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Australia

Our Freedom Sunday experience

Sunday, 22 September 2019

As we drove to church that Sunday morning, my mind was ticking with all the different aspects of the day’s service that needed to come together. I had been preparing for Freedom Sunday at The Grainery for weeks now, and was filled with nervous excitement about the day that would unfold. But it suddenly occurred to me that my three kids in the back seat had no idea what was going on today. My husband and I always want to be intentional about taking our kids along on the journey with us, and so as I thought about the best way to simplify ‘slavery’ and explain what it means – to three kids under 6 years old – the enormity of the issue was not lost on me.

I told my kids about children and families in other parts of the world who didn’t get to ride scooters, or eat ice-cream, or go to school, because there were ‘bad guys’ that made them work hard all day long. There was dead silence in the back of the car (which is very unusual). I could see their little minds digesting this and thinking it over, when my 5-year-old, who is ready and eager to start school next year, replied

Mummy, I don’t ever want that to be me.

My eyes welled up with tears as I told her that I don’t ever want it to be my children, and I also don’t want it to be someone else’s children, and that’s why we are having this special day today.

Job 31:15 – “Didn’t he who made me, make my servants also? Didn’t the same God form us inside our mothers?

As we continued our drive to church, we prayed that God would open the ears and hearts of our church to hear the message of IJM and Freedom Sunday. And indeed he did.

Across the three services, IJM Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Jacob Sarkodee, shared with the church an inspiring and empowering message, which moved the hearts of the congregation. For many years, The Grainery has had an existing partnership with churches in India, and therefore the in-depth stories, statistics and images from this part of the world resonated with our history and our passion for this region.

As we sit here in church, around 460,000 people are in forced labour slavery in Tamil Nadu state.

That’s the entire population of Newcastle! However as Jacob spoke about the enormity of the situation, the overwhelming message was one of practical and tangible action that can be brought about through a partnership with IJM: “The issue of slavery is vast, it’s brutal, but it’s stoppable.”

I believe every person who was a part of Freedom Sunday at our church was personally touched by some aspect of the work of IJM. For me, as someone who has worked around the world in the area of community development and women’s empowerment, I was inspired to hear incredible stories about brave women, such as Pachyamma, who went from being enslaved in a position of bonded labour, to being freed through an IJM ‘rescue’ mission and subsequently dedicating her life to freeing others who are enslaved – last year running eight rescue operations! The work of IJM is not just giving a one-off chance at freedom, it is creating a cycle of freedom which empowers those who were previously oppressed to release others from their oppression.

As God moved each heart and we responded to Jacob’s call to “become a 21st century abolitionist”, The Grainery members combined to give over $38,000 to the powerful work of IJM, which will fund four complex rescue operations. It was a privilege to join with 15,000 churches across the world who celebrated Freedom Sunday in 2019, as together, we continue the work of Jesus in His mission to bring light into the darkness and usher in His Kingdom across the world.

Britt Darvas is Missions & Justice Pastor alongside her husband Matt at The Grainery Church in Newcastle. You can listen to the Freedom Sunday message mentioned in this blog, here. Learn more about Freedom Sunday here.

Header image: The author’s husband, Matt Darvas, with IJM Australia’s Jacob Sarkodee.

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