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postThe next IJM
by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Over the last 15 years International Justice Mission has mobilized Christians to address the profound need for structural transformation in public justice systems around the world that, due to a combination of corruption (i.e., human sin turned systemic) and lack of resources, do not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get these systems (or parallel replacements for them) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot.

IJM has brought professional expertise (investigative, legal, social work, diplomatic, etc.) to bear on these systems, founded its work on a casework model that helps actual clients who have suffered from injustice in a dramatic way, married that casework to a structural transformation vision that realizes that the problem is bigger than individual cases, and been motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where even people of good will are often paralyzed by fear and despair. Due to this unique combination of assets targeted at an area of particular need, IJM has had an extraordinary impact, most recently recognized by Google, which is devoting its 2011 corporate philanthropy to an anti-trafficking coalition led by IJM. There is nothing I’m more thrilled by in my lifetime than the growth in breadth, depth, and influence of IJM (with whom I’ve had the privilege to work and volunteer in various ways for many years).

Thanks to generations of hard work and ongoing vigilance, our public justice system in the USA is not systemically broken to the same extent as it is in the countries where IJM works. But today it occurred to me that there is another system in our country that in some ways is as broken as, if not more broken than, its equivalents in the rest of the world. This system does not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get this system (or a parallel replacement for it) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot—even though they overwhelmingly want to.

What we need in this system is a movement that brings professional expertise in numerous areas, a casework model that actually meets the needs of specific individuals and families in a dramatic way, married to a structural transformation model, motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where all too many people have effectively given up.

This system is our educational system.

Who will lead the IJM of courageous, faithful, professional, Christian efforts toward the structural transformation of American education so that it works just as well for the poor as it does for the rich? Could it be that 15 years from now we could have seen as much transformation in the way American Christians see their responsibility for education as we have seen in the last 15 years in the way they see their responsibility for public justice?

That’s what I’d like for Christmas.