Post by: Jessica Sherwood
This semester I have the opportunity to work on two memos for International Justice Mission (IJM). Currently, we are researching data analysis for trafficking across Eastern Europe. IJM recently launched its first anti-trafficking program in Central and Eastern Europe with a team based in Bucharest, Romania. A part of the work we get to do is develop an understanding of the current landscape in Eastern Europe in relationship to the crisis of human trafficking. By gaining a foundational knowledge of the complexity and niches of the issue, IJM will be better equipped to launch additional programs.
I have discovered one of the most important aspects to implementing strategic programs with long-term outcomes is to gain a deep understanding of the context. Oftentimes, I have a tendency to want to jump immediately to the end goal, rather than taking the due diligence to recognize the landscape and address the specific needs to a given population.
In the book of 2 Kings after Elisha has been anointed by Elijah and received a double portion, he crosses the Jordan into Jericho. Men of the city approach him and say, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful” (2 Kings 2:19).
These men recognized the potential of the city and the hope for its citizens. They however, also, recognized the ugly reality of poisonous water that, if left to itself, could destroy the community. At this moment, rather than despairing, Elisha makes a bold decision. He says to his men, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” After they do as he requested, he goes to the spring of water and throws salt in it and then proclaims, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” The verse goes on to say, “So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke” (2 Kings 2:20-22).
This is a short passage, but its meaning is significant. Elisha wasn’t content or satisfied to allow the water to remain unsanitary in the city. He chose to try something completely new and asked the Lord to bless it. His faithfulness led the city to be healed from “death and miscarriage.”
Many Biblical characters recognized the significance of knowing the landscape and context before beginning the work God intended them to do. Throughout Scripture, I see how women and men following God actively choose innovation and creativity, over fear and dismay. In 1 Chronicles, David is selecting men who will help him turn Saul’s kingdom over to him. He chooses men from Issachar, “men who men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:31-33).David knew he needed men on his side who understood the present reality and were prepared to take the steps needed to evoke change.
In the same way, the context in Eastern Europe is intimidating. It’s riddled with multiple types of trafficking, oftentimes embedded in many aspects of the culture. The numbers reported regionally do not address the magnitude of the issue and building a case against perpetrators is very complex.
Yet despite these realities, IJM has chosen to step out in faith and choose innovation over fear. They are currently surveying the landscape and choosing their next steps strategically. Their work to fight human trafficking looks different in every nation based on what the research unfolds. They are an organization that “understands the times” and recognizes what needs to be done to fights for the lives of the oppressed.
In the midst of the disturbing and unsettling gravity of the sex trade, there is a remnant of hope. Since IJM started working in the Philippines in 2000, the government has made rapid strides to stop traffickers from exploiting children in the commercial sex trade. Bars closed that sold minors for sex and pimps were brought to justice. Since then, studies have shown the number of minors available for purchase on the streets once known for trafficking has significantly reduced between 75%-86% in the cities where IJM has worked.
I’m excited to see the progress in reduction of human trafficking cases that will transpire throughout all of Eastern Europe as IJM continues its innovative work.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff Member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.