Believing in a God who loves justice.

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Why am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

– Exodus 3:7-12

I felt like crying through the entirety of IJM Orientation. Our entire first week was devoted to orienting ourselves towards God, whom IJM truly believes empowers them to do their work. Allow me to pause on that for a moment…IJM truly believes that without the power and sustenance of God, they cannot do their work. Although I sort of knew that before I came to work here, I have been so amazed at the actual depth of that belief here in the office. Throughout my life, I have been exposed to a variety of different Christian workplaces, camps, and environments that claim to rely on God for their every need. I have also claimed that in my daily tasks, but the common reality is that we claim to trust God while actually putting trust in our own abilities and work ethic. What I find at IJM, however, is people who actually believe that they are helpless without God. While being some of the most competent, successful, admirable people I’ve ever met, the staff here walk in a humility and surrender to their Heavenly Father that I believe to be unmatched in the professional work. This element of surrender, combined with a passion to partner with God in the work of justice, has led IJM to rescue thousands of bonded laborers and sexually exploited children over the past 16 years. It is truly compelling work.

An excerpt from IJM’s Biblical Foundation – “From Scripture we learn that the Creator is a God of justice and righteousness; that he measures the acts of individuals against an absolute standard of divine holiness. We learn that every person, without distinction, is created in the image of God and is precious in his sight; that each individual human being is so loved by God that he gave up his only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem from sin and death any who would believe in his name…God has sent the disciples of his Son to be salt and light in the midst of this world’s darkness and corruption in order that they might preach the Good News of salvation in Christ and demonstrate, in word and deed, God’s love and mercy toward those who suffer. We learn that a visible measure of Christian faith is the sacrificial love extended to those in need; and that while the earth awaits its final redemption in Christ, faithful men and women of God will obey His call to preach the Gospel, to seek justice, to reprove the ruthless, to plead for the weak, to remember the ill-treated and the afflicted and to deliver them, to speak for the voiceless and defend the rights of the afflicted, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, and to let the oppressed go free.”

Back to the Exodus passage – during our first day of orientation, IJM President Gary Haugen took us through this passage and landed on seven points after studying it. These points are foundational for IJM’s work across the world.

1. Suffering at the hand of the oppressor is real.

2. God does hear and see the suffering of the oppressed.

3. God rescues the oppressed.

4. God rescues the oppressed by sending his people.

5. God goes with us.

6. God brings the oppressed to a “good and broad land.”

7. Rescue and restoration return to Go as worship.

Each day at the IJM office begins with 30 minutes of stillness. From 8:30 to 9:00, a quiet settles over the office as we prepare ourselves for the day. We hit the ground running at 9:00AM and then pause again at 11:00 for communal prayer. Everyone in the office stops what they’re doing to gather together and pray for IJM’s work around the world. It is surreal to sit in as requests are made for successful prosecutions in Kenya; people rejoice over news of women, men, and children freed from a brick factories in South Asia, or stories are told of little Guatemalan girls healing after years of physical and sexual abuse. It is so inspiring to hear directly from those on the front lines of this difficult work and their words make things so much more real for those of us who are stateside.

IJM’s work is bound up in four casework outcomes:

1. Victim Relief – in short, rescuing people

2. Perpetrator Accountability – hold criminals accountable for their crimes

3. Victim Aftercare – help survivors of abuse heal and find new lives of peace and freedom

4. Structural Transformation – help communities fix long-term problems to stop abuse before it starts

IJM operates out of 16 field offices in Bolivia, Guatemala, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Kenya, South Asia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia (multiple offices in South Asia, the Philippines, & Uganda); two Casework Alliance Offices in Peru and Ecuador; and five partner offices in Canada, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia. 95% of IJM’s staff is from the country in which they work. Additionally, through “Collaborative Casework”, they “come alongside local authorities to help serve victims of abuse, not simply to criticize.” Through these sustainable methods, IJM builds bridges with the countries in which they work. Here are some examples of IJM’s work around the world:

  • In Cebu, the Philippines, after four years of IJM partnership with local law enforcement, outside auditors found a stunning 79% decrease in the number of children available for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • In the past five years alone, IJM has brought relief to more than 10,500 victims of violence and injustice, and secured the conviction of more than 400 violent criminals – with hundreds more on trial.
  • For the past several years, IJM Guatemala has been responsible for more than one out of every three convictions for child sexual assault in Guatemala City.

Please partner with me by praying for the work of IJM. If you are a person of Christian faith, it should greatly encourage you to see people pursuing God’s work of justice all around the world. If you aren’t a person of Christian faith, I hope movements like IJM restore your faith in humanity and give you a true picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jehova-Jireh: The Lord Who Provides

יְהוָה יִרְאֶה

The Lord who will see to it that my every need is met. 

By now, many of you who are close to me may have heard that I will be interning this summer in Washington, D.C. with International Justice Mission. Many of you may also know that this has been a dream of mine for several years.

