The following are brief stories from former Cru students now serving as IJM staff members. These three testimonials described how God used their time involved with Cru to ignite their passion for Jesus and justice.
I was significantly involved with Cru at Miami University from 1985-1989. My strongest memory of my involvement with Crusade is staff members continually challenging me to do things that I simply did not want to do (lead a Bible study in a Freshmen residence hall, share my faith, go to Daytona Beach, etc.). I would typically respond, “No way. That will never work.” But then later, after some prayerful reflection on Scripture, I would change my mind. I still did not want to do whatever it was, but I would do it anyway because it seemed like the right thing to do. In many cases, the results far exceeded my expectations. I saw things I had only read about in the Bible happen in real life. People came to faith in Jesus, they grew in Him, they changed, they led others to faith. Two guys in my first Bible study led the entire wrestling team to Christ, including the coach.
I am still the same way. I rarely want to do the right thing. But I have seen how God can work through one person’s obedience, how He can do miracles of transformation through our small steps of faith. It has been the very same in my work with IJM. When I joined IJM 12 years ago, no one had any idea if it would really work. There had been only one or two rescues. No convictions of perpetrators. No stories of lasting transformation. No offices overseas. It was really just a very compelling vision. I did not want to leave the security of my career as a lawyer to go overseas and be a human experiment in someone else’s vision. But again, Scripture was clear. God hates injustice and wants it to stop. He hears the cries of the broken and oppressed. He wants His people to respond, to love their neighbor as themselves.
And so I went. I left my law firm and moved to Manila, Philippines to start an IJM office there in 2000. I prayed my guts out and I worked my tail off. I did not expect great things. I honestly expected to suffer. But it just seemed like this was the right thing to do. How could I stand by when little girls were locked away and raped with no one to help them? How could any sacrifice I make compare the suffering they would be released from if we could get them out? And do you know what happened? God showed up. Big time. Since starting work in 2000, IJM teams in the Philippines have worked with public authorities to secure the rescue of over 750 women and girls who were being raped for profit. Currently, with our assistance, the government is implementing new models of policing, prosecution, and victim care that are turning the tide against the pimps and the traffickers. The body of Christ in the Philippines is beginning to mobilize around these issues as well. With each passing year, it is getting harder and harder to find any children being exploited in prostitution in the cities where we’re at work.
Whether it is sharing your faith in a freshman dorm or rescuing girls from brothels in Southeast Asia, God is just waiting for us to show up. We take our steps of faithful obedience. God does the miracles of redemption and transformation. It all returns to Him as worship.
I became a believer in Jesus when I was a freshman at James Madison University after a couple of Cru students shared the Gospel with me and convinced me to go to a Cru Bible Study. My remaining three and a half years as a student were focused on learning about Jesus, about what mattered to him and on how to follow him. Not surprisingly, as a student in Cru, I developed a very strong appreciation for the need of the Gospel in our world, and I became deeply moved by the mission of the Great Commission. And so, as an energetic and youthful new believer, I committed at that time, that for the remainder of my life I would live out the call of the Great Commission.
But as someone who had wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I could remember, I also began to notice the repeated calls in Scripture where God cries out for men and women who will bring justice to his people. I was most moved by Jesus’ telling of the story of the Good Samaritan. A teacher of the law had come to challenge Jesus and in doing so he asked the most critical question of all. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Well, per my Cru training, obviously at this point Jesus should have launched into the Four Spiritual Laws. But he didn’t. Instead he told this remarkable story – a story that centers on the love and care of one despised man for another who was the victim of horrific violent injustice.
Did I think that Jesus was advocating some sort of “works-based” Gospel? Of course not. But I did think that -- on some fundamental level that I did not quite understand -- for Jesus, the Gospel is deeply intertwined with the suffering of our neighbors, and that it is in Jesus’ love of these suffering neighbors that the truth and the reality of the Gospel is actually revealed. And so I began to realize as a student, and then as a Cru intern, that I needed to respond to the call I had sensed to be a lawyer, to put myself into a position to love those who are victims of violent injustice, and to speak for them when no one else will. I decided that in following this course, to where my giftings and passions lay, I could most faithfully live out my commitment to the Great Commission.
At the time IJM did not exist. But when I heard about IJM a few years out of law school, I knew immediately that I had found what Jesus had been leading me toward all along.
I had chosen a college that was 500 miles from home and where I knew no one. I had been following Jesus for about two and half years, and I remember thinking to myself as I packed to leave for my freshman year at Miami University in Oxford Ohio, “I hope there is some sort of Christian fellowship that I can join,” but I wasn’t certain of what I would find. All I knew was that I had received a small piano performance scholarship and this seemed like the right school, for reasons I didn’t fully understand.
