Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) held its first ever Benefit for Freedom event this past month. The purpose of the event was to raise money and to encourage the attendees to partner with RJI by becoming on-going sponsors in this ever growing organization. The desire from our local communities, as well as from those throughout the state of Virginia, to learn more about this increasing worldwide problem of human trafficking has caused the responsibilities and tasks of RJI to mushroom in turn. More and more opportunities are presented for RJI to further raise awareness, educate the communities, and advocate for victims. The need for continued prayer, as well as financial support, is greater that ever for RJI to continue in its efforts.
The Event Host for the evening was Mechanicsville Christian Center (MCC). Attendees were greeted with a wonderful musical performance by the Offering Band and encouraged to visit the various partitions throughout the room where further information on the issue of human trafficking could be found. Opportunities to place bids in a silent auction for various items donated by local merchants, were also provided, along with the chance to win one of the gift baskets filled with goodies in a raffle drawing. The Emcee for the evening was WRIC 8 News Investigative Reporter, A.J. Lagoe. RJI Founder and Director, Sara Pomeroy provided the formal welcome to our guests. She recognized those who were influential to her in getting RJI off the ground and took us from the time of the organizations inception to where the organization is today. She concluded with emphasizing how each person in the room could make a difference in the fight against human trafficking, a difference that could change their lives.
Pastor Carter Goolsby of MCC offered the Invocation. While the attendees were served a catered dinner by Firehouse Catering, a video of the events from the past two years that RJI has played a role in in its efforts to end human trafficking was shown. Ms. Holly Burkhalter, Vice President for Government Relations of International Justice Mission (IJM) was the Keynote Speaker. She provided us with observations that she has made since becoming involved in the issue of human trafficking. What I found to be the most encouraging of her observations, was in learning that a crime so horrific as human slavery and so enormous with regard to its numbers, could be stopped. She explained, and gave examples of, how even small efforts on the part of IJM were found to produce big results in this battle against the world’s second largest form of organized crime. Ms. Burkhalter closed with encouraging each of us to make that leap of imagination, to imagine the life of a slave, and to then in turn help the slave to imagine a life outside of slavery.
The final speaker of the evening, was Ms. Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation. Ms. Cobb again emphasized the vital role RJI has played in ending human trafficking since its beginning, especially here in Virginia. She also explained that while RJI has just received a $25,000 grant from AT&T for a Prevention Program for area schools, the Program would need to be funded long term. She provided the challenge to each and everyone in attendance to help support RJI through prayer and monetarily. “The need of RJI is great!”
Though the Benefit was a first ever for RJI, the feedback from the evening has been very positive and the recommendations for improvement beneficial. One attendee wrote that he felt the event, “had the feel of a celebration”, and that he “could tell there was a lot of enthusiasm in the room and a lot of love” for the organization. He also said that it seemed as if RJI had been putting on such events for years, that it was “high quality all around”. Truly the two who put the most effort into the event, and are to be commended, are staff members Lea Whitehurst and Lane Burgess. We are also very grateful for all the people who volunteered their time and money to make this event such a success. But most of all, we give all praise to God for blessing the evening and moving in the hearts of those who attended to give so generously. RJI received a total of $19,000 from the evening after all expenses were paid to hold the event. If you too wish to partner with RJI in the battle against human trafficking, begin by first praying for the organization, for God’s continued leading as our efforts grow. Then ask what role the Lord would have YOU to play in this fight. As the motto for RJI states, “Slavery still exists…together we can stop it.” – Christina Nyczepir