Mercy & Justice Update: RJI

We'll be using this space each month to feature one of City Church's mercy/justice partners so that you can learn more about how God is at work in Richmond and how you can be a part of that work. Slavery. It’s not uncommon to associate that word with Richmond’s past. But its present?

Modern Day Slavery in RVA

There’s still an active slave trade in Richmond, and until a few years ago, it went virtually unnoticed. In fact, in 2009, Virginia ranked among the nation’s worst preventers and prosecutors of human trafficking. Fast-forward to 2012 and we’re now ranked among the best. We are the home of Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), a model organization that is setting a nationwide standard for generating awareness and advocacy while educating citizens and law enforcement personnel on detection and prevention. Our House and Senate have unanimously passed several key pieces of legislation that will ultimately help identify victims and provide care, as well as help law enforcement agencies detect and prosecute human trafficking offenders. And we have an ever-growing group of volunteers and supporters who are praying for the work of RJI, the victims, and the traffickers themselves. That’s shocking progress for any cause in three years…and the only possible and plausible explanation for the speed and success of this mission is God.

When God Says Go…

Founded in 2009 by Sara Pomeroy, Richmond Justice Initiative is really the story of God’s faithfulness and a testament to His character. Just as the Lord used Moses to lead Israelites to freedom from pharaoh’s oppression, RJI is the story of God using His people as “feet on the street” to help rescue victims of the modern day slave trade.  And it’s also part of a larger story of how He rescues all of us from things we’re enslaved to. Thankfully, it’s not up to us to save ourselves. But it is our job to stand ready to accept a mission when God calls – no matter how ill-equipped we feel.

Case in point: Sara Pomeroy has no background or formal training in starting a non-profit, running an organization, public speaking, lobbying, or the legislative process. Apart from the Lord, there really is no other way her efforts to bring new legislation before the General Assembly would be met with such success. Sara mentions feeling like Moses did. She knew God was saying to go, to just show up and let Him do the talking – in front of congregations, lawyers, legislators, and TV cameras. Look at the past three years, and you can see that it’s worked…and not only at the General Assembly.

Proof of His Provision

After speaking one Sunday at a local church, Vince Apruzzese, regional vice president for AT&T in Virginia, approached Sara and suggested she apply for a grant they’d be endowing early in 2012. With no grant writing experience, a full-time job, and other RJI responsibilities vying for her attention, Sara came up short of the deadline and wrote to inform AT&T she’d be unable to apply. Incredibly, Sara was granted an extension to find a writer. And that same week, at a Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking meeting, a member stepped up offering a connection to one of the best grant writers in the state – a man who, only a year earlier, had seen RJI’s pamphlets at his church and knew one day, he would help. Now, with a $25,000 contribution, RJI is planning the launch of The Prevention Project this fall in Hermitage High School.

It seemed improbable, impossible, and it still is crazy, but Sara chooses every day to trust that God will be faithful and uphold the promise that rings true to her and to the victims from 2 Timothy 4:16-18: 1

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Once detected, human trafficking rings can be eliminated with proper law enforcement and prevention education. To find out how you can help – in prayer or partnership – email City Church RJI ministry partners Betty Cabell Brogan (ecbrogan@gmail.com) and Lane Burgess (laneburgess@gmail.com) or visit www.rvaji.com.