As I look back, I am still overcome by an incredible sense of awe at the community God had prepared for me to step into. I remember saying goodbye to my parents, getting settled in to my dorm room, sitting on my top bunk, and suddenly sensing God saying to me “this is my time with you now.” As it turned out, there were several other girls in my hall who were also looking for Christian community. Very quickly we discovered that Miami was home to the largest Cru movement in the country! True to God’s promise to me, as I started my first days at Miami and became involved with Cru, I entered the most spiritually formative years of my life to that point – years that still impact who I am today and who I am continuing to become.
Cru enabled me to form extraordinary friendships and discipleship relationships. Some of these friends had a deep understanding of prayer that I had never experienced before. Others had a remarkable understanding of theology and scripture and our conversations literally awakened me to core passions within myself that I hadn’t realized existed. Perhaps most of all, Cru introduced me to a lifestyle of worship and faithful servant leadership. Through the example of Cru staff like Jane Armstrong and Mark Brown and older students who discipled me like Elizabeth (Templeton) McKinney (staff at Mizzou now), I in turn learned how to lead women in Bible study and how to identify individuals who were particularly “faithful, available and teachable” and to pour myself into spending one-on-one discipleship time with them each week in addition to our group Bible study times.
Interestingly enough, the more time I spent in ministry with Cru, the more disciplined I became with my academic studies as well. I would meet the girls I individually discipled at 7am, and then spend my own time in prayer and studying the Word, and then launch into a full day of classes and late night studying. Somehow this rhythm opened me to a whole new world of understanding who God had created me to be. As Cru staff and older students invested in me, I learned to invest in others, invest in my time with the Lord, and invest in my studies. Before long, a life-long vision and sense of calling began to emerge, leading me first to seminary, and then to my work with IJM. That vision and calling that emerged during my years in Cru still guide the work I do today.
There is much more to share about how my life-long vision emerged and just what all it entails, and I would love to share at greater length just because of how deeply formative Cru has been in my life. But for now, it can best be summarized by my interaction with the scripture passage of Isaiah 58:6-12. Because of the influence of Cru, I found myself constantly studying scripture and reflecting on it in my journal. And I will never forget when I first read this particular passage. When I first came upon Isaiah 58:6-12, it struck me in a deeply personal way. It pointed me to the reality and gift of my ultimate and eternal freedom in Christ. It also spoke to me a promise of the freedom I was desperately seeking from deep sadness and dark shame that I had carried for most of my life due to childhood experiences of sexual abuse. Thanks to the close mentoring of my Bible study leader Elizabeth McKinney, I was able to grab hold of the promise of this and other scriptures and find healing from all I had kept hidden, from all that had chained me in fear.
A couple years later, I would come to understand a whole new layer of meaning to Isaiah 58:6-12. One day as I was leaving the cafeteria on my seminary campus, I stumbled upon a display set-up by the Salvation Army. There was a poster that caught my eye – a young girl, with a tear streaming down her cheek. The poster said two things: “Slavery is alive. Rape for profit must be stopped.”
To that moment, I had no idea that slavery still existed in our world today. I certainly did not know that there are more slaves in our world today than were extracted from Africa during the entire 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, combined. And it knocked the wind out of me to learn that there was a global industry called “rape for profit.”
I immediately put my name on a mailing list to receive more information. But as I received more and more information and dove into research of this scourge called “human trafficking” I became paralyzed with a deep despair. These were acts of violent abuse beyond anything I had ever imagined could even exist. I could not fathom how to keep learning more, much less actually find something I could do about it all. I remember sitting in a computer lab just hanging my head in my hands, unable to stop thinking about slavery and all I was reading, and yet utterly unable to take another step forward.
But God, ever-present with me, with all of us, and ever alive in His Word, brought me back to Isaiah 58. The chains and yoke and oppression and bondage to which this passage speaks – these are literal chains. Literal yokes. Real oppression. Real bondage. It was happening in Isaiah’s day amongst the people of Israel, and it is happening today. Slavery is real. Slavery is alive. God hates it. God is calling His people to bring it to an end. And God can and will use all of us. He has rescued us out of our own bondage to sin and darkness and has brought us into the freedom of His light, so that we can become rescuers with God for those who are in physical slavery and who need to know that God is good. As Jesus tells us, we are the light of the world. We are commissioned to show up as God’s goodness, in the flesh, bring the light of Christ into the darkest places of su!ering our world has ever known.
A friend once reminded me, “this battle belongs to the Lord. He is inviting us to join Him. But we must never forget that the battle is ultimately his.”
Today in my work with IJM I get to practice living in this biblical hope every day. When we are faced with the reality of suffering and violence beyond what we can even bear to listen to, much less actually confront, we are reminded that it is God who leads this work. God sees far more than we could ever see. God hears the cries of the oppressed. God paves the way before us, and leads to join His work of rescue. And all throughout, we need only abide in Christ as our true vine, and allow Him to bear the fruit of justice through our simple forward steps of obedience.
Part 5 to living missionally
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