Tag: modern day slavery

Feature #2 of our New “How To” Series

“How to” …make a difference: fund-raise while tailoring to your interests!

As RJI has been extending our reach, we have been making plans to build our staff and bolster our annual curriculum updates. This type of organizational development allows us to provide excellent prevention materials to schools that are relevant and poignant, able to offer real prevention and lasting change. Here is the hard truth: we cannot do any of this growing without funding! In this season especially, we are encouraging everyone who wants to protect our nation’s youth to join our fund development effort.

Fundraising is not arbitrarily asking for money through gritted teeth, but rather inviting people into something they can be proud to be a part of. You are the bridge between donors and the good/meaningful work they want to put their dollar to.

No matter your experience in fundraising, you can be a part of our effort to garner support for RJI’s work! Dig deep into your background and your interests and pinpoint what it is you are good at, and what makes your heart skip a little faster with excitement. These passions and talents allow you to offer something unique to the mission- do not let them go to waste! Below are a couple of examples, but feel free to create your own, with all proceeds going to RJI. -If you love to cook, host a dinner party! Invite your friends and let them know that the proceeds benefit the Prevention Project program for teens! Charge for entry: only 15 friends at $30 a head raises a quick $450!

-If your passion is “DIY” crafts, buy some art supplies or old curious and repurpose it into something beautiful to sell to others!

-Do we have any exercise guru’s? Plan a day to lead a large group exercise class,  and advertise the Prevention Project to friends and community, accepting a donation of any type for class admittance.

-Have a special event coming up?  Celebrate your special occasion with us! We’re launching a new opportunity where you can invite others to celebrate with you by donating to RJI for your special occasion – your birthday, anniversary, holiday gift, graduation, mother’s day, father’s day, etc.! EVERY gift makes a huge impact in the lives of students! The image above is yours to use (or email us if you would like a larger size image), if you so choose, and you can link directly to our website in your ask: https://richmondjusticeinitiative.com/donate/

Thank you for helping us reach more students by raising funds in a way only YOU can!

Pictured above: Use the graphic above (or email us if you would like a larger size image) on your special occasion to raise awareness and funds for the Prevention Project!  Creativity is endless – how will you make a difference?

Feature #1 of our New “How To” Series

“How to”…give to the mission of justice, even if you have no funds to contribute.

When fighting human trafficking, giving monetary support to organizations that already have the structure, the strategy, the connections and the “know-how” is a huge way to be an agent of change, but it is most certainly not the only way. While it is of paramount importance for nonprofits to receive donations to stay alive and strong, there are other ways to contribute to that nonprofit’s work without doing so financially.

  1. Spreading awareness is one of the most important keys to preventing trafficking situations. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all valuable tools in warning about potential dangers posed by traffickers as well as exposing that slavery still exists.  These platforms also can help connect people who want to donate to the organizations that could use their dollar for good.
  2. Becoming a Prevention Project Ambassador. We at RJI provide trainings for those wanting to bring life-saving information about human trafficking to middle and high schools, church youth groups, and youth programs. Trainings cover everything from important facts about human trafficking to the Prevention Project curriculum itself, how to implement the program and the impact it is having on students. Contact joell@rvaji.com if this sparks your interest!
  3. Prayer is the strongest force against human trafficking. Please remember to keep RJI and the work that we are doing with the Prevention Project® program in your prayers. If you are interested in becoming more active in preventing human trafficking, click here to sign up on our volunteer interest form and to receive our prayer updates.

Sundays: A Message to Church & Worship Leaders (and anyone else who wants to read this and be challenged)

Did you know that the life that Christ has called us to live is not easy or safe? In fact it is quite the opposite. The life that God is calling us to live, and the life He NEEDS us to live requires great courage, and can often feel dangerous. Doing God’s will in a fallen world IS inherently dangerous.

God has called us to 1. Tell the truth and 2. Love hurting people and neither are easy or safe.

So glad you started reading this right? I promise I am not stating these facts to be a Debby Downer, but to make a point and ask some questions that I hope provoke a sense of purpose when we walk into our corporate gatherings and to state that:

The God we name…
The music we sing…
The prayers we offer…
The scripture we read and preach…
HAS to call us deeper into God’s heart and deeper into the world for which Christ died.

Because if we are called to live dangerously and to love hurting people our services should be equipping rooms that accomplish more than the “post-church buzz” from good worship, but our worship must move the people in the congregation to courageous action that is set to take place most often outside of the Church walls.

