I remember back in elementary school having to stand up in class (while still groggy and half asleep) to recite these words:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I never really gave much thought to these words but these days, “justice for all” is taking on a great meaning for me. When I think about justice, my mind usually goes straight to the Jesus’ mission found in Isaiah 61: “To heal the brokenhearted, and set the captives free…” Ever since I was a child, I’ve resonated with the principle of justice in the context of defending the broken, the needy, the poor and the abused.
I wanted to do something about the injustice.
I wanted to contribute.
I wanted to change things!
I wanted to be like Superman who stood for truth and justice.
I sensed God offering us a chance to trust Him more than we had. I wanted to attempt something that could fail big without God.
But what could I do? I was too small to change the world, too fragile to leap off a building, and didn’t have a big enough allowance to buy food for all the homeless. But I remember an instance when was about nine or ten years old. My dad sent me to the local store to buy cream for his tea. As I was leaving the store, I looked down and saw a dirty, unshaved homeless man. At that moment, something happened in my heart. I wondered, “Why is this guy sitting on the sidewalk in filthy clothes, unshaven, unhealthy looking, and apparently hungry?
Right then was my moment! This was a chance to seize the opportunity for justice! I walked over and gave him all the money I had (which was actually my dad’s money that I was supposed to bring back to him). Then I just walked away without saying a word. I walked away tall and content. It may have been only one meal for one person in a small city in Florida, but it was an enormous and dramatic experience for my young mind.
I remember other similar experiences in the 28 years since then. I still want to be like Superman—bringing justice to the bad guys and saving the victims. I want to be part of a cause bigger than myself. I want to be part of something that will outlive me.
The University of Oregon
After graduating from the ARISE Cornerstone Program, I agreed to take part of the ARISE Internship Program. My team’s mission is to do ministry on the campus of the University of Oregon. Baffled and overwhelmed at the 20,000 student body campus, I began to look for God’s leading. The University of Oregon is very secular compared to the Bible belt area from where I’m from. This intimidated me. What could the four of us do? I didn’t want to get swallowed by the giant. It was my Goliath. I wasn’t interested in doing things by my own power. I wasn’t interested in doing things that I could accomplish with my own skills like a mild mannered Clark Kent Bible worker, having a few quiet Bible studies amidst the masses. It seems we settle too often, living quiet lives of desperation. I sensed God offering us a chance to trust Him more than we had. I wanted to attempt something that could fail big without God. I desired something that required God’s hand; isn’t that more exciting? With my trusty partner Alex, we set out without a plan of attack. We had no idea where to start. We had no specific marching orders. We were willing. We took this on by faith and asked for guidance. Some days seemed like a waste. Some days we had little success. Most days it rained.
Justice Week Was Born
After hearing about the Justice Conference, I researched justice in the context of human sex trafficking. I learned about an organization called International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. They now have 300 professionals working for justice in their own communities. I downloaded their Justice Week Tool Kit. This was the basis for the idea of a Justice Week at the University of Oregon.
We spent hours on our knees writing on sidewalks with chalk about the issues of justice and raising awareness of the sex exploitation of children in our communities. We passed out thousands of flyers highlighting the issues and our planned events. We set up tables, a tent and made display boards telling about the atrocities of sex trafficking.
We screened a documentary on campus about the sex exploitation happening right here in our very own backyard. We invited the founder of a local charity, Hope Ranch to speak about her desire to establish several houses where former sexually exploited women could go and receive healing. We also heard from a survivor, a lady who was formerly a prostitute. Hers was not a PG rated story; it was disturbing and motivating. And by a divine miracle, we gained access to a gymnasium in the center of campus to hold our pinnacle event, a free concert with a message of justice weaved throughout the songs. God answered our prayers in a way we never could have imagined
With God’s help, we were able to bring awareness about some relevant justice issues and encouraged lots of people to take some small steps in brining justice to our community. This was definitely just the beginning but we’re excited to see what the Lord will do in the near future.
If you’re interested in bringing awareness to some of these issues in your area, be sure to visit IJM’s website. They have plenty of suggestions for everyone including churches, students, professionals, prayer partners and artists. Learn how you can get involved here.
Remember, God is not necessarily asking you to change the whole world, but He is asking you to do the little that you can with what you have to bring justice to all those around you.