(Today’s guest blogger is Erika Felix from Reality Church in Carpinteria, CA)
“Church, we are not called to be spectators of a broken world, but agents of the Gospel’s renewal in it.”—Reality Church, Renew Class Theme
The truth behind God’s heart for the vulnerable, broken, and oppressed was shared with our church body regularly through the Missio Christi (Mission of Christ) sermon series taught by pastor Britt Merrick in 2009. This sermon series launched a class to further equip the church body to be hands and feet of Jesus in a hurting world, called Renew, which focused on addressing the crisis of human trafficking and poverty in our world. We heard from a variety of Christian organizations on the front lines serving, including International Justice Mission (IJM).
When the Renew class ended, several of us wanted to take what we learned to serve or own community, and the broader world. We were not sure how to do this. We started meeting, praying, and sharing ideas. The ideas were very diverse, and we were being hampered by a lack of clear direction. I had started following the work of IJM and learned of their Advocacy Day and Training, and went to Washington, DC in 2011. That changed everything.
During that training, we learned about the power of advocacy, and visited our Congressional Representatives to advocate for the Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA). The IJM leaders had clear things that our Renew group could do, such as the 100 postcard challenge, calling our local rep-resentatives on the 27th of every month (in honor of the then estimated 27 million slaves worldwide) and in-district meetings with our Congressional representative. This changed the course of our Renew ministry. Here was something tangible to do, costing nothing but our time, and something that could have profound affects on fighting slavery worldwide.
I came home from DC energized with direction and purpose. People really resonated with engaging in prayer and advocacy, and more joined our Renew meetings. I developed friendships with people that I had never met before. For example, one friend I first met the day we visited Rep. Lois Capps office for an in-district meeting on the TVPRA. Last year, I went to this friend’s wedding!
Spurred on by the advocacy focus, we held our first Nehemiah Night, on the biblical basis for advocacy, in 2012. I learned about this resource by simply poking around the IJM website (they have a lot of amazing tools for mobilizing!). This was a success, and six months later we held a second one. I think because I kept downloading stuff from the IJM website, I was eventually contacted by their church mobilization team. That has led to a fruitful friendship between our church and IJM.
We continue to focus on prayer and advocacy, with monthly prayer meetings. We hungrily digest the many resources IJM has, including engaging in CA state advocacy efforts through the CA IJM Advocacy group, having a Just Church book club, and attending the Global Prayer Gathering.
God has led the Renew ministry into becoming a multi-church effort in our community. We partner with local ministries and our county’s Human Trafficking Taskforce to end slavery in our community. Through bi-weekly e-newsletters, we share about ways to pray, volunteer, and advocate. We follow the work of IJM, as well as several other organizations on the frontlines serving. This has been quite a justice journey. We could never have imagined or planned this. But God has a vision to renew and restore, and it has been an adventure to partner with Him.
(The International Justice Mission is a participating sponsor in this year’s FIGHT Conference. For more information about the conference go here.)