Note From The Editor: In Darling Issue No. 10 we announced a new partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), specifically partnering with their work to eradicate sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. We’re excited to introduce the fifth in a series of update posts, taking you along and behind-the-scenes for a deeper look at how exactly that is being accomplished. Today we’re hearing from Jan Haugen, wife of IJM founder Gary Haugen, after a recent trip to the DR.
I recently had the absolute joy of visiting the Dominican Republic and seeing first hand IJM’s work in that beautiful country. Even though I’ve traveled many places, it’s always a bit of a shock to experience a new country: The humid heat – nearly liquid air, the amazing beauty of a city built on a coastline, the juxtaposition of crazy extravagance and extreme poverty – a fancy hotel with lots of Louis Vuitton and a neighborhood of dilapidated buildings with dogs and teenage boys sitting on rooftops whiling away the time, and the amazingly blocked up and stopped daily rush hour traffic jams that would give NYC or Austin a run for their money.
But what I will take away from my visit was so much deeper than my first sensory impressions of the DR:
IJM staff are the most joyful of super heroes.
I was impressed, once again, with the IJM staff. They are basically super heroes. They are talented and smart, professional, persevering and they do the hard, painful, difficult, resisting work of Justice with JOY!
Our time with the staff simply humbled me. They are lawyers, investigators, social workers, accountants and administrators who daily use their education, skills and experience to serve the neediest of the needy, the poorest of the poor in their country – and they work in simple conditions with excellence and joy. They work hard to free girls who have been sexually exploited — raped for someone else’s profit — and they work tirelessly. Did I mention joy? I should devote a book to the amazing joy with which these IJMers do their work!
Law enforcement and government officials of integrity and courage make it possible to bring justice to the poor.
I am so thankful for the police and government officials who want to do their jobs with the highest of standards, upholding the laws already on the books in their country, who have agreed to work in collaboration with IJM. Boom! This is how Justice for the poor is possible! Law enforcement working! Boom!
Hope and restoration are beautiful and possible.
We got to meet four of our clients who had been rescued out of child sexual exploitation. We had a sweet afternoon of meeting each girl and being given a demonstration of a skill she was learning in her journey of restoration.
The first girl I met has been taking cooking classes and made us cheese ball appetizers! I have now tasted the best cheese balls ever! Made by the hands of a beautiful girl bravely moving forward in a life of freedom and dignity. Another girl showed us her jewelry making skills, another her skills at learning English. And the fourth girl is learning cosmetology and she offered to paint the nails of two women in our group. The color of choice was sky blue — possibly not the first choice of American women over 40 — but I bet it’s their favorite color now.
The rest of our time in the DR, I would catch their sky blue nails out of the corner of my eye and remember the beauty and dignity of the girl who had painted them. She has been rescued! Her future has hope! Those sky blue nails will forever signify to me the hope, beauty and dignity of those precious girls we met.
Every member of the justice squad is essential, powerful and pivotal. Giving matters.
And did I say yet that the people on our trip to the DR were American IJM donors? These busy people took the time to show up. They showed up in government offices to sit in silent support as IJM leaders conducted business with government officials.
They sat in silent support at the national police headquarters to show that we care about victims of child sexual exploitation not only in our own country, but in the DR and other countries around the world as well. They learned from and encouraged our DR staff.
In humility, wonder and often with tear stained faces, they met with and blessed our clients rescued out of horrendous circumstances. They showed up because they care and because they wanted to see the fruit of their giving. And the fruit was bountiful! These wonderful donors do not investigate crimes, advocate in courtrooms or provide aftercare to victims, but they make the work of Justice possible by giving! And so, in their way, they do the work of Justice!
I left the DR with a full and thankful heart. Thankful for the hands of Justice — from the sweet hands that painted the sky blue polish to the recipient hands that wore it — it truly takes many hands to amalgamate the mosaic of Justice.
Darling is excited to continuing sharing updates about IJM’s anti-trafficking work in the Dominican Republic. Find out more about our partnership with IJM here, as well as follow their work via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Images provided by Jan Haugen