission headquarters, not far from the Pentagon and just outside our nation’s capitol. It was a beautiful day. The air was crisp and cool and the ground layered with the remnants of the recent snow storm.
Inside IJM headquarters - aka HQ -, you’ll find a quant, but inspirational photo gallery. The walls are lined with telling photographs of beautiful people who are part of IJM’s work abroad. Each face on each photo tells a different story of survival, of redemption and of justice at work.
Lauren Johnson, an IJM church mobilizer, met me in the gallery. Upon meeting Lauren, it was clear that God has orchestrated her life’s path perfectly by placing her at IJM during this time. She was a terrific host. After a tour of the floor offices, Lauren and I sat down and talked about human trafficking and the work brave work the associates of IJM are knee deep in.
Carrie: Lauren, thank you for having this conversation with me today about human trafficking in the world and what IJM is doing. I wonder if you could share with us a little about what your role is in the church mobilization department here at IJM?
Lauren: My team is responsible for sharing with US churches about our work and the Biblical call that we have as Christians to seek justice on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. We walk alongside churches as they build justice ministry into all aspects of their church, including missions, discipleship, evangelism, worship. In my particular role, I resource churches with tools that will help them along in their own journey and keep them updated on IJM’s frontline casework around the world.. I also assist IJM speakers who travel to churches in the US to share about God’s call to justice with diverse congregations around the country.
Carrie: How do you share about the work that IJM is doing and about this global issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery without paralyzing or scaring people?
Lauren: Well, we try to communicate a message of hope because the facts and realities are startling. National Geographic estimates there are 27 million slaves today and UNICEF estimates that there are about 2 million children exploited in the sex industry. Those are hard numbers to hear. But we also communicate that our God is big, and he’s bigger than even these statistics. He sees every person trapped in slavery. In scripture we see that he wants to redeem them and bring them out of the oppression. We also share stories of IJM clients who have been rescued from slavery or violent oppression. A big part of my job is sharing these stories of hope about God’s goodness and God’s grace. We have seen many incredible stories of rescue. Our field staff who do God’s work on the front lines are also a source of encouragement.
Carrie: What do you say to those who believe that modern day slavery is something that only happens in the developing world?
Lauren: We at IJM see that modern day slavery thrives in areas of the world where there is an absence of the rule of law, which makes it very easy for people to be trapped in slavery and for people to run businesses with slaves. But you are right; it does happen all over the world. I know you are writing this column about slavery happening in the U.S. and we’re grateful that you’re raising awareness of this issue. IJM’s particular area of expertise is working in areas where the public justice system is not functioning, so we do not conduct casework in the U.S., but slavery does exist in our country. Thank you for what you’re doing to equip people to fight it.
Carrie: Are there things that Americans living here in the US can do to lessen the demand of trafficking in the US and overseas?
Lauren: The first thing that comes to mind is what we are doing with our Justice Campaigns. We, as citizens of the United States of America are in very powerful positions to influence our leaders. So we’ve been asking people to contact their Senators and Representatives in congress and ask that they support measures against human trafficking and make decisions that will help people in the developing world who are victims of slavery and child exploitation. We are specifically asking people to ask their representatives to support exciting legislation called the Child Protection Compact Act (CPCA). If this bill is passed, it will give extra funds to the United States State Department’s Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Office to help them fight child slavery and child exploitation. So that would be the first thing that comes to mind. Another thing would be to consider the things we are purchasing. An organization that comes to mind is Trade As One, which is an organization that helps the Christian community think about the way they purchase items and use their spending power.
Carrie: How would you encourage ConversantLife users to get involved with IJM?
Lauren: I’ll start with the Justice Campaign since I already talked a little about that. You can ask your representatives in Washington to stand up for victims of trafficking around the world - just visit IJM's Justice Campaigns to get started. This really makes a difference. Also, we recognize this work is impossible without God’s help, so we take very seriously our need of prayer. We have Prayer Partners all around the world praying for us and we need more people join us in praying for our clients and casework. You can sign up to be a prayer partner on our website. Also, as a non-profit we encourage folks to support us financially. Our donors are vital partners in this work and paying for the rescue the poor cannot afford is a really valuable way to engage in the work of justice. We have a monthly giving program called the Freedom Partner Program – that is fantastic – you can invest in a certain area of the world or particular casework type.
Carrie: Our last question comes from a ConversantLife user. Ridley would like to know how IJM balances fighting for justice while at the same time exercising compassion and Christ’s love for those who are inflicting the injustice?
Lauren: That’s a really great question. One important thing that we do at IJM is that we pray for the perpetrators. We recognize that like all of us, they are created in the image of God and we know that our Father is longing for their reconciliation to Him. So that’s what we pray for. We also believe that to treat the perpetrators with love is to restrain their hands from inflicting pain upon other people. We do celebrate the hope and healing of our victims but we obviously do not celebrate the pain inflicted upon them by the life of the perpetrator. But, we see an obvious call to seek justice and restrain the hand of people who are oppressing others.
Carrie: Lauren I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me about this issue and about what IJM is doing to fight for justice on behalf of the oppressed and enslaved. IJM’s work is truly inspiring and I believe that your mission is a kingdom one that is obedient to the call for justice we know our God desires for all his people. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and press on with your good works for the Lord.
Lauren: Thank you. It is really exciting to walk with God in this journey of seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Justice is an aspect of God’s character that really is an exciting and challenging component of Christianity and of our faith walk. So I just encourage everybody to investigate justice ministries and see how God might be calling us to use our own resources, gifts, and power to rescue and bless those who are being oppressed.
Thanks for checking out the interview . I’d love to hear from you regarding any comments you have or questions related to this interview with Lauren.