International Justice Mission Founder Gary Haugen Encourages College Students to be the Light in a World of Darkness at Passion 2019 Conference

(Photo: Sterling Graves)

As part of the Passion 2019 Conference, Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of the human rights organization International Justice Mission, empowered college students to fight the darkness and suffering prevalent around the world by assuring them that God can turn even the smallest light into a bonfire.

Today, more than 20,000 children are going to die because their parents are too poor to keep them alive. Today, an average of 40,000 people will be forced to flee out of their homes due to violence and persecution. There are 100,000 children in America who are in the midst of a dangerous and scary foster care system — but no family will adopt them.

After presenting these statistics to thousands of college students gathered at the conference in Dallas, Texas, Haugen asked: “In a world of such darkness, of such suffering and hurt, what is God’s plan for making it believable that He is a good God?”

“You are that plan, and God doesn’t have another plan,” Haugen continued, citing Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

Haugen admitted it’s overwhelming when we realize that God — the maker of the universe — has decided to “put His reputation on the line in the world today on whether or not His children manifest His love and goodness in the world.”

But Satan wants us to feel anxious and inadequate, Haugen said, adding: “He likes us to feel totally overwhelmed by the darkness in the world and overwhelmed by how unqualified we are for this job.”

God doesn’t call us to “drive out all the darkness in the world,” Haugen explained — He simply asks us to “take our little light into the darkness so that He can gather it up and build a bonfire.”

Haugen revealed that 22 years ago, he and a few others were compelled to start IJM after God called them to bring their “little flickering light of love and hope to victims of violent abuse in our world who were very, very poor.”

“We started taking just individual cases of very poor people suffering from horrific violent abuse,” he recalled. “A little girl sold into a brothel by sex traffickers; a widow who was run out of her home in Africa by some men with machetes; a family who’s been sold into slavery; an abandoned girl who had been raped in a slum.”

“We started to take on these cases just one by one, and honestly at the beginning, for every case where we saw light prevail, there were 10 or 20 where the darkness beat us. But we just didn’t go away,” he continued.

What started out as a tiny ministry out of a closet is today a worldwide operation with over 1,000 staff members, including lawyers and criminal investigators and social workers.

“Turns out, you just bring your little light, and God builds a bonfire,” he said. “That might seem obvious and even believable to you, now 20 some odd years later, but I just wish you could feel how scary and impossible this felt when we started, especially because of the particular kind of darkness we were heading into.”

Darkness and violence, he said, “will fight you back.”

“When the poor were suffering from violence, abuse, when they were being imprisoned, enslaved, beaten, raped, and robbed, the body of Christ was bringing no light,” he said.

Haugen shared the story of David, an orphan in Nairobi, Kenya, who lived on the streets, surviving on rotten fruit. Alone in the predominantly Muslim region, he would medicate himself with glue to help overcome the pain of the beatings he sustained at night.

Miraculously, David came to know the love of Jesus thanks to the witness of some Catholic nuns who took him in. He graduated from high school and went on to build a little street business, and he was helping serve AIDS victims in his community.

However, the darkness of violence struck: One afternoon, a drunken police gang pulled David off the street, robbed him, shot him, and left him for dead in the street.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett