How my church started freeing slaves: my Justice Advocate journey of prayer, patience and God’s timing

Mei-Li Farrell

I first heard about IJM over 10 years ago when I was starting out as a fresh new lawyer. I watched a documentary by Christian music artist, Sara Groves, where Sara went on a trip to an African nation with Gary Haugen, CEO and Founder of IJM. It was here that I learned the story behind the organisation. I was so inspired and excited at the heart and work of IJM that I wanted to become involved somehow. At that stage, IJM did not have a physical presence in Australia so I had to park that idea.

Funnily enough some seven years later in 2013, I found myself temporarily in Sydney for work and became connected to IJM again – but this time the organisation was in Australia! IJM was just in the process of opening an office in Sydney and I jumped at the opportunity to finally be involved and attended the first Justice Advocates training in Sydney. It was here that I learned about the holistic vision of IJM, combining both field work and also developing the support network to fuel, pray and fund the incredibly brave work on the frontline. As a new Justice Advocate I was excited about exploring how I could connect my local church to support IJM’s work in some way.

As with most churches, my local church has a well-established network of organisations and partner workers whom we support in the short and long term, so I was unsure as to how to approach the leadership about supporting yet another opportunity. My husband and I decided to pray about an opening to talk to our senior pastor about somehow becoming involved/supporting IJM. I had no idea what this would look like, financial support, prayer support, speaking platform or something else. I just trusted the whole idea and process to God and waited.

You have to understand that on top of the usual established support that my church is committed to, we were also in the midst of a historic and significant building campaign which was a huge focus for our church family at the time. I had the impression that it was not the right season to make an approach and overburden the leadership with more things to consider. I wanted to do justice to the cause of IJM’s work whilst also respecting the season of our church. I can tell you that I found it hard at times to wait, feeling as though my inaction was missing an opportunity. But I felt I needed to be obedient to what I sensed the Holy Spirit was saying: wait.

After some time of waiting, out of nowhere – towards the end of 2015, some two years after I became connected with IJM Australia – IJM approached me about whether my church would be interested in hosting Jim Martin, IJM Vice President of Spiritual Formation, for a Sunday service. It seemed like an incredible opportunity and amazingly, there was a free slot in our church’s usually full speaking calendar for Jim to speak. Not only that but it also so happened our church was doing a series at the time and the topic for that very Sunday was Justice. It was so clear to me that God had opened this door. This was the first of a number of speaking opportunities for IJM which our church has since hosted.

In the meantime, my husband and I continued to act as Justice Advocates for IJM and started to host a IJM Mission:Freedom group in our home. The purpose of the group was to build a community where we could learn about God’s heart for justice, pray for IJM’s work and opportunities to raise awareness of modern day slavery amongst each of our respective networks and spheres of influence. We opened the group up to people in our church as well as others we knew from other churches. Being in Brisbane and away from IJM’s headquarters in Sydney, the group truly helped to sustain our collective passion for the fight against injustice and to support one another’s ideas for raising awareness, e.g. writing to our local and federal members regarding the battle against cybersex trafficking and other forms of slavery. As we saw God moving through our efforts, it gave us faith to believe for more and God grew our hearts through the study of His Word.

Although I made the initial introduction for the first speaking opportunity for IJM at my church, it is amazing that now there is a wonderful relationship between IJM staff and our senior leadership. This relationship has facilitated our church hosting Abraham George, IJM Global Director of Church Partnerships, and culminating in Freedom Sunday last year in 2017 where Philip Langford, IJM Vice President for International Advancement, spoke.

I mentioned how my church recently went through a monumental building campaign. I am blown away time and time again by the immense and continued generosity of my church family in supporting the work of IJM in addition to supporting the church. They continue to give financially and prayerfully towards IJM’s work. In fact, my husband has been fundraising with several other Brisbane IJM Justice Advocates for a ‘run for freedom’ in late August and he hit his fundraising goal within the first weekend due to the generosity of so many. As a result, he has since doubled his goal.

My journey of introducing IJM to my church has been one of trusting, patience and respect for my church leadership. It’s so tempting to rush relationships in my own time but I have learned that God’s timing is best and yields lasting fruit.

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:17-18

Learn more about Freedom Sunday and register your church’s interest here.

Mei-Li and her husband Jono are long-term IJM supporters and Justice Advocates, based in Brisbane.

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