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!!!