Monthly Archives: September 2010

When You Call on Jesus

Hello from Africa! After two days of travel I arrived in Uganda bright and early Tuesday morning, tired but excited to be here. It has been a whirlwind of a week as I have settled in to my apartment, gone through training at the IJM office, and explored the beautiful, crowded, hilly, polluted city that is Kampala.

I’ll soon have an update about general life here (with pictures!)… but for now I just HAVE to tell you about what happened today. It was a great day that started off with a long brunch with the other interns/fellows here at IJM, wandering around a downtown market with  beautiful crafts and batik art, etc, and a relaxing afternoon playing games with fellow IJM interns and another young expat that I met. But that’s just the intro to the real story…

I was walking back to my side of town this afternoon, and the road I was on took me by this long airstrip that apparently is used sometimes as a park, and sometimes as an airstrip for the President. The first thing I noticed was that there were TONS of people milling around the airstrip, and a lot of them were congregating at this large stage in the middle. There were lots of armed guards and policemen stationed around the airstrip. At first, I was wary: Is this a political rally? Is it safe? Should I be here right now? As I walked closer, I heard a song coming from the stage: “when you call on Jesus, all things are possible….” Wait! I know that song! That’s Nicole C. Mullen!! But, I’m in Uganda. That couldn’t be her. What is going on?

I asked two sweet ladies who were walking the same direction as I was, and sure enough, they confirmed that it was indeed Nicole C. Mullen (a Christian worship singer.. she’s a definite favorite in the Hanson household and I grew up singing her songs while doing the dishes and dancing around the living room). She was here with Andrew Palau, an international evangelist, to perform at this large revival/worship festival called Love Kampala. We walked through the security checkpoint, and melted into the crowd surrounding the stage. (Well… I’d like to think I melted into the crowd… but as the one white face in a group of thousands, I probably didn’t really blend in at all.)

Let me tell you… being at a Nicole C. Mullen concert with thousands of people who really can clap, sing, and dance along to her songs is amazing. It was an hour of such powerful worship, and for me, the whole event was a complete answer to prayer. This week has been harder for me than I had anticipated, due to a number of factors. I’ve felt almost perpetually overwhelmed. Although no one aspect of my life is terribly hard, when I consider everything I have to get used to (Africa, Kampala, my duties at IJM, my apartment, public transportation, budgeting my money, developing friendships and relationships with IJM staff members, etc), the transition has proved to be quite draining.And so the fact that I just happened to stumble on a concert by one of my favorite music artists while wandering through Kampala, and was able to spend an hour being constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness through her lyrics and worshipping with thousands of fellow brothers and sisters here in Uganda … it was exactly the refreshment I needed.

I was reminded, once again, that when I try to survive on my own strength, it just doesn’t work. I alone can do nothing of lasting value here…but when you and I call on Jesus… all things are possible!

I’m so very ordinary, nothing special on my own.
Oh, I have never walked on water,
And I have never calmed a storm.
Sometimes I’m hiding away from the madness around me
Like a child who’s afraid of the dark

But when I call on Jesus,
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles’ and soar
When I call on Jesus,
Mountains are gonna fall
‘Cause He’ll move heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call


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7 Things I Loved About Training Week

I just finished up my week of training at IJM’s headquarters in DC. It exceeded all of my expectations. As I wrote on my evaluation, it was incredibly inspiring, empowering, and instructive. I could talk for hours about what I learned, but in an effort not to overwhelm my readers with exuberance, I decided to limit myself to just seven things I loved about training week. 🙂

1. Learning about the Spiritual Foundations of IJM. Our first day of training was led by Gary Haugen, the founder, President, and CEO of IJM. The day was focused solely on the spiritual foundations of IJM – how our faith in Jesus Christ and our role as His disciples impacts both WHAT we do (seek justice) and HOW we do that (through faith, humility, and lots of prayer.) One of the most powerful things that Gary told us was this (paraphrased):

“You are all highly intelligent, passionate, and capable people. The problem with highly capable people is that they’re often confused about where their power to do good actually comes from. The power to fight aggressive evil comes from God. The power to fight this aggressive evil with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control really comes from God.”

2. Understanding how every department contributes to fulfilling the mission of IJM. It was so helpful to hear the VPs of many of the departments (Finance, Communications, Justice Operations, Church Mobilization, etc) articulate how their roles at IJM all fulfill the four-fold purpose of IJM: victim relief, perpetrator accountability, victim aftercare, and structural transformation. (I know, those are big words… I’ll explain them more fully in another blog post). Seeing the vision of IJM come together in such a cohesive way was really exciting, and helped all of us interns gain a further appreciation for the importance of our work and the responsibility we have been given to conduct our work with professional excellence.

3. Getting to know the other new interns, fellows, and staff at training week. There were 51 new IJM colleagues at training week. We came from 10 different countries and are going out to 14 new field office assignments. Hearing their stories was one of the best parts of the whole week – how for some (like me), this chance to serve with IJM is a lifelong dream come true. For others, this is the response to a slowly growing conviction of God’s heart for justice. I met successful lawyers, journalists, businessmen and businesswomen who all gave up their promising career for a chance to work for IJM for a  year. Wow.

