FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Serving a God of Justice

with Gary Haugen | November 28, 2008
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What can you do to rescue victims of oppression around the globe? Author Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, tells listeners how every person can join in the fight to rescue those trapped in the bondage of slavery.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What can you do to rescue victims of oppression around the globe? Author Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, tells listeners how every person can join in the fight to rescue those trapped in the bondage of slavery.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What can you do to rescue victims of oppression around the globe?

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Serving a God of Justice

With Gary Haugen
November 28, 2008
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Bob: Do you care about those who are experiencing oppression in our world today?  God does, and shouldn't we?  Here is Gary Haugen.

Gary: What we have to do to get to know the God of justice is to understand how does a loving father regard the abuse of those whom he has made?  And when you understand how deeply God loves that child who has been sold into slavery, how deeply God loves that child who is being sexually abused, how deeply God loves that widow who is being thrown off her land, you realize that God's response is not one of mild interest.  It is great passion.  The question is, do we share that passion?

Bob: Several years ago at the White House President Bush acknowledged the work of the International Justice Mission.


President George W. Bush:  (From videotape.)  The director of the anti-trafficking operations for International Justice Mission is Sharon Cohn.  She is with us.  Let me tell you what that means – that means she's working to end sex slavery.  She is a noble soul who cares deeply about the plight of every woman, and I'm honored that you're up here, Sharon.  I want to thank you very much for your strong commitment.  This government stands with you, and our country stands with you.  We abhor, we abhor the practice of sex slavery, we will do all we can to help you.  Thank you.


Support for human rights is the cornerstone of American foreign policy.  It's a matter of national conviction that we believe that every person in every culture is meant by God to live in freedom.

Bob: Well, that is, of course, President Bush, and he is congratulating there, Dennis, the International Justice Mission for not only the work that was done in the liberation of young girls in Svay Pak, Cambodia, but also the work that they are doing all around the world on the subject of slavery – not just sex slavery, but there are estimates of nearly 30 million slaves in the world today.

Dennis: That's right, Bob, and we have the president and founder of IJM, International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen, with us.  Gary, welcome back to FamilyLife Today. 

You know, one thing we have not done here at any point this week is really allowed you to share just a little bit of the mission – we've been talking about the work of IJM, but we really haven't talked about what is it's mission and what are you all about?

Gary: International Justice Mission rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and other forms of oppression around the world.  We are a collection of Christian lawyers, criminal investigators, prosecutors, and we receive case referrals from Christians who are serving amongst the poor around the world.  When they see slavery and torture and sex trafficking and the abuse of widows, and they call upon us, and then we investigate these cases, and then mobilize rescue efforts for the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.  We are headquartered in Washington, D.C., but most of our work is done through our offices overseas, and so most members of the International Justice Mission team are not Americans.  They are Kenyans or Filipinos or other members of their own community who do the work of justice.

Dennis: You actually get people out of prison then?

Gary: We sure do.  It is the God of justice, of course, who Jesus was referring to when He announced his ministry and Luke that the spirit of God was upon him to bring release to the captives.  Well, it turns out that God is still in the business of doing justice and bringing release to the captives, and we get the privilege of being with Him in doing that work.

Bob: And, you know, I think here in the United States we hear about the release of the captives, and we think, "No, we don't want them released. Those people are supposed to be locked up.  They're criminals."  But you're saying around the world there are a lot of people who have done nothing wrong, and they are in prison either in slavery or actually in prisons, prisoners of the state, and they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Gary: In fact, if you go in the developing world, depending upon which country, you will find that between 50 and 85 percent of the prisoners in the jails have never been convicted or charged with a crime.

Dennis: Now, say that again?

Gary: Depending upon which country to go to in the developing world, between 50 and 85 percent of the prisoners have never been convicted or charged with a crime.  They are there because of extortion, they are there because of bribery, they are there because of personal vendetta, they are there as a way of collecting debts.  But in poor countries, if you can't afford legal representation, you don't get any.

And I was in Kenya once, sitting in a little courtroom where a 16-year-old boy was charged with robbery with violence.  Why was he charged with that?  Well, because he and a couple of other boys were in charge of guarding the water source in their slum area, the hose that provides fresh water, and an older man came from outside the community to steal some water.  So there was this altercation.  The older man was mad, and so went and got his police friend and had David, this 16-year-old boy, arrested.

