Ever wondered how soft drink and a cheeseburger reveal the mission of God?
In 2016, I spent a week with a team looking at varied aspects of IJM’s work in the Cebu office. Something happened right at the end of that trip that powerfully illustrated to me the work of God through IJM.
On the second last day, we visited an aftercare facility for older teens who had been rescued from commercial sexual exploitation.
About eight girls shared their story of rescue. Some had made drawings depicting their journey from heartbreaking, appalling servitude to beautiful wholeness and restoration in Jesus. Listening to their stories, I was moved as God’s work of healing was spoken into our small group of Australian visitors.
But then something caught me off guard and rattled me to the core: once the stories had been shared, and a few of us had reciprocated with our own stories, we started handing out some cheeseburgers and soft drink we’d brought in to share with the girls. Somehow, there weren’t enough burgers for everyone, so someone started breaking them apart, and passing them around.
We were eating and drinking, and suddenly I had something of an epiphany: it was like God spoke,
As I heard these words in my mind, I just fell apart. Our team leader saw what was going on and as I shared my thoughts, we both came a little unstuck with it all.
So, what actually happened? It wasn’t just a profound awareness of our unity in Christ, or the equally profound proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus. What I saw was IJM’s mission in microcosm - with cheeseburgers and soft drink no less.
I saw the Spirit of God poured out as the good news proclaimed to the poor, and by the poor.
I saw captives set free as God worked through his people.
I heard powerful stories of eyes being opened to God’s grace and power through Jesus.
There we were: sitting in the presence of the oppressed who had been set free, as the Lord’s favour overflowed into the room.
Reflecting on this later, I found myself saying, “This is IJM! This is why we do what we do.” That those held in slavery can be set free, not only through changed circumstances, but with changed lives as the good news of Jesus is shown.
So now, with Freedom Sunday fast approaching I think of this story, this experience and remember the lives that are being changed by Jesus’s healing and restoration.
More people need to see, understand, and join this fight against slavery, because with every person rescued there is hope. Hope for God’s world and hope for those enslaved. The truth is, though, there is hope for us too. Hope that we will see what is going on and be moved by God’s heart for justice.
It may be a young slave boy on a fishing boat in Ghana. Or justice for a widow in Uganda being pushed off her husband’s land. Or rescue and restoration for a young girl in Bolivia for whom every night brings fear of more sexual violence.
If you’re reading this, you may be wondering what you can do, and whether it will actually make a difference. Well, it sure will! One step you can take is to ask your church to host Freedom Sunday this 23rd of September. Believe me, it will be such a privilege for your church to join this fight!
Now I can’t eat cheeseburgers without thinking back to Cebu, and saying... “Let there be more cheeseburgers! Let there be more IJM Freedom Sundays held with generous supporters! Let that support bring more and more freedom! And through it all, let there be more glory to Jesus who brings the greatest freedom of all.”
Learn more about Freedom Sunday and register your church's interest here.
In 2016, Dave Groenenboom visited Cebu, the Philippines, as an IJM Justice Advocate and pastor of Gateway Community Church in Perth, Western Australia. He's now on staff part-time at IJM Australia as Church Partnership Manager, helping other pastors engage their church communities in God's heart for justice. You can find him on Twitter: @DaveGroenenboom.
International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more