A group from Grant Memorial Church in Winnipeg recently came back from Guatemala ready to share stories of hope that they witnessed firsthand through the work of International Justice Mission (IJM).
"It was a great opportunity," says Ken 'Chopper' Wilson, one of the team members that recently went to Guatemala. "Grant Memorial Baptist Church put together a group of seven adults and we went down to Guatemala to visit our longtime partner International Justice Mission and see the work they do firsthand. It was great to see how God brought the right people along."
Wilson is the District Coach for the Baptist General Conference of Canada.
"The staff in Guatemala were great at exposing us directly. They said, 'You're going to see who we're working with, some of the survivors, but also some of our partners.'"
IJM works in conjunction with local authorities, attorneys, and social workers to help bring justice to people who've been traumatized by violence, often sexual in nature.
"We got to meet a lady who was a survivor. She had come to IJM a number of years ago and she had been a victim of child sexual abuse. Through the work of IJM, she found Christ and also came to the commitment of, 'I'd like to help others.'"
Now this woman is an attorney helping other people who have been in her situation.
IJM's Work in Central America
"When we first went to Guatemala in 2005, the focus was sexual violence against women," says David Pollendine, the National Director of Development Growth with International Justice Mission (IJM). "At that time it was thought, it was too violent and corrupt. The system is too broken."
The team started doing casework for one person at a time in Guatemala. Now it's expanded to include Honduras and El Salvador.
"We took them through the justice system and we saw that it was possible to have sustainable protection there," says Pollendine. "A couple of years ago we expanded that work to violence against women and children, which is very prevalent. In some areas, one in four adolescent girls has experienced sexual violence in their lifetime."
Wilson and the team from Grant Memorial saw the effect IJM's partnership had on the local community after visiting the police station.
"IJM provides ongoing training to help someone that's been victimized in this way," says Wilson. "To make sure that they're being looked after and cared for and still go after the perpetrator. When they started it was a very small, dedicated office. Now, it's a full department, a full building with their own resources and equipment."
Wilson shares that on the trip he learned that at the beginning of IJM's work in Guatemala, a victim would have a three per cent chance of having their case brought to justice and they would have to share what happened to them up to 19 times. This can increase the trauma for a victim. Now, there's a 34 per cent chance the case will be brought to justice and the victim only has to share their story once.
Prayers covering IJM and their work are valuable to the ministry, according to Pollendine.
"The people were working in very dark places," says Wilson. "They appropriately exposed us to the desperation and the darkness they are rubbing up against every day. Pray for our brothers and sisters in those dark places, that the hope of Christ beams through. We can pray for the individuals that come to them for care, that bring their stories and their hurts."
People interested in supporting the work of IJM can do so here.