Tag: international justice mission

Faith and Photo Booth

The following is a blog report back from Sara’s trip in January 2014 with IJM to Guatemala:

The Invitation:

When I received an invitation to go to Guatemala City with IJM, feelings of elation and inadequacy came over me all at the same time. Elation because I have so much respect for IJM and considered it a great privilege to have been invited, but also feelings of inadequacy as I was not sure how I could add value by going on this trip. I was mainly a team of Pastor’s, most of them given a specific sermon project to work on, while I was still seeking to understand by purpose and significance in going. Nevertheless I trusted God had a plan, and I packed my bags.

The Arrival:

After arriving in Guatemala City with International Justice Mission, and getting our schedule for our first day, I was so glad I brought my Ipad with me. Our first outing was to take part in a “Day of Joy” with some of IJM’s clients and their families. Day’s of Joy are times when IJM’s clients, who have all suffered from Child Sexual Abuse,  get to quite literally experience joy in the midst of recovering from the tragedy of every day violence that is plaguing the words 4 Billion poorest and most vulnerable in our world today, including these little ones that I was saying “Hola” to.

We were encouraged to find a family and visit with them before we took them on a tour of the zoo in Guatemala City. When I sat down, I was introduced to “A”, an 11 year old had recently given birth to the baby that her aunt “R” was holding, and “A” had her 2 brothers with her as well.

This scenario felt all too familiar to me, as I had the opportunity to pre-read a book that was recently released called The Locust Effect written by IJM’s Founder, Gary Haugen. Page 49 of the book tells the story of Gary’s trip to Guatemala City and that page quickly went from black and white to colorful reality as I held the newborn with his 11 yr old mother sitting next to me.

For those of us that did not speak a lot of Spanish, like myself, I used an app on my iPad called Photo Booth. Children in the developing world love to see their faces on camera, but photo booth takes it to another level by allowing them to see themselves in X-ray vision or some distorted way and before I knew it I had these little ones laughing and pointing and laughing some more. So much so the IJM Aftercare director came over to see what was happening.

That day I was overtaken with feelings of great pain and joy at the same time. Pain, because I knew the circumstances that led to the birth of this precious baby I was holding, and his 10 year old mother that sat next to me with her Aunt. Joy, because after I pulled out my Photo Booth App, these kids were laughing like they never have before, and in that moment, they were happy.

The Reality:

As we continued our trip, the reality of the everyday violence that happens to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable smacked me in the face. The statistics are staggering, and the sheer amount of corruption and abuse that takes place in this country alone is enough to discourage the strongest of believers in change, but it did not discourage the IJM Staff there.  Out of over 36,000 cases of child sexual abuse between 2008-2012, over 95% of those cases are still waiting for justice after an average wait of 6 years. The locusts of violence that has swept over the country was clear, but so was the plan for its defeat.

The Strategy:

The Violence and corruption in Guatemala is real, but the plan to change the landscape of this country and its response to the violence is strategic, prayerful, and it will work.

We may not be able to wipe out violence completely, but I met an army of people that are raised up, and the locust effect of violence will not stop them from trying.

Renee, IJM’s Fellow, laid out a clear strategic plan for educating, equipping and encouraging the once silent Church on how to biblically seek justice on behalf of those who are being abused, including the development of a curriculum that will be instituted and offered at prominent seminary in Guatemala City!

We were encouraged by the dedication the IJM staff has to spending time in daily prayer together as a team. As strategic as any plan can be, they realize that NO battle against injustice can be won unless we are fighting it on our knees in prayer.

We were blessed to hear the sound of laughter coming from several of IJM’s clients that were at the office one day for a pinning ceremony, as these clients have gone through the brave process of testifying against their perpetrator. They were all presenting with a pin that staid “Soy Un Heroe” (You’re a Hero),  and I had the privilege of giving one of the pins to a client and encouraging her for what she did, then they all colored pictures of super hero’s! For them and for the IJM Aftercare team, it was a celebration of their bravery, and also a celebration of the face that justice was coming for those kids. At the end of the day I was able to snag one of those pins, as I had a plan to present it to someone that was going to be a different kind of hero to these kids.

2014-01-27 15.04.22 (2){coloring pictures of super hero’s}

The Conclusion:

Needless to say this was a VERY full trip filled with so many emotions. Our team shared feelings of pain over the sheer corruption in the Government, the amount of violence that is taking place, and the silence of the Church when they should be the ones crying out for justice and protecting the poor. We also shared in great joy with IJM’s clients at the zoo, and also joy when they received their hero pin for their bravery in testifying against their perpetrator. We also shared feelings of hope, knowing that justice was soon coming for them. I felt hopeful for the baby I was holding in my arms the day we arrived, that because of IJM’s strategic determination and commitment to prayer, that he would grow up in an environment of safety from violence. Lastly for me, personally, I was filled with a feeling of determination, as I was tasked with asking my Senator to sign on to a key piece of legislation that would provide Guatemala with a team of investigators to specifically handle cases of sex crimes, a desperate need that was so apparent to us by the end of our trip. I had my marching orders and with a hero pin in hand, I made my way back to the states.

