Most of the time our Outreach and Engagement Team functions independently of our case-work teams. The case-work folks are investigating child-trafficking crimes, collecting evidence, building a case, and caring for victims. Our team is usually mobilizing the community at large to demand change. There are occasions though where we have the joy of serving the case-work teams in some bridge-building capacity. In a previous blog I mentioned the relationship with the new aftercare partner that will take in some of our clients that need long-term care. Last week we worked to build a bridge with a Christian eye clinic that has now offered to provide free eye care to our clients, and not only to those we rescue, but also to the other children in the homes where they live and to their care-givers! Meanwhile, we are also beginning to support our investigators in building bridges to the community. It feels good to be able to provide some tangible support to these teams that I admire so much.
We’ve also had some great surprises recently. Yesterday, the surprise was accidentally being a guest of honor for a surprise birthday party of a well-known pastor I just met in the hallway 30 seconds earlier! First, let me back up. Last year, the pastor of the church where my family and I attend recommended we meet with the assistant chaplain at a university. It was quite a distance from our office and out of the way of our usual circuits so we never made it out there, but on the way back from another bridge-building endeavor in a source community (where kids are often trafficked from), we decided to stop by, arranging via WhatsApp a few hours before. We arrived at the school, found the chaplaincy office deserted. We eventually found the man we were there to meet who promptly introduced us to the chaplain and informed us it was the chaplain’s birthday. I joked that we should sing to him and the asst. chaplain said, “sure, but let’s do it in here.” He then walked us into a room PACKED with people who started singing “Happy Birthday” to the chaplain, to his surprise (and ours).
I was ushered to a seat, introduced to the group and given honorary roles in the party like praying for the chaplain and helping him ceremonially cut the birthday cake! I just smiled through it all and chuckled to myself about all the surprises this job has brought to me. I don’t know if I’ve shared this before but it is a tradition here to cut birthday cakes like how a bride and groom do at a wedding. Several people all put their hands together on the knife. It is especially awkward when it is just two people! I have some great photos like this at IJM birthday celebrations. But I digress. After the party, we had a great meeting with both the chaplain and the assistant chaplain where we explained our work with IJM, learned about theirs and discussed ways we might partner together in the future.
One more thing, remember those eye clinic meetings? Well those ended up bearing much fruit not just for eye-care. The executive director has many close relationships with chiefs, pastor, and community leaders in a new region we hope to become more active in but have little contacts. He has invited us to come to a conference next week where he will introduce us to a whole host of great contacts up there.
This work is full of surprises. You never know what’s behind a door you’re about to enter. You never know what will happen in a meeting or how one friendship might turn into five. Whatever happens, you just pray and roll with it.