Halfway through 2016, I knew that I was ready for a change. I had an angstyness inside of me that was longing for something new and exciting. Although some of this was promulgated by a breakup following the first relationship I’ve had in a number of years, it went deeper than that. I needed a new challenge that would grow me and stretch me outside of my comfort zone. On what felt like a whim-but was actually the result of more than a decade of contemplation-I decided to submit an application to International Justice Mission (IJM), which is the world’s largest anti-slavery organization.
I learned about IJM 15 years ago when I was studying to get into law school. IJM employs investigators to find instances of human rights violations, social workers to provide aftercare to victims, and lawyers to help represent victims in court, prosecute offenders, and work for systemic change. The large majority of their paid positions go to local nationals so they rely on Western professionals to volunteer their services. The work they were doing to combat systemic human trafficking and bonded slave labor motivated me to study hard in the hopes that one day I would be able to use the law as a tool of social justice and maybe even volunteer with IJM someday. Their South Asia work stood out to me the most for some reason.
Throughout law school and into my legal career, I would visit the IJM website and read about IJM’s rescue operations in brothels and brick factories and their efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable. However, before I could volunteer with IJM, it was important for me to develop a skill set and get work experience. I have been so fortunate for the past six years to represent people facing execution and would not trade this time for the world.
Two years ago, I actually had the opportunity to visit an IJM office in South Asia. I was in South Asia on a missions trip that was intended to double as a discernment period to figure out if God was calling me to work with IJM at that time. Although I was incredibly impressed by the work that IJM was doing there, I didn’t feel that the time was right to give up my job and move across the world.
Fast forward to 2016. In exploring different options for bringing change into my life, it suddenly hit me that maybe THIS was the time to work with IJM. I immediately went to the IJM website and completed a pretty hefty application for a legal fellowship. For almost 5 months, I heard nothing. I figured that they had found other volunteers to fill their legal fellowship position.
Then on November 29, 2016, I received an email asking if I could interview by phone in 2 days. A super gnarly, long second application was attached to the email. I agreed to the interview and stayed up late filling out the very personal, in-depth form. A couple days later I had a 30 minute phone interview with an American recruiter. I told them that I would be willing to go to any of their field offices around the world, but that South Asia or Africa were my top choices. I thought the interview went pretty well, but I heard nothing for over a month. I tried not to be too hopeful during this period.
In early January 2017, I got another email asking if I was available in 3 days for a 9:30pm Sunday night phone interview, this time with people in 2 different South Asia offices (it would be Monday morning there). I knew that this would be the interview to determine if my 15 year desire to work with IJM would come to fruition. Before my interview some friends from church surrounded me in prayer which I was so grateful for.
The interview was intense. I fielded questions ranging from how I’ve used data analysis to make persuasive arguments, to my view on working within the “system”, to my assessment of South Asian countries. Honestly, this was the most thorough and difficult interview I’ve ever had. I got off the phone genuinely not knowing whether I would get a fellowship offer.
Starting the next morning, I began checking my email incessantly. I couldn’t contain my excitement at the prospect of going to South Asia with IJM. Luckily IJM offered me a fellowship after only a couple days of waiting. I was given 7 days to decide whether to accept the offer.
The reality of giving up my job and certain salary for a year began to hit me. I began to think about what it means for a Westerner to go overseas to “help” another culture. The “white savior complex” has resulted in hurting more than helping in so many circumstances. I began to wonder if I am qualified to do legal work in a country with whose laws I’m unfamiliar. I worried about whether I could take my dog, Astor, with me. And the task of raising money seemed daunting.
Ultimately, my nervous excitement, longing for adventure, and the weight of the work that needs to be done won over. I accepted the offer. Now the preparation phase begins. There is so much that needs to align in order for this to happen but I am trusting that God is with me, has given me all the resources I need, and will continue to guide me as I go. As Rose Goes will follow this journey. Please join me!