I went to the Justice Conference this last week, and I loved it. Truthfully, I don’t know if I would have attended on my own, but I’m employed by the organization who sponsored and put on the event- I work for World Relief*. I’ll admit that I’m at a point in my walk with Jesus right now where I’m skeptical of Christian conferences. I’ve been to several and looking back, (having helped put some on as well…) I have been the willing victim of a lot of hype. I think most Jesus-people have also found themselves exploited by speakers who possess an ability to elicit a strong emotional response from an audience who- in a well-lit auditorium, with hungry expectations actually desires to put out some sort of reaction to what’s going on. Regardless, I participated, I worked and I didn’t have to cry.
I’m not going to elaborate on speakers, music or anything like that, but I’m going to focus on a dinner my boss made me attend. It was a meal for those who are interested in or who have something to say about creative advocacy. I dined with authors, a rapper, photographers, and several journalists. Many of these people had outrageous accomplishments on their resumes and had a lot to offer the rest of the crowd. I didn’t necessarily feel like I belonged.
During this event, I kept asking myself, “Jake, what do you do? What’s your creative contribution to justice?”
My answer? “Well, I want to be a writer. I mean, I write- I blog, but that isn’t much. And also? I work for World Relief, but I don’t write for them, I work in adult education and employment.”
I don’t write about what I do, which is weird. During my time as a baristo, serving coffee to awful white people , I wrote several posts about uppity humans, early hours and pretending to be nice. I haven’t really said a word about my refugees or their stories. I don’t know why. Angie works with me, but she writes about her time in Thailand, running a safe-house for children near the border, but she never said a lot about her work either.
Maybe it isn’t glamorous. I don’t roam around jungles, in search of those in need. I don’t kick doors down then rush in to crash a sweatshop and save lives. I don’t rescue anyone from sex-trafficking. I help people who have relocated to the United States get into education and get jobs. I have been accused of whitewashing them, giving refugees jobs that Americans should have and supporting other problems in the United States. To that, I’ll say, our nation grew up on a steady diet of immigrants- we still need to welcome the stranger to our land and help them succeed. Though employment is my big focus, I have dealt with domestic violence, rape, extreme racism, violence outside of the home and closed-minded people. Maybe some of that makes the story a little more exciting, but nobody wants that kind of drama.
I don’t know if I’ll start writing about the ministry I’m involved in. The last thing I want to do is come across as self-important and you all know me, I’m vying for that reward in heaven , so perhaps I should stay quiet about my daily life. But there you go, there’s a snapshot into my world. It’s filled with people who don’t speak English, who cook fascinating and terrifying foods and who got a second chance- one where they can live outside of persecution, where someday, they’ll be able to dream about the future and set goals. By the grace of God, I plan to help them with that as much as possible- because they’re worth it.
*And by the way, my views don’t necessarily reflect those of World Relief. I fee like I need to make that separation distinct- mostly for fun. But seriously.