Chapter 8 of Just Courage, by Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission (IJM), is titled, “The Witness of One.” In it, Haugen shares the stories of three families who simply needed help getting justice for themselves and their children. I hope by now I’ve gotten some of you interested enough to purchase the book and read it for yourself—it’s an engaging and quick, and spiritually potent, read.
For this post, I’d like to simply share the set-up that Haugen provides to place his sharing of those three stories in context. He admits that his work with IJM has brought him into contact with very poor people whose lives are so different from his own that it proves difficult to sustain conversation for very long. He asks, “At what point of human experience could we actually connect?” (p. 91)
I have found a nearly universal point of contact: the experience of being a parent. Parenting seems to be the great leveling experience among human beings, especially in the unique sense of vulnerability that mysteriously accompanies parents of all places. Parents all over the world love their kids, and yet none of us (rich or poor) can control what happens to them.” (p. 92)
One of the realities of injustice in the world, and particularly of the type that IJM addresses in its work, is this universal feeling of vulnerability that Haugen has discovered on the faces and in the eyes of the people with whom IJM has worked. Some of these parents feel incredibly vulnerable because of the injustice of seeing their kids taken captive and their own lack of resources to do something about it. All parents have felt that sort of desperation and vulnerability at some level.
That’s a big part of the connection between many of us and people who suffer injustice and brutality. Each of us, in Haugen’s words, can say, “my heart is walking around in someone else’s body.” (p. 101) Part of answering God’s call to justice is helping parents who love their kids care for them again even though at present they need some help caring for them.