The list of 5 books that helped me grow up has to include Gary Haugen’s, “Good News about Injustice.” Reading this book deepened my prayers and convinced me that even I could play a small role as a justice advocate for the global poor.
When my first daughter was born David and I were over the moon as we would be for our second daughter’s birth. We received the typical comments of well-wishing and congratulations. One comment however surprised and alarmed me. “Maybe next time you will get that son.” From that moment forward I would be set on a course of paying attention to the worldwide preference of sons over daughters. The preference of sons over daughters I would learn was shared by women as much as by men. I grappled with the implications of such a bias and found it hard to understand. As the only child of Dom and Marie I never picked up that a son would have been their first choice. I was never sent a message that my gender precluded me from doing anything I wanted to do and that included staying single if I so desired. I enjoyed exceptional family acceptance. Listening to an NPR report a year after my daughter’s first birthday explained this preferential inequality. Interviews of women in the developing world described their desperate need to be validated as a human beings. Producing sons seemed to be their only ticket to enter the human race as worthwhile people. The voices of these women in conjunction with the sociological and economic narrative made sense to me, albeit tragically sad.
When Maria, my oldest daughter, was a freshman she heard Gary Haugen speak at her college. She recommended that I read his book, “Good News about Injustice.” I did and I knew I could no longer be just a whiner about the injustice meted out to girls and women.
I prolonged the impact of my response to the book by leading a women’s study. The book came with a study guide that included biblical justice verses that would build our biblical justice literacy. I downloaded and showed a dateline special that featured Gary Haugen’s social justice ministry, “International Justice Mission” doing what they do best: exposing the evils of sexual and indentured slavery and human trafficking. This particular dateline special would reveal a sting operation that virtually brought down a popular sexual deviant destination in Cambodia that preyed on children. The young girls who had either been kidnapped, sold or deceived into sexual slavery by a “Madam” and her minions validated the fear that in many places of the world being female was not only an undesirable gender preference but also a liability. They could and were commodities to be exploited.
I found that my prayers were more intentional for those caught in the web of poverty and sexual exploitation. And, for the first time I was involving myself in political advocacy work. I was taking baby steps. No, I was crawling. Off and on for the next decade I would meet with congressional staff members to get important anti-trafficking legislation passed, organize a seminar with an IJM staff worker to speak at my church, write letters to politicians, and work with other members in my church who wanted to push forward the cause.
In other words, “Good News about Injustice” helped me to grow up a little bit more into how one participates within the context of Micah 6:8. “What does God require of you, but to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly before your God.”
Let me be clear. I am far from being one of those at the forefront of justice movements. And I don’t know if my meager involvements in the US or Middle East have made a tangible difference. But I will say this: my conscience had been pricked and continues to be jolted. I take Christ’s example seriously and I am grateful for all those who work to end the terrible exploitation of the vulnerable for greed and lust. Especially, I am grateful for how God uses Gary Haugen and those he has inspired at the International Justice Mission to make a difference.
Gary Haugen recently gave a “Ted Talk”. He explains a new way of looking at poverty and its relationship to everyday violence. Believe it, this 22-minute video is a must-see. Once you watch it read Good News about Injustice and Haugen’s latest book, The Locus Effect.