4. Meeting my “heroes” of the modern human rights movement. Yes, it’s true – I have been star-struck for most of the last week.  As you may know, I first heard about IJM’s work when I returned from Cambodia in high school and read Terrify No More. It’s the story of passionate, focused lawyers and investigators who successfully organized and executed a daring raid on a brothel in Cambodia, rescuing young girls from sex trafficking and essentially marking the beginning of IJM as an operational organization. For the last six years, they have been my inspiration… and this week, I actually met them and the rest of the people at headquarters who make the work of IJM actually happen.

5. Working through a casework simulation… and failing miserably. The focal point of training was a casework simulation we all went through halfway through the week. After learning about the four-fold purpose of IJM (mentioned above), and the 10-step case methodology for conducting investigations, we were split into teams and had to go through the process of securing justice for a fictional character in a fictional country, but whose situation was a pretty accurate description of what many IJM clients face on the field – issues of abuse, illegal detention, police brutality, corrupt/inefficient legal system, etc. It was, to put it plainly, incredibly frustrating. From our mock office we spent an hour just figuring out how to contact our client (each team was equipped with a phone to call the relevant characters in the case study, who were all voiced by IJM staff members). By the time we spoke with our client, we ended up with just twenty minutes to actually conduct the investigation, and so had less than stellar results to show the panel of judges. We ended up tied for last. Although I will not be involved in this sort of investigations work while on the field (they leave that to trained professionals!), it does help to understand the sort of cultural and bureaucratic obstacles that IJM faces in the struggle to secure justice even for one client.

6. Hearing how wonderful the Uganda office is. Over and over again I heard IJM headquarters staff gush about the Uganda office: how smoothly it runs, how kind and diligent the field office director is, how successful they’ve been in partnering with local churches there and paving the way for structural transformation in Uganda. I feel so blessed to go to Uganda and work with a team of such committed Christian professionals.

7. Being reminded time and time again that God is so good! Every day, IJM staff meet for a time of corporate prayer, sharing requests for operations on the field, and rejoicing as we see God working through every aspect of IJM’s work, whether it’s through the release of slaves in South Asia, through a generous donation from a foundation, or through the increased number of IJM prayer partners around the world. It is a powerful testimony to the power of God and what happens when His people seek Him.

So there you have it: 45 hours of training packed into a tiny 7-point nutshell. At the beginning of the week we were asked to rate how we were feeling on the anxiety-peace spectrum. I ended up about halfway in-between. This week has been incredibly instrumental in moving me closer every day to the peace end of the spectrum… knowing that God has ordered my steps for the next year and He goes before me on this journey has given me an immense sense of gratitude and peace. I still have fears, doubts, unanswered questions, etc, but I know that God is present and powerfully acting through the work of IJM and His church. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for His sovereignty and for your continued prayers. I feel ready to go to Uganda, not because of my expertise or incredible knowledge, but because of the simple truth that the Lord goes before me and is my rear guard (Isaiah 52: 11, 12).

Uganda, here I come!!!


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An African Playlist

With just three days left before I take off for DC, I thought it was high time to make myself an iTunes playlist for my journey to Africa! Here’s a sampling of what I included…

To listen to the songs, you can either click this link: An African Playlist, which will take you to a Grooveshark playlist I created with these six songs on it. Or, just click on the title of each song for its link on youtube).

  1. Waka Waka, by Shakira. Okay so here’s the story behind this pick: Right around the time I interviewed for the IJM internship in Uganda, the World Cup was in full force and this song was being played in our house constantly thanks to Trevor. When I finally found out that I got the position in Uganda, this song pretty much became the soundtrack of my life as I danced around the living room (no one else was around). 🙂
  2. Up to the Mountain, by Patty Griffin. If you’ve never listened to Patty Griffin, you’re missing out. I first heard this song in my Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation class last fall. We were supposed to write a reflective essay on it (an assignment that was way too introspective  for my type-A personality!) It’s a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I have a Dream” speech. It’s what I listen to whenever I need to be reminded of the great legacy of justice that people like MLK Jr have left us.
  3. Giants, by Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City singers. This song takes me straight back to TU chapels when the gospel choir led worship. It reminds me that despite the enormity of the giants of injustice, poverty, and spiritual darkness that I’ll be facing, the truth remains that God is here, and when we praise His name,  those giants gotta come down!
  4. Landa Yesu, by Selah. The Christian group called Selah is comprised of two MKs from Africa, and so a lot of their songs have an African beat and often are sung in Swahili, the trade language of East Africa.  This song is just a pure and simple call to the people of Africa to landa Yesu: follow Jesus. The raw urgency in the song gives me goosebumps every time!
  5. I Surrender All, by the Newsboys. When I was studying in Egypt in 2009, this song popped up on my iPod while riding the Metro in Cairo. I was in a strange city, surrounded by millions of people who needed love and the truth of Jesus. I felt overwhelmed, insignificant, and unprepared. This song reminded me that God just asks that we surrender our lives to Him, that it’s through our weakness that His power is made perfect. I think I’m going to need this reminder a lot.
  6. Adiemus, by Adiemus. Okay. To be honest, I have no idea what this song is saying (and yes, I know the dolphins in the music video are weird). The title is Latin, and it means “We Will Draw Near.” But I first heard this song on the trailer for Invisible Children, (about the child soldiers who are abducted into Joseph Kony’s militia in northern Uganda), and so this song will always remind me of Uganda and the huge need for justice and righteousness to reign in that land. And I love the African kids choir that starts up at 00:45 or so.

This playlist is a work-in-progress, so let me know if you have a great song I should include!


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