By Michael Cleverley
Luke Roche, a senior International Studies major, wanted to fight human trafficking even before he came to Cedarville University. But he didn’t know how.
Roche knew a student org existed that fought against human trafficking, but he didn’t know the org was a student chapter of the International Justice Mission (IJM). And he didn’t learn that IJM was on campus until the end of his freshman year.
“One of my friends in my major was like, ‘There’s an org on campus. An IJM org that you can get involved in. Make sure next year that you really try to find their table and get involved,’” Roche said. “So the Involvement Fair of my junior year, I just made it a priority that’s the one table I’m trying to find.”
Roche got involved with IJM in the next semester and immediately became the events coordinator. In that role, Roche is one of the people responsible for communicating with event speakers or other student orgs that will help co-host an awareness event. Sometimes he doesn’t have the connections they need, but another person on the team does and they work together.
Advocacy is the biggest part of what IJM does on campus. The org holds a variety of events. Some partner with local anti-trafficking organizations and other times with fellow student orgs.
To broaden the reach, IJM partners with other orgs on campus for events that draw in students who are trying to either get extra credit or fulfill a homework assignment for a class. They’ve also done Thursday Night Live (TNL) events which reache people who intend to attend the event and those who are eating in Stingers at that time.
“We’re connected with what we like to call the compassion orgs,” Roche said. “We’re all organizations that talk about and advocate to help out with areas where there’s an individual or people who are either underrepresented, or who just need compassion in that area. We’re all trying to help someone in some sort of way and advocate for them.”
IJM covers different topics for each event. Many events are informative lectures from professionals about human trafficking. The Uyghur awareness event held on February 10 offers a good example. They teamed up with the Alexander Hamilton Society that brought in a human rights lawyer to speak about the human rights abuses against Uyghurs, a marginalized people group in China.
They typically have three events per semester. Since students are busy, IJM doesn’t want to overwhelm them with events they can’t attend. For those more dedicated to IJM, they have a prayer meeting every other week.
Abbie Bowman, a freshman biblical studies major, is the president of IJM’s chapter at Cedarville. As president she’s responsible for overseeing the people on her team, planning prayer meetings and team meetings, and coordinating campus events.
Roche said he felt Bowman’s previous experience in South Asia, in a place where a lot of human trafficking takes place, brings a different perspective to the chapter. He said she’s dedicated to the issue and brings a lot of drive to stay on top of things. Roche also said she brings a lot of creativity to choose event ideas that keep students excited and engaged in learning about human trafficking.
“Every voice matters,” Bowman said. “And so every person that’s involved and every person that’s aware can get involved really quickly. It excites me when students get excited about spreading awareness so that as more people are aware, the issue is more prevented.”
The IJM chapter events focuses on three things: advocacy, prayer and fundraising.
Advocacy events are the majority of IJM events where they raise awareness about human trafficking. Prayer meetings are normally smaller gatherings of dedicated IJM members who gather to pray about situations IJM put on a prayer list. The fundraising the chapter does is for IJM, with all money going to things like aiding missions and paying IJM employees.
Bowman said her time with IJM helped her to realize that no single person can do a lot to fight human trafficking. She says the issue is in God’s hands so we need to continually raise it in prayer to him.
“There’s not a whole lot I individually can do,” Bowman said. “That has impacted me – just realizing that I can’t do it alone. And that the weight of it all, and the issue of it all. does not rest on my shoulders, but the Lord is sovereign over it. And so we just have to continually hand it over to him, and ask him to use us where he would like to use us.”