The Celebration:

I have been a part of the IJM Advocacy team for about 3 years now, and it has been SO rewarding to be able to advocate for legislation on behalf of those who experience injustice, and I was ready for my next task the minute I hit the ground. I had scheduled a Call-In day for that week, sent emails and facebook messages urging everyone to take a minute and all, and as I emailed Senator Kaine’s office I felt urgency and determination like I never have before. Something was different about this request, as I had a face and a name in mind. I had the baby that I help in my arms at the zoo in mind. This was for his future. And no was not an option. After not hearing back for a few days, I was literally ready to drive to Washington, DC and WAIT outside his door until he was ready to see me because I had something to share. The very next day, I received an email, THE email from IJM’s staff that Senator Kaine had signed the letter to sec. Kerry urging the State Department to provide funding for the special unit in Guatemala City. Tears of joy came to my eyes and I IMMEDIATELY emailed the IJM Guatemala office to share the good news, and messages came back that they were celebrating with me, and I am awaiting my meeting with the Senator to present him with his hero pin.

The Call:

God is good, He is faithful and He cares about those who are oppressed and He calls His people to do our part in seeking justice for those who are oppressed. I used my voice, and my voice was heard. Your voice matters in this fight against injustice and my prayer is that you will use it. It might not make a difference for all 4 billion people that are outside of the reach of safety, but it could make a difference for one. It will make a difference for the baby I help in my arms at the Guatemala City zoo, so use your voice for him.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless;  plead the case of the widow.”  Isaiah 1:17



Ending Poverty Requires the End of Violence

“We don’t have to have all the answers in order to sound the alarm.”

Buy The Locust Effect

Page 49 came alive when I traveled to Guatemala City, and I went to the zoo…

I was one that had the advantage of reading this “Game Changing” book before its release, and page 49 stayed with me, as I knew I would be visiting Guatemala City soon. Well, I just returned from being there with International Justice Mission, and the Locust Effect, as I suspected, went from black and white to radiant color when the IJM Team took us to the Zoo in Guatemala City for what they call a “Day of Joy”, a time for us to spend with clients with the hope of, quite literally, bringing them joy!

My experience was a time of feeling joy and pain all at the same time. Pain, because I knew the circumstances that led to the birth of this precious baby I was holding, and his 10 year old mother that sat next to me with her Aunt. Joy, because after I pulled out my Photo Booth App, these kids were laughing like they never have before, and in that moment, they were happy.

This book, like my trip, is filled with pain and joy. Pain, because there are countless stories just like the one I experienced at the Zoo in Guatemala City. Stories where the justice system not only is absent when those suffering violence need them to help, but the justice system IS the perpetrator of the violence they need rescue from. This book is also filled with joy, for me at least, because it starts the discussion about the need to address violence when addressing poverty, and that conversation has been sorely missing and is also the KEY to squashing the locusts of violence that are invading the most poor and vulnerable in our world today.

I am excited to start this discussion and invite you to join me in it! Here is the breakdown of the book:

What is this book addressing?

4 billion people around the world today, literally have NO 9-1-1 to call. As Gary states “The world knows that poor people suffer from hunger and disease, so they get busy trying to meet those needs. But overwhelmingly, the word does not know that endemic to being poor is a vulnerability to violence. As a result, the world is not getting busy trying to stop it. And, in a perfect tragedy, the failure to address that violence is actually devastating much of the other things we are seeking to do to assist them.” So, to put it bluntly, when conversations about alleviating poverty in the developing world were happening at the big boy table, addressing violence was never part of the plan along with building wells, schools and orphanages. The bottom line is, if you are not safe, none of that other assistance matters.

Wow. How did we get to this place?

“Sadly, the public justice systems in the developing world not only fail to protect the poor from violence, but they actually perpetrate violence, protect perpetrators, and make poor people less safe.” Every part of the criminal justice system pipeline is broken. Police. Prosecutors. The Courts. Every bit of it.

Tell me there is some hope for a solution?

In Chapter 10: “It’s Been Done Before” and Chapter 11: “Demonstration Projects of Hope”, Haugen and Boutros provide real life examples of how reforms have been made to the criminal justice systems in the developing world. It’s a glimpse into what is possible when people are awakened to reality of this plague of violence afflicting the poor and we make it a priority to address these complex issues.

What do I do now?

“Likewise, a better day for the poorest in our world will only come as we are willing to walk with them into the secret terror that lies beneath the surface of their poverty” We need to begin having conversations about the clear and urgent need that exists for increased law enforcement and working justice systems. Without those key elements in place, any efforts to alleviate poverty in the developing world will continue to get eaten away by the #LocustEffect. Be that person that starts this conversation. I dare you.


  1. Buy the book. Read it. Encourage others to understand the problem by doing the same. Check out the book’s website.
  2. Spread the word – Help us get the word out on social media using the hashtag #LocustEffect as well as including this topic in your everyday conversations.
  3. Tell Missions leaders, youth leaders & world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this a priority. Start by signing this petition to the UN.


