Spiritual Disciplines of IJM

Jim Martin: IJM Vice President of Spiritual Formation, author of Just Church


My summary of Jim’s training session on the Spiritual Disciplines of International Justice Mission:

We engage in difficult tasks with helpful structures in place.  We hope you grow in resilience.  We hope you grow in an ever deepening maturity.  We don’t want you used up and spent at the end in need of healing, but healthy for the long haul, ready for whatever is next. We have a responsibility to invest in our own spiritual formation.  We experience transformation for the sake of others: for the sake of our clients and for our colleagues.  Quote (I think John Ortberg paraphrasing Dallas Willard in The Life You’ve Always Wanted): “A Spiritual Discipline is an activity within our power that enables us to accomplish things we cannot do by direct effort.” It is like training for a marathon.

In joining IJM, we commit, along with everyone else in the organization to 4 spiritual disciplines to sustain this formation/training in us so that we can become and continue to be the people we need to be for our clients, colleagues, and the mission God has given us:

1)      Daily Stillness: 30 minutes of stillness and silent prayer/reading/reflection.  This we had a couple of opportunities to practice.  Literally, a couple of hundred people at the IJM Headquarters (very busy hard-working types, all wearing suits) go totally silent for this half an hour.  It was an inspiring experience to see a large corporate workplace suddenly switch into silent prayer and contemplation and then switch back into business mode.  Jim offered a great variety of ideas and coaching tips on how to use that stillness time.  The most interesting to me was to download the Pray As You Go app, which will play a daily devotional made by Jesuits in the U.K. that comes complete with a scripture reading, song, prompt questions for prayer, and some sweet accents.  I’ve done it 3 times so far and dig it.  It takes about 12 minutes.  You can either listen again after, or just use the rest of the time for journaling/prayer/reflection.  When I got back home, Joy told me about the exact same resource!  Someone totally disconnected from IJM had recommended it to her that day also and she had loved it so we’ve both been using it since.

2)      Daily Gathered Prayer: Again at 11am, the whole office practices a spiritual discipline together!  This time rather than silence, we gathered together in one room (actually there were too many so some were connected via video link from downstairs, as were the regional reps), welcomed visitors, heard prayer updates from various departments, some were real time (e.g. a certain field office was reporting that they were gathered with police watching a facility, hoping for an opportunity to raid the facility, rescue those held in slavery there, and arrest the traffickers, but a certain detail was holding them back).  We heard great news reported about a generous individual who just increased giving to support IJM’s work.  A certain deepened gravitas entered the room when prayer was asked for the trial in Kenya of those suspected of killing two IJM employees and one client in a police abuse of power case there.  Then we bowed our heads and people prayed out over all these concerns.  Every field office all over the world shares this daily practice.

3)      Team Prayer retreats (4 days per year):  I did not hear for certain, but I assume this will take the form for me of a quarterly one-day retreat with the whole IJM Ghana team.  I think the exact practice may vary according to teams and team leaders.  I am told these are not retreats in which we “retreat from work to think harder about work”, but rather focus on team-building, spiritual growth, and prayer.

4)      Annual Day of Solitude: Every IJM employee is to take one day a year to do a self-led individual prayer retreat.  I am not yet sure what all this entails.

I think having these four structures in place will be a huge blessing to my spiritual life as I join in this difficult and often discouraging, frustrating, and daunting, but God-given mission of seeking to protect the poor from violent injustice.

At our orientation class’s commissioning service, an IJM employee is paired up with each of us to pray for us specifically as we embark on our work.   I was honored to have Jim be the one to pray for me.

Below I’ve attached some PowerPoint pics of a totally different session on self-care we’ll need to practice as we enter into this difficult work:

We packed in a lot of these sessions in our four eight hour days together.  I will never be able to report on them all.  I hope you gained something from reading these notes and pictures from a couple of them!

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