Slavery Replaced by Innocence
I’ve been told that most people won’t read beyond the first paragraph of a blog. Which is why writers typically put the catchy, Tweet-able quotes “above the fold” so that the internet will sufficiently break, while not actually having to trouble with reading. That being said, I really need you to stick around to the end of this post, because the best tweet is the last sentence, and it’s about you.
In 2014, my dear friends and family of Summit Church encouraged, supported, and sent me from my role as a Campus Minister to go and serve with International Justice Mission (IJM). Should you not be familiar with us, IJM is a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. Simply put, we end slavery.
Not long after leaving the Summit offices for the last time (I was carrying my goldfish under my arm while the staff gave me hugs—it was all very dramatic), I was invited to go on a trip and experience the work of IJM first-hand. As you may imagine, it was a life-altering journey. Our group toured stone queries where we saw families working under the hands of a brutal slave-owner. And we saw girls, children really, being offered outside of brothels to passersby who could purchase them for sex.
You can never unsee that.
Yet even in the midst of such darkness, when I think back to that trip, I am filled with hope—because the quarries and the brothels were not all that we saw.
After a long, bumpy, hot bus-ride. Our queasy group finally pulled up to an IJM aftercare facility. In this facility, girls who had previously been been in forced sexual slavery, and were subsequently rescued by the local authorities (with help and training from IJM), were now living and getting physical, emotional, and spiritual care.
Truth be told, I was nervous about meeting these girls. It was one thing to see slavery from the distance of a relatively safe and discreet bus—it was quite another to make eye-contact with a child. Up until that point, my experiences with the atrocities of slavery were “safe” and limited to hearing sermons and reading books. Now, walking off that bus, it was time to say hello to a real person—and I wasn’t sure I could handle it.
As we entered the facility, we were surprised by the silence. There was nobody around, and we assumed the children were off-campus. It was then that we heard laughing. A lot of laughing. Like hundreds of little voices snickering, then laughing out loud, then singing.
The kids weren't gone, they had assembled in their cafeteria for a surprise.
As we entered the cafteria, it felt just like an elementary school assembly. The kids were being silly, not at all sitting still, and not at all listening to the adults. They hid their laugh in a hand, while using the other to point at the dorky tourists who were discheveld and emotionally disoriented. These former slaves were, by all measures, kids.
For the next hour, the kids and the dorky adults laughed and clapped as we shared our cultural dances (yes, I danced), exchanged small homemade gifts, attempted to speak each other's language, and recited poems and nursery rhymes. Essentially, we just had fun.
Yet even in the midst of this, I could sense all of us on the IJM trip cycling through emotions. And while we kept those emotions veiled for the sake of the children’s comfort, we knew what we were thinking: These kids, ranging from the tiny 5-year-old in the front row to the 14-year-olds playing it cool in the back—these kids were all unfathomably and unspeakably abused. But also, and this was the real shocker, even though these kids went through what could generously be described as hell, they were better now. They were being silly. They had somehow, by God’s miraculous redemption, been allowed to recover their childhood.
The long, bumpy, hot bus-ride back to our hotel was silent. None of us could even begin to articulate what we’d just experienced—slavery was replaced by innocence, suffering replaced by hope, and darkness overtaken by light.
A few months ago I was asked to speak at an event at Summit that highlighted groups who are seeking justice. When I took to my oh-so-familiar spot on the center of the stage at the Summit Hendon Campus, I was thinking about those girls. I was thinking of their kind and smiling faces and how grateful I was that they were no longer scared and alone in a brothel.
And then, I thought about Summit.
Our church has always taken the plight of slavery very seriously and very personally. From sending me to work for IJM, to hosting multiple events that bring awareness to modern-day slavery, to giving a significant amount of money so that IJM can go and get those girls, Summit has been fiercely committed to the call to be the light of the world.
In fact, because of the long-standing policy of Summit to give away 15% of your tithes and offerings to the community, you all wrote a check to IJM in December for $15,000. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. Because it’s just what happens everyday at Summit. Lives are changed, people are freed, and the Gospel is lived out in countless ways.
Thank you for so generously supporting the work of International Justice Mission.
If you would like to learn more about Summit's global involvement, you can and you should right here!
Eddie Kaufholz is a partner at the Lake Mary Campus. He is a Director of Church Mobilization with International Justice Mission, giving him the opportunity to equip churches and communities by sharing the biblical call to seek justice, introducing them to IJM’s work, and mobilizing them to engage in both local and global ministry. In addition, Eddie is the producer and host of The New Activist, a podcast presented by International Justice Mission and RELEVANT Magazine. He is married to Brianne (the kindest wife ever) and has two daughters—Eve and Lucy (the loveliest daughters ever). He would like to own a jet ski someday.