And then arrested and charged with robbery with violence.  Now, robbery with violence is a non-bailable offense, which means David's in prison until the justice system finally kicks him out, okay?  I was in that courtroom on that day, David comes in after eight months languishing in a prison – a prison in which they take a corpse out of there almost every other day because of abuse and disease.  And he sits down there in the dock on trial, and he, number one, has no legal representation but, number two, he speaks Swahili, the whole court proceeding is conducted in English, and so he is on trial for his life, has no legal representation, and can't even understand the proceeding.

This is a typical day for the poor in terms of the injustice that they confront.  We were able to get a volunteer Christian lawyer to show up for 10 minutes inside that courtroom and after the defense was made, the matter was adjourned, and he was released.  But you can see why, with that kind of a system prevailing in much of the developing world for the poor, the prisons are full of people who don't deserve to be there.  That's why in Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 3, it says, "Remember the prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and those who are being mistreated as if you were being mistreated."

Why does the Bible refer to prisoners so much?  Because, in a fallen world, the prisons fill up with people who don't deserve to be there.

Dennis: We speak of God in our evangelical experience here in America as being a God who is holy; a God who is omnipotent; omniscient, He knows all things; a God of love; a God of grace; a God of compassion; a God of kindness; a God of righteousness, all right?  And we also throw in the word, a God of "justice."  Introduce us, for just a moment, to the God of justice; who you have found Him to be, because I have to believe with as many places as you've been in those brothels that are trading in five-year-olds, six-year-olds, children of all ages – you probably know the God of justice in ways we – well, we need to be introduced to.

Gary: Well, I think one of the first difficulties is understanding what some of these words we talk about actually mean, because I think a lot of words in our context – we use them a lot, but they don't necessarily mean anything.  And one of the most important words to understand is the word "injustice."  Injustice actually refers to a specific kind of sin.  In America, we talk about injustice, and it refers to everything and nothing at the same time, right?  Everything is a terrible injustice, everything was unfair, but that's not what injustice is in the Bible. 

In the Bible, injustice is a specific kind of sin.  It's the abuse of power to take from others the good things that God intended for them.  It's the strong preying upon the weak, and this God is utterly passionate about – why?  Because He loves those who are being abused. In Proverbs, chapter 13, God says that "He who oppresses the poor insults his Maker."  So imagine if someone were to enslave your child; let's say someone were to sexually assault your child; let's say someone were to throw your brother into jail and torture him even though he's totally innocent, how would you feel about that?  You wouldn't feel mildly about that, you would feel passionate about that.

So what we have to do to get to know the God of justice is to understand how does a loving father regard the abuse of his children?  Regard the abuse of those whom he has made?  And when you understand how deeply God loves that child who has been sold into slavery, how deeply God loves that child who is being sexually abused, how deeply God loves that widow who is being thrown off her land, you realize that God's response is not one of mild interest.  It is great passion.  The question is, do we share that passion?

Dennis: Okay, we've got a start now to answering Bob's question of what do we do as we've heard this compelling story?  We get to know the heart of God, we get to know He's a God of justice, that He is passionate about those who are being oppressed, what's next?

Gary: The second step is, again, another basic reorientation, and that is moving from playing defense to playing offense.  I think many of us, as Christians in the world, get so full of our fears that our faith or our family or what it is that we hold dear, is somehow going to be attacked and snuffed out by evil in the world.  And so then we just get ourselves hunkered down protecting everything when, really, what God has called us to is to build His kingdom out into the world, and He says the gates of hell won't prevail against it.

I have these small children who have always gone through playing soccer, and if you've ever seen little kids' soccer, there's all those little ones running around the field, and most of them have no idea what's going on, but there usually is one kid who has the game figured out.  And it's not all the kids who were trying to guard the goal, it's the kid who has figured out the joy comes from scoring, from actually being the one who kicks the ball into their net and scores points.

We've lost a tremendous amount of our joy in the walk with Christ by simply playing defense all the time and not realizing the fun is going into the darkness and actually bringing the light of Christ to places where it's dark and scoring points for the kingdom.  And I fear that we will actually lose our children if we don't offer them more than simply playing defense.

Dennis: So you're talking about preparing your child to serve, to engage the culture, to engage oppression, in justice, and march off into it and trying to right things that are wrong?

