In his new book, Just Courage, Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, recounts a childhood trip to Mt. Rainier with his father and two brothers. When his dad suggested that they try to reach base camp, 10-year-old Haugen wasn’t sure he could make it. His father reassured him he’d be there to help. But Haugen opted to stay in the cushy comfort of the visitor’s center. As he writes, “I went on the trip, but missed the adventure.”
Haugen uses this to illustrate a widespread malady in the Church today. Christians often choose safety and comfort over courage. We don’t believe that risk and suffering may be part of God’s plan for our lives. But in cutting ourselves off from the risk, explains Haugen, we also miss the adventure, the joy, and the experience of seeing God meet us at our point of need.
Haugen—the 2007 recipient of BreakPoint’s William Wilberforce Award—speaks from experience. He and his colleagues at International Justice Mission take risks for God every day. In some of the world’s darkest regions they liberate women and young girls from sexual slavery, families from forced labor, and communities from widespread injustice.
Haugen tells the story of one young man, Sean Litton, a brilliant lawyer, who was at the top of his game professionally when he decided to join IJM’s staff. According to Sean, he wasn’t afraid of joining the on-the-ground work in the Philippines. But he was afraid of losing that competitive career edge when he came back. But Sean came to decide, “If I can rescue one child from the unspeakable horrors of prostitution, it would outweigh any sacrifice.”
Sean got his wish and a lot more. Through his efforts, he and his staff rescued hundreds of women and girls from sexual exploitation.
He knew it was all worth it when, as he says, “I looked into the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl who had been brutally raped two years previously and no one had done anything to help her: I was able to tell her, ‘God loves you. I know he loves you because he sent me here to help you.”
As a result, the man who raped this young girl is now serving a 20-year prison term, while she is now studying social work at a local university. She hopes to help other abused women one day.
Stories like this should thrill you, and I recommend you get yourself a copy of Haugen’s book. But, like Haugen, I want to encourage you not just to listen to the stories and be moved, but to join the adventure.
Maybe you’ll volunteer your expertise with International Justice Mission. Maybe you’ll help to break the chains of men and women enslaved overseas. Maybe you’ll move out of your comfort zone to share the Gospel with millions of incarcerated men and women right here in America, helping them loose their chains of addiction and spiritual bondage, helping them reintegrate into society once they leave prison behind.
Perhaps there is some other way that God is asking you to take a risk for Him. But either way, I hope you won’t be content to stay put. It’s time we all left the visitor’s center.