Matthew 23:23-34 Challenges us to look at what we are offering, and how so often we “forget the weightier matters like Justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Question for consideration: Aside from the coffee, bagels, snazzy sermon illustrations and new vamp on that worship song, are we remembering that we are ministering to a group of people with a calling to be doers of justice, mercy and faithfulness to love hurting people, and are we equipping them for that task?

So many of us have been devastated by the situation in Nigeria and have shown our support with a hashtag, mostly because aside from praying the situation feels pretty helpless. Here is the reality. This is just one horrifying example of the Locust Effect of every day violence and injustice that is happening around the world. We are awake to this one because of the enormous attention it has received from the media.

Challenge: After we have parked our cards, dropped kids off at the nursery and rushed into rehearsal or your office for last minute prep, what are you thinking about?

What do we have as a reminder of the sufferings in the world which reveals the urgency of the need for hearing and living out the Gospel and sacrificial living in the name of Christ?

Those reminders are what remind us of the need to be attentive to the people in front of us and to lead them in trans-formative worship

In the last 5 years I have been working against the injustice of human trafficking and violent oppression, I have heard countless stories of injustice, and I have heard stories of God bringing freedom to so many lives. I have met precious survivors that demonstrate more love and bravery than I will ever have and on Sundays, whether I am on stage or in my seat and we begin to worship and sing of Gods love, freedom and our need for more of Him, my experience is no longer just for me or just about me, it is always with them in mind. 

I can’t help but keep in mind those around the world who are also having Church, but their Sundays look quite different from ours. That there are those who are having Church in a brothel, praying for their freedom day. Some are having church in their new home after being sold for $12 and are praying that God will come to their rescue.

I also keep in mind the incredible stories of hope like Griselda’s, who was freed from her abuser and is now free to live our her dreams, and countless stories similar to hers where the goodness and faithfulness of the God of Justice comes to life, and worship and praise always abounds from the reality of the freedom that IS available in Christ when we come to Him and ask for His help.

To wrap this up, as I could continue for quite some time on this subject, here are a few questions for personal or group discussion:

1. Are people leaving that service, and actually giving their lives away for the poor and oppressed in a tangible way?

2. How do we measure whether this has been accomplished? What is the criteria?

3. What/who do we have our mind set on during our Sunday morning prep time?

4. How are you leading in worship with integrity?

5. Will God’s people wake up to worshiping God in such a way that we demonstrate we are awake by loving our neighbor in God’s name?

6. Will we demonstrate faithful worship by “Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly?

* Excepts from Mark Labberton’s book “Dangerous Act of Worship” (So if this blog offends you, it’s his fault.)

Finding Faith Through Freedom Fighting

I was on my way to this speaking engagement dragging my feet a bit (not gonna lie) as I was not sure of the turn out and, as I suspected, there was a small group of 6 people. Given the crowd I decided to just gather in a group together and just share from my heart, but I wanted to hear their stories first of how they initially heard about the issue of Modern Day Slavery.

My message that evening was my personal story of going from worship leader to freedom fighter, the walk of faith it has been, and then informing them of how they can join the battle against injustice.

“When it comes to the work of justice, prayer is where we begin, prayers is how the battle is fought and prayer is how the battle against injustice is won.”

That was the point I wanted to drive home, then end in a time of prayer for the movement and give everyone a chance to pray out loud for various needs like prayer for the victims, perpetrators, law enforcement, NGO’s and the Church.

That was the moment that I had found out that someone in the group had never prayed before, as she asked “So, when you say pray, what do you mean exactly?” We had explained that it was just a conversation with God and that you can just tell Him what is on your heart then ask for His help.

Surprisingly enough, she was willing to give it a try.

“This morning I was asking myself what can I possibly do to help these victims that I am both horrified and heart broken over and I had no idea where to even start. Then I found this group tonight. This group gives me much hope. The message tonight answered the question I was asking this morning, and now I understand where I need to start. I understand now that the answer to ending this injustice is prayer. So here I am God. I am asking you to please help.

I wish I could have recorded her prayer. Not only was it one of the most honest, real and desperate prayers I have ever heard, but it was also the first prayer that she had ever prayed.

I was blown away by her willingness to go to a God that she did not know to ask Him for His help. That she was SO desperately wanting to know what the answer to injustice was, that when she found out that she just went for it!