Gary: Correct.  Rather than just protecting my children from things that are wrong, do I actually believe that light conquers darkness or do I imagine that if I am in a really, really dark, dark room, and open the door to a corridor that is really well lit, does the darkness from the dark room go out and penetrate the light in the corridor?  No.  The light streams in from the corridor into the dark room and dispenses the darkness.

Which is our picture of what our family is going to do for the world?  Hunker down and keep all our lights sort of burning together so that they stay ablaze, or are we going to take that light into the darkness and build the kingdom of God?  That's what we need to, I think, seek for as parents and as followers of Jesus, is this fundamental reorientation.

Dennis: I think we also, as we give our lives, we also need to put our money where our heart is, and that means we need to give.  A portion of our giving, I think, needs to be reflected in caring for those who cannot defend themselves, who cannot protect themselves, and your ministry really offers an opportunity for families to engage in helping to defend the orphan, the widow, the oppressed in other countries.

Gary: Well, the mathematics of this is very stark to me.  The victims that we serve simply cannot pay for the service that they need.  That child locked away in those brothels in Svay Pak didn't have the resources to go and pay highly trained investigators to come and to be able to document where they were being abused and rescue them out.  Those bonded slaves can't put together a dollar let alone the $500 it takes to rescue them out through bringing their perpetrators to justice.

But some of us who have financial resources can actually pay for the rescue that the poor cannot afford, and I know for my wife and I and our family and for all those who participate financially with the work of International Justice Mission, to know that we have been able to take the money that I otherwise would have spent at Starbuck's, you know, in the blink of an eye in a month's period, or something, could actually be used to bring tangible rescue.  That gives me a concrete way to participate and gives us all a way to participate.

Bob: We've got a link on our website at that links to your website for folks who want to find out more about the ministry and want to help support the ministry.  We're encouraging you to consider doing that, give prayerful thought to that.  Just go to, and there is a link there, and you'll see how you can support the ministry of International Justice Mission, and you'll see how you can help someone who has been in bondage be set free and actually put a new song in that person's heart.  That's what happened for a prisoner in Kenya who you helped to liberate, right?

Gary: That's right, and sometimes, you know, we use these words like "liberation" and "freedom," and they've been so overused we almost stop thinking they really have meaning.  But for David Angura [sp], it has deep meaning.  David is a marvelous young man who lives in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.  He is a delightful young man who is a favorite in the community.  He used to gather up the children on Sundays and take them to church.  He volunteered in his local AIDS clinic there in the slums of Nairobi.

But one Sunday, he was walking home from church, and there had been some police officers drinking the local café, and they had perhaps run out of money for their drinking, and so they grabbed David and another man, and the police threw David and this other man in their car and drove them down towards the police station.  They extracted a bribe from David.  He had about two dollars in his pocket, and they took that from him. 

Then they arrived at the police station, they let David and this other man out, and they just let them walk away.  But as David was walking away, one of the police officers drew his gun and just shot David – shot him in the side and shot him in the arm, and David just fell in a heap on the ground.  The police officers didn't pursue him or anything because they didn't care about him but, fortunately, there was a hospital just across the street.  So David, wet with his own blood, was able to get up and make his way to that hospital, though fainting a few times before actually getting there.

The hospital staff received him, later the police came over and ordered the hospital staff not to treat him, but they treated him, anyway.  Unfortunately, the bullet had blown up his arm so badly that his right arm had to be amputated, and then the police chained him to his bed there at the hospital so that even with excruciating pain, he couldn't even turn over the right way.  And they charged him with robbery with violence, a robbery, which was reported to them, the records clearly showed, long after they had even shot David.

And so there was David languishing in prison, feeling a sense of total despair because here the good guys, the police, are supposed to protect you, are the ones who had abused him.  Well, fortunately, International Justice Mission has an office in Nairobi, and we were actually investigating a rape case of a small child in that slum area when we heard about David's case, and our lead attorney there was able to generate an investigation, and we were able to gather all the facts from the witnesses in the area, and now David isn't languishing in that prison anymore.  I'll tell you where he is.  He's in law school. 

He has seen how the work of God, through His people, is able to bring justice, and now he wants to be an advocate for those who don't have a voice.  And while David is not in prison, I'll tell you who is.  It's those five police officers who committed that abuse, because International Justice Mission was able to gather the evidence against them, see them dismissed from the police force, and now they are properly being prosecuted.  And this is changing the whole calculation of the police in that community about what they can get away with.

