This opportunity snuck up on us in 2016. We were generally very happy with our lives and had no expectation that 2017 would bring any kind of dramatic change. Life was comfortable and predictable. And it was good. But God had bigger plans.
Through many months of reading, learning, praying, and listening, we have been confronted with two critical facts that have sent us on this journey: (i) slavery is flourishing in some corners of this broken world, and (ii) there is a meaningful way for us to get involved in the fight to stop it. God has called us to participate in the work that is already taking place to fight this injustice, and we have decided to follow that calling.
So, how did this happen? It started with a meeting in January 2016. We have been blessed to be part of a wonderful church community in Austin – Covenant Presbyterian Church. In January 2016, our church hosted a guest preacher named Joe Farrell. Joe was serving as the Director of Church Mobilization for IJM. Joe preached at our church on a Sunday, and on the day before he met with our Mission Committee. Doug was serving as the chair of the Mission Committee, which makes decisions about financial support to various ministries and organizations doing good work throughout our community and the world around us. The meeting was eye opening and stirring. We learned troubling statistics and heard horrific stories. But we also learned how God is working through IJM to bring hope, healing, and justice.
In meeting with Joe, the Mission Committee was actively exploring how Covenant might partner with IJM. Typically, Covenant provides financial support to an organization only where there is some active involvement in the work of that organization by Covenant’s members. That became the Mission Committee’s question: How could our members get involved in IJM’s work? Joe described the fellowship program, which is a way for professional people with a background in law, government, social work, and/or law enforcement to go and spend most of a year working with IJM’s field office staff. Doug noted that our church has a lot of lawyers, and maybe we could recruit “someone” to go participate in this work in an IJM field office. Someone….
As soon as those words were spoken, there was a tingling down Doug's spine and an unspoken thought – “Wow, I wish I could do something like that.” There has always been a hint of jealousy as friends in the medical profession have travelled on mission trips to use their vocational training, education, and experience to do some good in the world. There has never seemed to be a similar opportunity for lawyers. And yet, here it was, staring him in the face.
Thais heard about this meeting and had the most surprising reaction – “you know, if you are serious about doing this, we could totally do it. We could not have done it three years ago, and we may not be able to do it two or three years from now. But right now? We could absolutely do that.” It was a shocking statement, for both of us. But it was true.
Thais encouraged exploration of this idea instead of blowing it off completely. So we explored it – together. We learned that there are fellowship opportunities that fit her education, training, and work experience. We talked to others who have done this with their families, all of whom spoke very positively about the experience and the opportunity to serve God’s people and make a difference. In the Spring, we attended IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering in Washington, D.C., where we met and prayed with some amazing people who are doing this work all over the world. Their stories changed us. Their hearts inspired us. And God stirred in us, opened our hearts, and called us to get involved.
We began discussing this with our small group from church, with our pastors, and with our extended family. At every turn, the sense of calling was confirmed. Every door that we expected might close was instead swinging wide open. We even discussed this with our financial adviser, who provided additional reassurance that we could actually do this. We worked on applications, resumes, and detailed questionnaires, and then we interviewed by phone and by Skype. When the invitation came to join in this work with IJM, we readily accepted.
Our amazing kids have been troopers through all of this. Our ten-year-old (now eleven-year-old) summed it up best: “Well, I didn’t really want to leave our house, all our friends, and everything we know and go move across the world. But I just keep thinking – if I don’t do this, I know I will always regret it.” We are grateful for their courage and their sense of adventure, and we pray that God will work in and through them as well.
We also appreciate the phenomenal support and encouragement of our family, our church community, our friends, and the lawyers and staff at Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, P.C. We could not do this without you, and we are so grateful for each one of you. We hope to represent you well.