But the amazing God news does not end there!

After our meeting concluded I had asked her how she had heard of this meeting, and I had found out that she was not even a student at the University I was speaking at, but that she had been following a twitter account that had just happened to retweet about this event tonight, and JUST that morning was her point of desperation and knew she was looking for answers and others that were also in this fight, so she drive to the campus just for this event.

She is a full time mom, and works full time as well so she knew that she could not do something that required a lot of her time so she found great relief and comfort in tonight’s message, and she stated “Now I know what I can do, I can definitely pray!”

I was blown away. I am still blown away. God never fails to amaze me. He never stops showing his goodness, and that night was no exception.

That evening (after I had repented for having a bad attitude about the evening) I was in tears, rejoicing over His faithfulness and humbled by His greatness.

My commitment and belief in the absolute importance of leading the justice movement with prayer was renewed. But He also revealed yet another result of what can happen when prayer and going to the God of Justice is proclaimed as the solution to injustice. That is that people like Rebecca*, who was so desperately seeing an answer to a horrific injustice that she was willing to pray to the God of Justice if it means that it will make a difference for these victims of oppression and violence.

Fellow believers, the issue of human trafficking has never reached more peoples eyes and ears than the present time. People of all faiths (or no faith at all) are all equally horrified at this injustice and are ALL searching for answers, and we have a unique opportunity to show them the God of Justice, who is the ultimate Good News.

 By: Sara Pomeroy |RJI Director & Founder


Are You Sensationalizing the Anti-Trafficking Movement?

Are you sensationalizing the anti-trafficking movement? STOP IT!

Helpful tips for advocates in the anti-trafficking movement:

We have all seen it. Most of us have probably been guilty of this at some level. The images of girls, beaten, in chains, stuffed in mason jars or in a clear suitcase.

Sensationalism is a phenomenon often found within media research, where it is studied for how it affects viewers and their behavior. Often criticized within journalistic practices, sensationalism is a method by which a producer of information attempts to draw the attention of the consumer of such information. It is typically “defined in terms of its capability to provoke attention or arousal responses in viewers.”

To date, the issue of human trafficking/modern day slavery has reached more ears than ever before. In the last 5 or so years we have witnessed this largely hidden industry move from hardly anyone knowing this was something that was taking place here in the USA, to entire nation-wide movements and the President of the United States issuing an executive order.

All of this attention on this criminal industry has its advantages and disadvantages. Today I wanted to talk about the disadvantage of over-sensationalizing human trafficking.

At the onset of the “Abolitionist Movement,” understandably, there was little said about HOW people should get the message out, they were just concerned that the message got out, and that victims had a safe place to recover and receive services. Years later, I think it is time perhaps for all of us in the anti-trafficking movement to take a step back and ask ourselves a few questions about what we are actually accomplishing in our delivery of information to communities about this issue at home and abroad.

The goal of this blog is to simply start the conversation and then pose a few questions that could serve as guidelines we can follow to determine whether or not we are being realistic in our presentation of the issue as an advocate or a non-profit.

Here are a few questions that I use as a guideline before I post, tweet or add to a PowerPoint presentation that I hope are helpful:

  1. Is the image I am using honoring the actual victims of human trafficking? An example of a bad one is the one I used in this blog.
  2. Is the image or stat I am using an accurate picture of what trafficking actually looks like, or it is exaggerated for shock factor?
  3. Does my audience NEED to know this or see this in order for them to do something about this issue? If not, don’t use it, and don’t tell it.

When you think about the widespread issue of Breast Cancer, what are the prominent images that come to mind?

  • Pink Ribbons
  • Awareness Month
  • Run 4 the Cure

There was never a time when I attended a meeting, read an article or watched a commercial about breast cancer where they show the image of a large cancerous tumor in order to get peoples attention. They focus on stories of strength, survival, and they give us clear, succinct ways that we can help in the CURE of cancer.

What I have found that has made the most motivated, involved and long term advocates is when they are introduced to an opportunity to be a part of writing a story of hope. If we don’t communicate real stories of hope, answered prayer and forward movement in this issue, people tend to drown in the statistics and the dramatization and that may induce a spasm of passion, but it does not evoke a long obedience in the same direction.

Let’s not focus so much about showing people the evil tumor of human trafficking, but the possibility of a cure, and see where that takes the anti trafficking movement in the years to come.

By: Sara Pomeroy | RJI Founder & Director

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.