Over the last two weeks, I have participated in a virtual mission trip. I have been on Zoom calls with members of the International Justice Mission (IJM) Ghana Team. Many of you know that Journey is partnering with IJM for the next few years specifically to rescue and restore boys and girls who are being held in slave-like conditions by boat-masters in the fishing industry in Ghana. As part of our Say Yes! initiative that funds freedom, family and the future, we have committed to heavily invest in a freedom-focused ministry like IJM.
Since no one is leaving the country to go on a physical mission trip because of the coronavirus these days, IJM decided to make a digital mission trip available to partner with churches like Journey. So, over the past two weeks I took a cooking class via Zoom with the Ghana team to learn how to make Jollof rice, a favorite dish in many African countries. I should say I watched a cooking class; I didn’t actually make it, but it did look quite tasty.
I listened to a detailed presentation about IJM’s work in Ghana led by the Ghanaian team leaders. IJM is unlike any other mission partner Journey supports. They are not a benevolence, educational or church planting agency. They are a justice advocacy agency that employs lawyers, social workers, local law enforcement, as well as all elements of the legal systems in the various countries where they work. Their missions are dangerous and opposed by people who profit from enslaving and oppressing others. Much of the work of IJM takes place behind the scenes and in the background. They do not seek the spotlight, but instead prefer the local governmental agencies and authorities take the credit for their work. But they are clearly Biblically-based, Christ-centered and prayer-saturated in all that they do.
This week, I concluded my virtual mission journey with a prayer and praise devotional service led by the Ghana field team. I confess that tears streamed down my cheeks as I sang “What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus” with these humble but courageous fellow-servants. I heard a dynamic pastor named Leo thank us for our partnership and how God uses the sower of the seed and the watering of the soil to produce a great harvest. I heard prayer requests from their advocacy, investigative, aftercare and legal departments. And then we prayed together even though we were separated by 5,496 miles and a four-hour time difference.
Here’s what’s exciting: since they started this virtual mission trip, over 30 children have been rescued from slavery and are in the process of being restored to their families or safe caregivers in the last two weeks alone!Think about that Journey family. We have participated in seeing 30 boys and girls made in the image of God set free from slavery. 30 children just in the past two weeks have a future and a hope that they didn’t have just a few days ago. 30 children who could change their families, their communities, their nation and the world are now able to pursue a life outside of bondage. Thank you Journey for giving from an obedient heart and giving to an opportunity for a life to be lived that is abundant and eternal.
I also found it interesting that the country of Ghana is also in the midst of their national elections. The timing of their elections almost mirrors the timeline of America’s elections. This was a prayer concern and request. They prayed for peace. Violence during their election season escalates and many governmental agencies are afraid to intervene for fear of inciting even more violence. Sound familiar?
They prayed not for any political party or specific political figures, but that whoever is elected would continue to look upon IJM’s work with favor and blessing.
As I reflected on this digital trip, it struck me how healing it is for me to see beyond me. It’s easy for me to get so wrapped up in my problems and concerns from my view of the world that I can miss the work of God beyond my life, my neighborhood, my country. People are hurting around the globe and many carry the same concerns for their families and their nation. God cares about their pain as much as he does mine. The outcome of the Ghanaian election means as much to them as the American election means to so many of us.
And yet, in spite of all chaos regardless of the country, the work of rescue and restoration in the name of Jesus prevails and the Lord lets us be a part of it. All of this is beyond me and I’m so grateful that it is.
Loving the Journey,