The Desk and The Battlefield
The Battlefield and The Desk
Sometimes the fight for justice happens behind a desk.
BY Rachel Devine
When you hear the word “justice”, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a court of law and a victim receiving “justice”. Or maybe you think of social justice — the fight for gender and racial equality and parity in the workplace. Perhaps you think of peace and reconciliation, as those are fruits of a just world.
For me, “justice” has always been attached to this Kingdom mindset, this idea and vision of a world where there is no more striving, no more violence and hatred. The urge to fight for justice evokes this desire to see the Kingdom of heaven come touch earth. When I think of justice, I often recall Revelation chapter 21, where we are given this vision of a new heaven and a new earth, the old one dead and gone.
A voice from the throne says “Behold, I am making all things new”. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. He said, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:1-6, paraphrased).
What a glorious image. That passage makes me cry as I think about what that world would look like. A world completely right, completely just. Because, I learned at a young age, that certainly isn't the world we live in now. I vividly remember being 13 years old when I committed the rest of my life to serving the hurting and broken-hearted, even if it meant going to the ends of the earth. I was sitting in Sunday School and we had just watched a video from the non-profit organization “Love146”. It was about child sex trafficking, and I cried the whole time. I had a hard time collecting myself after that video. My world had been rocked. I felt this intense grief and also a righteous indignation towards this egregious violation of human life.
I began to educate myself and got involved. In 2012, I traveled to Ethiopia with a non-profit organization to work in safe houses and minister to women in the red light district brothels. In college, I geared my studies around international human rights and researched all different forms of violence against women, systemic oppression, protests and social movements, and transnational entities such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. I spent six months living in Nepal where I conducted and published an independent research project on the effectiveness of aftercare programs for survivors. I loved every second of it. I earned my degree in International Studies and, after graduation, went on to work with an organization in San Diego that combats sex trafficking locally. This organization also has a long-term safe house in San Diego, and provides a holistic approach to healing for survivors of sex trafficking.
It was my dream job, and yet somehow I felt like I wasn’t making a difference. I felt discouraged at times; I wanted to do more. It was easy to feel uninspired about emails and forget the bigger picture. I felt like because I wasn't travelling and having these mountain-top experiences anymore that my work wasn't significant. It was the first time in a while that I was stationary and I had never had a "desk job" before. I started believing the lie that I could only glorify God by going on these grand adventures to far away places and communing with those who are hurting. Now please hear me — I think the call to go to those places is one of the most beautiful things, and I believe it's been a call on my life. But in this season, right here and now, I can glorify God by communing with people who are suffering in my own neighborhood. That is revolutionary. I can create change at this desk, in my office, and in my local neighborhood. I was limiting God and failing to see that there is glory and holiness in the mundane everyday.
Justice can often conjure up feelings of this glorious battle for all that is good in the world. But here’s the thing: fighting for justice is not glamorous. Nor should it be. If Jesus is our example for all that is good and righteous, we see a man who goes to the most forgotten corners of the earth and breaks bread with the people who are least accepted in their communities. He sits with dying people, people who have leprosy or diseases, or people possessed by demonic spirits. In fact, Jesus renounces over and over in his ministry the love of wealth, money and fame.
Sometimes the fight for justice happens behind a desk. We often joke at my work that we joined social services for the money and fame (because it’s the opposite).
My job is often spent at a desk. I think we have this idea that justice means being on the front lines, but the people at the desk can move mountains. Those people can make phone calls and write the policy to pass that piece of legislation that will bring justice to survivors. Those people advocate, lobby, educate, and research. Those people are vital in the pursuit of justice. Even while writing my research in Nepal, I spent a lot of time at cafes writing on my computer or alone in my hotel, writing some more. And yet, that work is important. Social change starts small. So if you are tackling justice from a desk, keep pressing on. Never underestimate the power of an educated community. An informed community is an empowered one, so start local. Justice needs to happen both abroad and at home. God has been challenging me in this area to be not only content, but empowered at my desk, fighting for what I care so deeply about. In the end, it was never about me anyways.
I heard in church recently that if your life and work are pointing people to Jesus, then people will start following Jesus and not you. And that should be cause for celebration. Yet that sentiment is so counter-cultural. It might even be considered revolutionary in American culture. But you see, our pursuit of Justice cannot be about us or for us. Our work for justice should aim to further the Kingdom of God and in doing so, point far far away from us. So keep fighting the good fight, wherever your desk might be.
Generate Hope, San Diego, California
"GenerateHope is a faith-based organization providing long-term, comprehensive safe-housing and complex trauma recovery programs to survivors of sex trafficking so that each woman can develop healthy wellness, social, psychological, educational, and vocational strengths, then reintegrate into community and walk powerfully into her future.
We purposefully serve San Diego's survivors of sex trafficking by offering a guided path to personal recovery and a restored, healthy independence - a real way out."
To learn more, visit http://generatehope.org/our-mission/