The Locust Effect Book Giveaway!

We are giving away 1 copy of The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros this week! The deadline to enter this giveaway is Friday, February 7th by 11:59PM (EST). We will announce the winner on Saturday, February 8th via Facebook & Twitter.

The main point of The Locust Effect is that while the world works towards ending poverty in regards to hunger, water, provision, medicine, etc. it is ignoring the violence that comes right along to steal all of that and it makes matters worse for the people. They lose all ground on getting out of poverty, and it actually makes the “Locusts” stronger along the way since as they grow with supplies, confidence, etc. because of no law enforcement system in place.

While the read is tough and raw detailing various accounts of these examples happening, it is necessary to read and take seriously the effect that’s taking place for so many people in need. It’s time to start rethinking poverty and time to address the violence. We need to teach others the truth of what’s happening and address these real needs by loving others and sharing the Gospel where Jesus can bring healing and restoration.

5 Ways To Enter this Giveaway:

  • Retweet about the Giveaway by clicking HERE (Each RT earns 2 entries, 1 per day limit).
  • Comment below and tell us why you’d like to win this book (Each comment earns 1 entry, 1 per day limit).
  • Share our post on Facebook pinned to the top of our page about the giveaway (Each share earns 1 entry, 1 per day limit).
  • Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook (Each follow and/or like earns 1 entry. If you already follow/like us, we will count this).
  • *For the most entries – Sign Up for our E-mails on our homepage (Each sign up earns 5 entries).

Make a Request at Your Local Bookstore!

Hi all!

The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen is being released February 3! All book purchases made during launch week (February 3-9) will be matched, $20 per book, as a donation to IJM in their work to end modern day slavery! Spread the word and buy your copy online or in your local bookstore. RJI is very excited about this book launch and for the impact it will also have on our local RVA community, as we learn more together the effects of everyday violence on our communities and what we can do to stand for justice.

Also, would you consider taking this opportunity to go to your local bookstore and request that they carry The Locust Effect? It’s a great yet simple way we all can take action to make a difference in our community.

The Locust Effect

Join with Sara as she begins leading us through The Locus Effect journey.

Let’s learn to take a stand against everyday violence.

Read more about The Locust Effect here.


Sara’s review of the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

“This book, no doubt, holds nothing back when Gary recounts the details that have resulted in the Locusts of violence that is overtaking the global poor all over the world in the first 3 chapters of this book. That said, the message is revolutionary, essential, and a call to action is clear. If the message is heeded and action is taken, there is a very present hope that the end of violence and poverty is possible. But we MUST move. All of us.”

Budget Cuts to TIP Report

The State Department issues a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report annually.  This report ranks countries according to their anti-trafficking efforts and urges other countries to improve on their efforts.  For example, the Philippines, a country where labor and sex trafficking are common, enhanced its efforts when faced with a possible demotion in the ranks on the TIP Report and possible loss of U.S. foreign assistance.

Such is only one example of how the TIP Report has encourages the leaders of countries around the world to open their eyes to human trafficking and put an end to the free reign traffickers have within their borders.  So why then was the TIP Office’s budget cut by Congress for this upcoming fiscal year?  With the success thus far, should there not be more money allocated toward fighting global trafficking?

To find out more, read International Justice Mission’s vice president for government relations Holly Burkhalter’s report.


Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking meeting at IJM

On May 10th, 2011, anti-human trafficking groups from across the state of Virginia congregated at the headquarters of the International Justice Mission in Washington D.C. under the unified title of the Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking. Representatives from the American Center for Law and Justice, Courtney’s House, the FBI, Grace Community Church, the Grey Haven Project, Liberty University, the Attorney General’s Office, the Polaris Project, Shared Hope International, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, and the Organization to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT-USA) were all in attendance. For many, the presence of members from so many organizations together in a single room at one time was somewhat surreal. It presented a rare opportunity for people to put names to faces, share ideas in person, and ultimately gear up for the upcoming legislative session.

When the meeting was officially called to order, representatives from the International Justice Mission provided the group with a federal overview of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) about to be pushed through Congress again. Afterwards, representatives from the Polaris Project gave a recap on the most recent state legislative session as well as ways for the group to combine forces and improve their methods for the next legislative session.

Those in attendance also had the opportunity to hear from a representative from the Attorney General’s Office who suggested future legislative goals for the group and how to best pursue such goals. Before closing, the meeting further consisted of a presentation of the emerging trends in the world of human trafficking. Those present were given a bird’s eye view of the past, present, and possible future of human trafficking legislation in the state of Virginia.

By the end of the meeting, relationships had been formed, contact information had been swapped, and new ideas birthed in many minds. Most, if not all, of those present that day are now anxiously working towards their legislative goals with the reassuring knowledge that their support system just got a whole lot stronger. Meanwhile, with such a successful meeting behind them, the members of the Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking are now eagerly planning the next meeting where the group can once again be reunited.