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Seeking Justice and Loving Mercy in the age of COVID-19

At IJM we recognise that our supporters are more than a mere adjunct to our work. IJM is a community of people seeking to end slavery and violence against the poor. So, I’m taking this opportunity to share a few thoughts in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The rise of COVID-19 is bringing unprecedented change to our lives. Public gatherings have been downsized or cancelled, international and domestic travel has been radically reduced, some people are working from home, while others are suddenly unable to work. Whether you’re a primary school student, Tom Hanks, or Peter Dutton – you’re facing increased risk. Added complication comes with panic buying, aggressive behaviour, general anxiety and confusion.

For this reason, I’m starting this post with a lament. I encourage you to stop what you’re doing, read the prayers out aloud, pausing for 15 seconds between each prayer point.

The Lament

• We lament that in a time of increased risk and significant inconvenience for us in Australia, many poor and vulnerable people are at greater risk than ever – and no one will be there to help them

• We lament our tendency to hoard and focus on ourselves instead of those whose lives are truly in danger

• We lament how our fears and anxieties mute the cries of those who are suffering, especially those under the oppression of slavery and violence

Gracious Father, forgive us our sins, have mercy on us and hear our cry!

We humbly ask you, kind Father,

• Please help us, who have had to cancel trips, or work reduced hours, to remember those who have no safe place to live or rest

• Please help us, who have work and provision, to remember those who bend day after day under the harsh yoke of slavery

• Please help us to pray constantly and act courageously to bring freedom and rescue for all who are enslaved, and who cry out to you daily for justice

Powerful Lord, arise and act!

Thank you for praying with the people of God everywhere!

Please allow me to encourage you with the following:

We retain hope

It’s helpful to know that health authorities are taking positive steps to limit the spread of the virus. We’re all aware that there will still be some weeks of inconvenience if we’re to limit its spread.

There are many voices out there, but some of the more helpful things I’ve seen and read are:

  1. Andy Crouch’s Love in the Time of Coronavirus is one of the best things I have seen from a Christian leader on the topic. Crouch steers us away from panic and anxiety, and into acts of love and compassion. He gently reminds us that right now we have an unprecedented chance to live redemptively in the midst of crisis and fear.
  2. In terms of general health advice, I’m thankful for ABC’s Norman Swan, who gives an excellent overview of how to manage hygiene, travel and social interaction. You can see his 10-minute video here.
  3. NSW Health’s dedicated coronavirus web resource is a great source of up to date information and other state governments will have equivalent resources.

No doubt, this is a challenging and uncertain time. While we shouldn’t be blasé about COVID-19, we can be confident that we are safely in the Fatherly Hand of our Almighty God. As IJM Global Chief Executive Officer, Gary Haugen, has said, “Be more impressed with the goodness and power of God than with looming things, fear, and darkness.”

We seek justice … more

I also want to assure you IJM is still at work in bringing freedom to the oppressed and enslaved, and we remain as committed to this work as ever. This is especially important, as the weak and the vulnerable may be at increased risk, because as COVID-19 impacts them they will still be beyond the protection of the law and adequate health care.

So we are still working for freedom! We have seen this in the last few days as we shared the story of 247 people – including 50 children – released from bonded labour slavery near Chennai, India. God is still at work!

Even here in our Sydney office, we’re all working from home, and collaborating via the internet. It really is a blessing to be able to work together this way! Even so, we’ve had to change a few things. Liberate will now be an online experience. We will still have IJM Ghana’s Anita Budu join us (via weblink), and so we’re still encouraging people to register and connect. We’re praying this will be an important context to draw together, renewing our resolve as Christians united to seek the end of slavery.

We shall be gracious and generous

It may be stating the obvious, but now is not a time to hold back with generosity. While there are some whose immediate financial situation has become uncomfortably tight, for others this may be an opportunity to embody the Kingdom of God by expanding their giving.

It’s worth remembering that IJM supporters are not that different to the people who bring rescue on the field. Really, as a supporter, you are as crucial to IJM’s work as any staff member. You are actually part of the rescue team! So please consider how God may be calling you to courageous compassion in this age of COVID-19.

Church history is laden with stories of how God’s people selflessly cared for those in suffering during times of plague and pestilence. It could be that God is calling us to express a different type of community. One that goes beyond self interest, petty prejudice, and fear. One that shows new community, created to be like Jesus Christ in gracious love, justice and compassion.

Some Scripture

Psalm 121:1–8 (NIV):

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Acts 4:33–34 (NIV): God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

Dave was a pastor in various states across Australia before joining IJM Australia as Church Partnership Manager. You can connect with him via Twitter or Instagram.

Learn more about IJM’s response to COVID-19 here.

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