Our God of Justice – reflections from the National Prayer Gathering 2017 – Shirley Sutton
Your ways God, are holy
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles
You display your power among the peoples
With your mighty arm, you redeemed your people
Isaiah 77: 13-15
International Justice Mission (IJM) is a Christian human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor. IJM’s vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible in Jesus’ name.
I attended the IJM National Prayer Gathering on Saturday 4th November 2017 in St. Paul’s church in Hammersmith, London. IJM is becoming less of a stranger to us with people from our own church, as well as others known to us, who have served, or are currently serving, with IJM at their headquarters in Washington DC, USA. The all-day gathering in London was a truly blessed time of worship, calling on the name of our great God, who is a God of justice, as we brought before Him the cries of our hearts for the plight of so many in suffering, slavery and bondage across the globe. We learned facts that broke our hearts through verbal, video and written media. Facts that left us in no way ignorant of exactly the scale of the problem, the depravity of man, and the power we have in the name of Jesus to break every chain.
There are over 40 million people in slavery in our world today and in any given hour, 120 children will have been sold as slaves. Whilst you are reading this, 2 children per minute will be sold into sweatshops, brothels, bonded labour, forced to do unspeakable things, and treated as commodities to be exploited. We heard of the story of Cassie, from the Philippines, taken to Manila as a young girl and used as a commodity to be abused and exploited in the sex industry. IJM found and rescued her and others including a girl as young as just a year old. We also saw a video of Cassie now, praising the Lord for her freedom and restoration, and her ability to serve and help others who have been through what she has been through. Thankful for all that God has done in her life, with her beaming, wide, infectious smile as she spoke, and leaving not a dry eye in the place.
As we stilled our hearts taking in these facts, we were reminded of God’s heart for justice as He set the children of Israel free from their slavery in Egypt. We recognised that it’s a miracle like this we are seeking against the powers and principalities and the corruption and depravity. We were reminded of Nehemiah while he was in exile and received the report of the state of the temple and how it lay in ruins. He wept and prayed and pleaded for God to act. He made it personal; he trusted God to intervene as he asked the impossible of his captor – to allow him to go back to rebuild the temple and honour God. An ask steeped in prayer. Cries to his heavenly Father went before such an ask. A seemingly impossible ask by man’s standards, but not by God’s.
We were reminded of Elijah who prayed for rain at a time when there was a drought for years. Six times the servant went to check for rain and on the seventh time that glimmer of cloud and wonderfully answered prayer with a storm. The enemy makes us believe nothing can change, but let us not forget that Jesus rose from the dead; He is sovereign; He hears the cries of His people. Let our hearts be moved to cry out to Him on behalf of those who have no voice. We were reminded that there are 3 stages to every great work of God; “first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” James Hudson Taylor
The Slavery breakout session gave us chilling facts of 40 million people in slavery today, stolen, bought, trafficked, coerced into bondage labour making bricks, rose farms, furniture factories, fishing boats… no pay, held as slaves, commodities to be used, discarded and replaced. As we began our prayer time we were visually reminded of the scale of the problem as we looked at a large basin of two million rice grains, representing just 5% of that total of 40 million in slavery in our world. We were given small glass bottles to fill with rice and asked to take one rice grain out each day and pray for a person in slavery represented by that one grain.
We heard of the plight of boys as young as six or seven years old like Godson from Ghana taken to work on Lake Volta diving all day to untangle nets in dangerous waters. He saw his little friend lost to the water like an irreplaceable commodity, before IJM rescued him and others. The trafficking breakout session told us of example stories of young girls in the Dominican Republic, India, and Romania taken to brothels and cruelly exploited both physically and via the internet. And the chilling reality that many villages in Romania have no girls left as they have been trafficked to Italy, Spain, and Bucharest.
Lastly, we heard in person from an IJM Lawyer in a country in Asia where 13 years ago, it was an accepted practice to openly sell children on the street and where 30% of the sex industry were minors. We heard his personal story of how God worked in his life and how he began working with IJM to help them to secure arrests of perpetrators. We learned of the 748 victims rescued, 200 convictions and over 500 police trained, as mind-sets, culture and laws are changing. Today there is less than 1% of minors in the sex industry in that country. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.
“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world…” Karl Barth. When we pray, God hears us – we’re starting a conversation with the creator of the universe. When we pray, we partner with God to seek His kingdom.
Please Pray for:
- The field office that IJM needs to open in Eastern Europe to start dealing with the huge trafficking issues
- Courage to overcome fear to those who are informers, investigators, lawyers as they work to make arrests that will lead to convictions and law reform in 17 communities around the world
- All the areas that IJM are working in: forced labour slavery; sex trafficking; sexual violence; property grabbing; police abuse of power; citizenship rights abuse
- Ourselves… that we won’t stop crying out to our great God on behalf of those who have no voice
“Every great work of God is first impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done”
See the IJM website for further details on all the work they are doing: www.ijmuk.org