In honour of IJM Bolivia’s incredible month of July (4 convictions, a long-awaited arrest, 60 therapies completed, churches uniting for justice), our team went to see Tom Cruise hang off the side of a military plane, in a business suit, as it takes off into the chilly London air.
During the week, our Field Office Director made a number of references to how our work is a “mission impossible” – but God, through us, is doing crazy awesome things here in La Paz and El Alto.
And it’s true.
So often in the work that we do here with survivors of child sexual violence, the odds are heavily, painfully, stacked against our clients.
They are vulnerable as children and teenagers.
The perpetrator is someone close to them, often a family member or a person with significant influence over the survivor.
The survivor won’t tell anyone because the perpetrator threatens to harm their family.
If they pick up the courage to report the crime, they often don’t know where to go; and authorities may be too busy to attend to them.
If they manage to open a case, the legal process promises to last an average of 3 years, and may drag on for up to 7 years.
They are poor – they can’t afford a lawyer who will attend every hearing (including the ones that are cancelled and rescheduled because someone who needs to be there doesn’t show up).
Threats from the perpetrator may escalate during this time.
The chances of your case reaching sentencing (whether it’s a conviction or an acquittal) is about 4%.
When bad stuff happens, when we feel surrounded by enemies or circumstances, we may despair or get angry. If we’re optimists and/or we believe in a God who cares and can, we may look back in hindsight and see the positives that emerged from the darkness.
But how often do we see the armies of God around us in our hour of need – before the deliverance, before we see the result?
I was reading the Bible passage about the Syrian armies surrounding Samaria. It seemed a lost cause. But Elisha saw what everyone else couldn’t see. Then his servant had his eyes opened too, and he too was able to see God at work – before deliverance, before the result.
2 Kings 6:15-17
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’
And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha.
And this, perhaps, is something I’ve learned to do better over the past year here in Bolivia. Because we so intentionally pray for our work at IJM, I’ve been able to see God moving before I see any tangible results. Because on the surface the odds are not in favour of justice for child sexual violence, as a team we really do have to believe in a God who is attentive to the detail of our work and the lives of our clients, who is already arranging His units for battle. Who transforms the odds in our favour. We couldn’t keep doing this work day after day if we didn’t believe that.
*Note: This goes without saying, but the opinions expressed here are my own and not IJM’s. The data I’ve included is based on my observations of our casework, with the exception of the final point about sentencing, which is a stat provided by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.