And, in fact, I was with David, and one of the things you have to understand about his story is that the brave IJM attorney who took this case on and brought this great rescue, he can't even see.  Victor Kumau [sp], his IJM lawyer, is blind.  And yet he was used of God to rescue David Angura from the most powerful, vicious people in his community.  And so David pulled me aside, because remember now he's missing his right arm and is suffering under that disability, but he pulled me aside, and he said, "Gary, you know, if Victor can be such a great lawyer with his disability, it's no big deal that I don't have a right arm; that God can use me to be a voice for those who have no voice."

And this is the power of hope going forth.  This is the kingdom of God, this is light penetrating the darkness and God's beating heart is right behind it.

Bob: While David was in prison, he wrote songs, hymns of praise to God while he was in captivity, right?

Gary: That's right.  And he was there in the hospital before being carted off to prison, David's own heart of joy and worship for God burst forth in song.

Bob: You know, I'm just sitting here thinking, if I was in prison in Kenya unjustly being held and had lost my right arm, I don't know that I'd be writing a whole lot of songs in my head or praising God, you know?

Dennis: Well, you'd like to think you would.

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: But here is a man whose faith was real, and who was trusting a God who had plans for him that, at that point, he didn't know about.  Psalm 82:3 says, "Defend the poor and fatherless, do justice to the afflicted and needy."  And, Gary, I want to thank you for your work with IJM and your model of really calling the Christian community, families, back to justice and to meeting the needs of the oppressed, the poor, and just appreciate you joining us here on FamilyLife Today.  I think there is going to be some additional captives that are set free because of what you've shared on our broadcast all this week.

Gary: My great desire, Dennis and Bob, is to have God's people step into the joy of knowing God's passion for justice and being used by Him to actually do the work of the kingdom that sets the captive free.  God offers that to us, and I just yearn for all of us to reach out and grab hold of God's hand in that way.

Bob: You know, that passion comes through loud and clear in your book, "Terrify No More," and we have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center and hope that our listeners will get a copy of the book and read it, maybe read it together with others and ask the question, "What can our small group do at church?  What can our family do?  What can our whole church body do?  How can we be a part of the solution?  How can we join with God in what He wants to do in liberation of the captives?"

You can get copies of Gary's book, which is called, "Terrify No More" on our website at  When you get to the home page, on the right side of the screen, you'll see a box that says, "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you through to an area of the site where you've find out more about Gary's ministry.  There is a link to his website there.  His book is listed there.  You can order directly from us online.

Again, our website is  You can also call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and it's 1-800-358-6329, just mention that you're interested in the resources we've talked about today on the subject of justice, or if you're interested in Gary's book, then someone on our team will help you figure out exactly what you're looking for, and we'll make arrangements to get it in the mail to you.

And then let me ask you, when you do get in touch with us, would you consider making a donation for the ongoing ministry of FamilyLife Today?  We would appreciate that.  We are listener-supported, and your donations are critical for us to continue this ongoing ministry on this station and on other stations all across the country.

I want to be real clear, we want to make sure when you do help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, that you're not taking any money away from what you would otherwise be giving to your local church.  We think that needs to be your first giving priority.  If you are able to help us with a financial gift beyond what you're doing with your local church, we would appreciate that generosity on your part, and we'd like to send you a thank you gift this week.

It's a brand-new book from Barbara Rainey about Christmas.  It's called "When Christmas Came," and it's an extended series of meditations on John 3:16, which, when you stop and think about it, is a verse about Christmas, and along with the text of the book, Barbara has painted eight new watercolor paintings that are incorporated into the book.  It's a beautiful book, and it's our gift to you this week if you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  In fact, we hope that this resource is something you and your family can use during the Christmas season, maybe in family devotions together, maybe reading portions of it aloud, and just thinking together about John 3:16 as you prepare your hearts for the coming of Christ.

If you're making your donation to FamilyLife Today online, and you'd like to receive Barbara's book, just type the word "Christmas" into the keycode box, and we'll know to send a copy of Barbara's book to you, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and make your donation over the phone and mention that you'd like a copy of Barbara's book and, again, we're happy to send it to you, and we do very much appreciate your financial support of this ministry.

Now, have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church, and I hope you can join us on Monday when Barbara Rainey is going to be here.  We're going to talk about John 3:16 and about her new book and hear some of her thoughts behind how this verse can change the way we think about Christmas.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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