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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
As IJM confronts injustice around the world, we find there is much to mourn:
- There are 40 million slaves in the world today—more than at any other time in human history.
- Thousands of widows are literally fighting for their lives because their land and only source of provision has been violently stolen away from them.
- 1 in 4 slaves is a child.
- Innocent men and women are arrested, charged and falsely imprisoned for crimes they did not commit—all at the hands of law enforcement officers abusing their power.
- Police and judges who try to act justly often feel alone and powerless against this rampant corruption.
And yet, God says that those who mourn will be comforted. How? Where will they find comfort amid all this darkness?
This is the spiritual reality we must first understand: We follow a God who promises that he loves as a Father does, that he longs to wipe away every tear; his very Spirit is called the Comforter. But at the same time, our great, comforting God has laid out for each of us a role as comforter, too.
After leading the UN investigation of the Rwandan genocide, IJM President Gary Haugen said, “I’ve had people ask me, ‘Where was God in the midst of all of this?’ The more relevant question for me was,
‘Where are God’s people?’ God’s plan to bring comfort to those who mourn is us. His plan for restoring the world is us.”
In this justice movement, we are seeing God raise up intercessors of faith and courage to pray for those who are yet mourning—praying for comfort and praying that God would send a rescuer. These prayers enable IJM teams to become brave rescuers, but they also bring comfort to the mourners far beyond what we can do on our own. Time and time again, these prayers lead to stories of rescue and redemption beyond belief.
KAMPALA, UGANDA – When Gertrude’s husband passed away, she was left to raise her seven children and several grandchildren all on her own. Because there was no written will proclaiming her rights to the land and home she shared with her late husband, the Ugandan widow and her entire family were extremely vulnerable.
Soon, Gertrude’s abusive brother-in-law, Joseph, seized the opportunity to prosper at her expense.
The powerful prey on the weak.
Joseph has power and standing within the small community where he and Gertrude both live. He wasted no time in making his power known to Gertrude. Acting with impunity after the death of her husband, Joseph seized the property that was Gertrude’s only source of income—property that was vital for her family’s survival. Joseph started collecting rent from Gertrude’s land and even sold some plots, prospering at the expense of his increasingly impoverished sister-in-law.
Gertrude clung to her small home, her only remaining security, until May 2010, when Joseph showed up. In front of two of her children and one grandchild, Joseph dragged Gertrude from her home and
beat her violently. When he was done, he sat and taunted her, screaming, “Who’s going to help you now?”
No longer safe in her own home, Gertrude turned to IJM for help. IJM helped Gertrude report the crime—and ongoing harassment—to the police. IJM social workers took her to a hospital for assistance and continued to support her family with counseling and other services.
Working with a state prosecutor, IJM advocates prepared an airtight criminal case against Joseph, including eye witnesses who saw the assault and a police surgeon who would testify to Gertrude’s abuse.
Court delays pushed the trial back month after month, but IJM never left Gertrude’s side.
No longer alone.
Finally, after 16 months, Joseph was staring at his feet listening to a judge explain that he was guilty of assault, that he was going to jail, and that he was going to pay Gertrude for her injuries.
IJM celebrated the hard-fought victory with Gertrude. At that moment, it was clear that Gertrude wouldn’t watch her children or grandchildren die of starvation, disease or exposure. Gertrude would not be one of the hundreds of thousands of Ugandan widows left to face oppressors like Joseph alone.
IJM’s aftercare staff walked closely with Gertrude and her family, comforting her as she mourned the loss of her husband and the abuse she endured at Joseph’s hands. She now raises chickens as a business and lives peacefully on her land.
Thankful for the IJM friends by her side, Gertrude said, “If I had been doing this alone, I would have given up a long time ago.”
- Describe a time in your life where you have felt far from God. How did God use the people in your life to bring you comfort?
- What does Gertrude and IJM’s perseverance say about God’s character? How does this relate to James 1:2-5?
- How are you able to comfort those who mourn? Who in your life might God be calling you to help comfort?
- Pray that God would give great comfort to those who are mourning.
- Pray that God would give great strength and compassion to those who are sent to comfort them.
- Pray that God would raise up workers to bring his justice to those desperately waiting for an advocate.