Southern Ontario Begins! by Beth McLean Wiest
Our blogs left off at the end of the Winnipeg leg of our trip. At this point, five of our original travelers left us and a new group of five joined us. Our group of 16 would spend many hours over the next 9 days bonding in vehicles as we took in London, Ottawa, Toronto and St. Catharines. The trip began with a stop at the Canadian head office for an organization we love to promote: International Justice Mission.
International Justice Mission (IJM) is a Christian human rights agency. IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression. These victims urgently need the protection of the law.
IJM investigators, lawyers and social workers intervene in individual cases of abuse. They work in partnership with state and local authorities
… 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 pushes individual cases of abuse through the justice system from the investigative stage to the prosecutorial stage. IJM determines the specific source of corruption, lack of resources, or lack of good will in the system denying victims the protection of their legal systems. In collaboration with local authorities, IJM addresses these specific points of brokenness to meet the urgent needs of victims of injustice.
IJM has 16 projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These 16 projects focus on cases of slavery, sex trafficking, sexual violence, theft of property from widows and orphans, illegal detention, and citizenship rights. About 90% of the staff in the field are nationals.
That’s right! 90%! That’s a commitment to a country and belief in its ability to create sustainable change. Change in a country requires its people owning the problems and being a part of the solutions.
An organization’s greatest asset is its people. Its people will determine its capacity- its capacity to deliver, its capacity for growth, its capacity for sustainability. So often we hire based on competency, the essential skills needed to accomplish the tasks of a job. We forget that it is a person’s character that ultimately determines his or her capacity. Character is the foundation of relationships that build a community. Strong positive character and you have healthy community. Weak character and eventually community is eroded and ethical issues arise. It is character that ultimately changes a culture.
We had the privilege of encouraging the IJM Canada staff with three of our songs. One song, “Seek Justice” was composed by Reid McLean Wiest in response to the book Just Courage written by IJM Founder Gary Haugen. The text of “Seek Justice” is Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
In our opinion, IJM staff worldwide are doing a great job of living out this verse… They seem to seek justice at every opportunity. They rescue the oppressed. They defend the fatherless. They plead for the case of the widow. They are people of character and it was such a privilege for our team to spend time with IJM Canada, to offer them some encouragement through our music, and to be inspired by our time together to keep on advocating for them.
Visiting IJM Canada headquarters was nothing short of a gift. We were welcomed with open arms by all the staff and we were treated to a marvelous lunch of donairs. Yum! Talk about hospitality. One of my highlights of our time with the IJM staff was the feeling of being united with family. Sometimes it feels like we are all fighting our own battles against the injustices of the world and we get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all and the impossibility of our tiny actions and efforts ever having an effect. As we chatted with the staff and heard more about their work and the work of IJM, I felt like we were co-laborers and that the message of Christ’s love was indeed being spread throughout the nations. After a time of listening and learning about various staff’s roles and the work that is done out of the head office, we were able to gift the staff with singing 3 songs. It seems like a really small gift, but the staff were so appreciative and blessed. I think being able to sing to them blessed me most! We parted ways knowing that this was not our last time to see or hear from one another. “Until we meet again” ran through my mind as we walked to our cars, “this is just the beginning”.