Here’s a good time for a point of explanation. The original purpose of us going to Vietnam was to accept the invitation by the government to interact with the Au Giang university students. As our trip leaders were planning, they realized that after this part of the trip was over, the possibility of a drop-off of purpose was likely so Steve and Miguel started to look into Cambodia. In addition to places of worship, they also planned to show us places where the Church is at work. I already mentioned the charismatic church but we also got to spend time with some excellent NGO’s that work for human rights and for fair trade.
The first one we went to was Hagar International whose mission is: “Our purpose is singular; we restore broken lives. We welcome the toughest of human conditions. We stay focused on the individual. And we do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore life in all its fullness.” Originally it was begun back in 1994 by a business man visiting from overseas whose heart broke for the women who were outcasted and neglected. Hence the name – Hagar. A few years ago, they realized that boys and men were also rejected and needed a place of belonging. One of the director of operations gave a powerful and moving presentation on what they do. Most powerful was the picture of a teen-age boy who was talented and neglected. Her part of the presentation finished with her saying that her and her husband took in the boy and he is their “new youngest”. Loved it.
This particular location was Hagar’s restaurant facility. Each day they put on an amazing lunch buffet, it was fantastic. The idea of the second chance is so powerful. We are accustomed to thinking that people who need a second chance are those that have committed a failure that they should have avoided but the more we listen to people’s stories, real stories, the more we see the evil tragic world that we inhabit and for some people, decisions are made for them that ruin their lives, shatter their dreams and pollute their future. I see places like Hagar the continued work of the Church – it gives people life – not just a trade, not just a career, not just a second chance, not just a religion but life (yes, it is connected to a couple faith communities now).
The next person we met at Hagar was Nathan. I mention him because he had so much energy and his story was so powerful. I am guessing he’s in his mid-late twenties. He said he moved out to California to chase his dot.com dream that failed. While there, he accepts Christ as his Savior and feels the call of God to move to Cambodia where soon after, this opportunity to work at Hagar emerged. It ended up that he had some restaurant manager experience and before he knew it, he was running the food-preparation program.
It was so interesting to hear him talk about some of the same issues we face. How do you balance between providing relief and proclaiming the Christian message? Where is the line between non-profit and ministry? He went on to say that you are always doing a bit of both, among other things, and I sat their chuckling thinking, “Hey he sounds like me! Hahah, that’s what I would have said. Wait, am I supposed to be serving in Cambodia”. Well it’s Montvale til I hear otherwise ☺
Once again, it’s people like Nathan, places like Hagar that is part of the new wave of missions and I was so grateful to see this part of the Kingdom at work.
International Justice Mission
How do you explain IJM? It’s like the Dark Knight but without vigilante justice because they actually went to law school, and that begin each work day in 30 minutes of prayer before fighting crime – specifically human trafficking. They have a small battalion of lawyers stationed world-wide, private investigators who work with police in catching traffickers, then their lawyers build cases against them in court, all the while rescuing young girls and women off the street. BAM! SLAM! WHAP! Holy Christian-crime-fighting Batman!” “Precisely Robin.”
I have been receiving IJM emails for a couple years now and have wanted to connect some of their initiatives with our Second Mile Ministry, maybe now is the time. To the approval of some,they are more blatantly a Christian mission organization and while there was a bit of discussion on how that limits them, it was also great to see an outspoken ministry (Hagar’s website describes themselves as Christian too – just fyi). Those who know me, know I love the work of such NGO’s like Invisible Children (a non-profit that is not overt about their Christian faith) but I also love IJM. This is all great, the harvest is plenty, the workers are few, you know I love to see Christ-followers in plurality.
I think the one of the most clear themes of this trip has been that when Christians are on the ground at work in churches, relief organizations, relationship building, and numerous other ways – great things happen. The Gospel is told, practiced, lived and proclaimed.