Last summer the Lord taught me a huge lesson in trusting him. It’s a lesson I’ll always be learning, but last summer was especially miraculous. Having just helped start an IJM campus chapter at Appalachian, I applied for an internship at IJM headquarters. I didn’t even make it to the first round of interviews. I also applied for an internship with Compassion International…and didn’t make it to the first round of interviews. My last and final option was a summer in Guatemala with Adventures in Missions (AIM), which I quickly clung to after being rejected from both internships. Looking back, I know I was holding on out of fear. In my arrogant mind, anything short of a wildly adventurous summer wasn’t good enough for me. So I started making payments and plans to go to Guatemala.

About a week later, I got a call from AIM that shook things up a bit. There had been a miscommunication about the payment schedule, and I had over $1,000 due by the end of the week. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t know what to do. The lady from AIM prayed with me on the phone before we hung up and I immediately prayed with my mom and my friend Kristin as well. Then I cried a little. When asking God to show me what to do – try and come up with the money or back out – it didn’t take long to receive an answer. I knew in my heart that Guatemala was not where I needed to be – that I was only pursuing it because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s bad business to do something in Jesus’ name without consulting Jesus about it, so I withdrew from the Guatemala trip, losing the money I had already paid. I had no other plan, but I knew I was being obedient and that God would be faithful.

A week later I had a job lined up at the Boone Cracker Barrel. This was (clearly) not the glamourous, adventurous summer that I’d imagined for myself, but the Lord had provided a job and a place to live and I was ready to see what his next move was. I bought my tacky non-slip shoes and oxford uniform shirts, gearing up for a summer of chicken dumplings and sweet tea. I stopped caring about my selfish ambitions and started thanking the Lord for giving me clarity and peace about my summer plans. I was content to spend the summer living and working in Boone.

Then I got a phone call that turned my world upside down. The Office of International Education wanted to send three students to a Global Leadership Summit in Bloemfontein, South Africa that focused on human rights. Even sweeter: the trip was completely funded by the university. I had a panic attack (not really, but kind of) and applied. I was driving a carload of friends to a Needtobreathe concert in Boiling Springs a week later when the Lord told me I was going. The same quiet voice of peace that told me not to go to Guatemala affirmed that I was, in fact, going to South Africa. I told Amber, who was sitting next to me in the passenger seat, that I was going to South Africa. She looked at me with wise Amber eyes and said, “Good. Cool.”

A week later, I got the call and started making plans. During our first trip meeting, the director of the International Office told me that if I wanted to stay in South Africa longer, just to let him know when to book my return ticket. I’m sorry…WHAT? I wrote a separate blog about my trip to SA, but for this one I’ll leave it at this: it was the adventure of a lifetime. I was discouraged after being flat-out rejected by other internships and steered away from an adventure in Guatemala, but God had something else up his sleeve. That something was better than anything I couldn’t planned (or imagined) for my summer.

Needless to say, I was prepared for anything this summer. I’ve prayed since the beginning of the school year that my selfish ambition would be put aside and that I’d be ready and willing to go wherever the Lord wanted to send me. I desperately wanted to remember his faithfulness in the past, and be ready and willing for anything for the future. If I had learned anything from the previous summer, it was that I had no idea what was best for me. My mind was open to all things – to living at home and working at Dad’s restaurant, for taking summer school, interning abroad, interning or working in Boone, anything. I again applied for several internships, and was again rejected by Compassion International without making it to the first round of interviews.

But – surprise! I did make it to the first round of interviews for IJM. Interning with Samaritan’s Purse was another option that was looking promising. The internships with Samaritan’s Purse are paid with free housing, so they were the most practical and therefore quite attractive…especially after I backed my car into my apartment complex and was slapped with a hefty insurance deductible. Internships with IJM are unpaid with no housing.

Since I go to an expensive school, I harbor considerable guilt and worry that I’m making my family bleed money. With that always in the back of my mind, I’ll admit that I was almost afraid of getting the IJM internship because I had no idea how I would afford it. Things got tricky when I did, in fact, get the IJM internship and had to make a decision before I was going to hear back from Samaritan’s Purse.

You could say that I was between a rock and a hard place at this point. I had dreamed of interning with IJM and had been offered a position, but it couldn’t have come at a less financially-feasible time. I had less than no money of my own as I was (and still am) paying off an insurance deductible. When I first go the news of my acceptance, I was weirdly sad. I had worked so hard to get to this point both academically and through our IJM campus chapter, but hadn’t saved appropriately for it.

I asked my parents and close friends to commit to a full week of praying for me. I had exactly one week to make a decision, and although I was leaning toward “no” I wanted to commit it to as much prayer and counsel as possible.

When you’re looking for direction, sometimes it’s hard to know when things are from the Lord and when your mind is playing tricks on you. The following Tuesday at Bible study, we watched a short video on praying bold prayers and trusting God to provide for our every need. This video was based in none other than our nation’s capitol…good ol’ D.C. The first place it showed was a place called Barrack’s Row Theatre, which is where I took Bryant to see Josh Garrels in December. Oh really? Of all places? Then the camera zoomed into a book authored by someone named “Barnett”. I’m sorry…?

I wouldn’t say that the above paragraph describes signs and wonders straight from God, but it was one of the first gentle pushes toward IJM that God used to begin softening my heart toward the idea. Over the next week, my heard and my mind (and therefore my attitude) took a 180 in regards to interning with IJM. After being encouraged by my parents, my friends, and other family who were faithful in praying for me, I accepted the IJM internship. I believe that God wants to glorify himself through this opportunity – prove to me and to those around me that he is a God who provides. I jumped in headfirst, full of faith and peace.

The response has been overwhelming. Within three days of accepting the position, I had already found a free place to stay. A young family in SW D.C. is opening their guest room for me. Their home is only seven miles away from IJM’s offices and has free parking. Seven miles translates into about a 30 minute commute, but that is pretty fantastic by D.C. standards.

Opportunities for me to work more hours have also come available, which has been a huge answer to prayer. I picked up an extra eight hours at my law office job as well as a few shifts at Dad’s restaurant. I am hoping and praying that I will be able to pay off all my debt before leaving for the summer, meaning I need to make $1,000 before June 3rd.

The response from people has also been overwhelming. While waiting tables at Harbor House (my dad’s restaurant) on Monday, a family from my church came to sit in my section. They graciously gave me a $50 check to support me in my internship and left me a $20 tip! I was floored! Thank you Whaleys! One or two others have also expressed their desire to support me financially, and I am amazed. Most of the financial burden was lifted with a free place to stay, but I am still trusting God to provide for transportation costs.

I have not asked for any money and will not be sending out support letters – which makes it all the more astounding how much the Lord has already provided over the past two weeks. I am beyond thrilled about the opportunity to follow this dream and overwhelmed that the Lord is letting me do so.

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

– Pray that I will continue to trust in God to supply all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)

– Pray that I will be a diligent worker, and that God will use this summer to equip me for whatever he has planned for my future. (Psalm 18:39)

– Pray that I will learn more about Biblical justice and be better able to articulate it to those who are searching for truth and hope. (Psalm 33:5)

– Pray for favor in the work that IJM does to bring rescue to victims of violent oppression around the world.

– Pray for the students that I will be working with as they seek to educate their college campuses on issues of violent oppression.

If you’d like to learn more about my involvement with IJM, this is a good interview:

http://www.hercampus.com/school/app-state/meet-madisson-barnett-president-ijm-app-state

If you’d like to learn more about IJM at App State, check out www.ijmappstate.com

If you’d like to support me financially, click this link and choose my name from the drop-down menu – https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/Donation2?idb=1515869785&df_id=1261&1261.donation=form1

Be Strong.

I have a friend named Johanri. She lives in South Africa, and a few weeks ago she sent me a message that simply said 2 Chronicles 15:7. We hadn’t talked in a month or so, and she had no idea what was going on in my personal life. Therefore, she had no idea how much I needed to hear these words – “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

She had no idea that, as is my custom, I’d over-committed myself and was feeling helpless. She had no idea that my Mamaw had just passed away and that I deeply desired to stay at home with my family. That was practically begging God to let me give up; to let me drop my responsibilities and lay the blame on my circumstances. She had no idea that as I’d been seeking God’s direction, I kept feeling that I needed to keep going – to keep leading, to keep working, to keep believing that my work was not in vain. But I didn’t want to. I was doing it out of obedience and because I’ve been raised with importance on the idea of never, never giving up.

The Lord used Johanri, my sweet friend from across the world, to send me the exact encouragement I needed in His perfect timing. The verse was from 2 Chronicles 15, but in an effort to understand the verse in context, I read chapters 14, 15, and 16. I was struck as I realized the relevance of the words in my life.

King Asa was ruling over the land of Judah when he was feeling oppressed on every side. The prophet Azariah came to Asa and said, “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” and later, the verse listed above – “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” – 2 Chronicles 15:7

When Asa heard these words, he took courage, removed the idols rom his land, and repaired the altar of the Lord. Then he and his people “entered into a covenant to seek the Lord…with all their heart and soul.” (v.15) They rejoiced because of this oath and sought God eagerly, and he gave them rest on every side.

So, I thought, that’s what I’m going to do. As I oversee the Beat Hunger canned food drive and the IJM leadership team that’s planning Stand 4 Freedom, I’m going to take courage. I’m going to remove anything that’s about ME from the equation (pride, selfishness, personal gain), and recommit my efforts to the Lord. They are His anyway; I’m a fool if I don’t acknowledge that and return them to Him.

The hard work didn’t stop, but rest came on every side. As well as the favor of the Lord, which was unmerited…that’s GRACE.

ImageImage

ImageImage

The photos above are just a few from Stand 4 Freedom – a 27 hours standing vigil put on by International Justice Mission: App State. Hundreds of students were made aware of modern-day slavery for the first time, hundreds more came to take a stand, and still hundreds more signed advocacy cards to let our government know that slavery is something we care about.

In the post prior to this one, you can see the video we created for the Beat Hunger canned food drive. As of today, we’ve raised over 6,700 pounds of food and over $400 in cash to donate to the Watauga Hunger and Health Coalition.

It’s always funny (?) to look back on things I worked so hard for, only to realize that they finally come together when I get totally helpless and surrender them to the Lord.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9