“Nearly two million children are exploited in the commercial sex trade … One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime … Nearly 30 million people are held as modern-day slaves …”
These statistics are displayed in bold letters across International Justice Mission (IJM)’s website. Small children with big, sad eyes gaze into the distance in photographs and make the words come alive. IJM is a Christian organization that is committed to fighting modern-day slavery, stolen property rights and human trafficking, among other things.
From October 3–5, 10 Northwestern students, five being members of the Campus Ministry, will participate in the NorthStar Student Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tenn. North Suites Resident Director Kendall Stanislav will be leading the group.
This is the first year NW will be going to the conference. Part of Stanislav’s job on campus includes being the Justice and Service Ministries Coordinator, and while searching through different events, he discovered NorthStar. NW has worked with IJM in previous years, so Stanislav is very confident about the conference.
“They do fantastic work,” he said. “Their theology of justice and perspective of combating injustice aligns with who we are.”
In Nashville, the students will attend workshops and listen to keynote speakers. The small amount of free time they have will be spent exploring Nashville.
“I’m really excited for the group,” Stanislav said. “I’m hoping our students leave with a picture of how they can be involved. Sometimes it can be difficult for us to understand how we can do something from where we’re at.”
After the students come back, Stanislav is encouraging them to spread the information they learned around campus.
One of the NW students participating in the trip is Kelsey Doornenbal. She traveled to India in 2013 to work with an anti-sex trafficking group. She is passionate about this problem and is eager to attend the conference.
“IJM equips students to fight for justice in the name of Christ,” Doornenbal said. “I am really passionate about justice, especially biblical justice, with human trafficking as my main passion.”
She knows many people want to help but don’t know how.
“I want campus to be passionate about it,” she said. She is eager to take what she learns in Nashville back to Orange City. Her goal while in Nashville is to discover what college students can do about these injustices.
Doornenbal would like to travel back to India in the future to work with anti-human trafficking organizations. She also wants to help in the recovery process.
“I have a dream of opening my own after-care center,” Doornenbal said. At the center, victims would be nursed back to health, given safety and strengthened with the love of Christ.
Kristen Schuler, another attendee of the conference, also traveled to India. She went this past summer for six weeks and worked at a preventative site with an anti-sex trafficking group. There was a preschool, life skills and after school program for young children. The site mainly served high-risk women and children.
“Sex trafficking caught my attention a few years ago,” Schuler said. “The reality of it is overwhelming.”
Schuler was reminded of the importance that a quality education can make in someone’s life.
“It’s a gift,” she said. “You don’t realize how good you have it until you see the opposite side … you see so much more beyond yourself.”
At NorthStar, she looks forward to learning what she can do to help.
“It’s really easy to hear about issues and get fired up, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take action,” Schuler said.
Schuler, like the rest of the group, wants to bring more awareness about justice matters back to NW.
“If action isn’t taken, these things won’t change,” Schuler said.
The experience of helping victims can be overwhelming.
“These girls need to know that they are loved and cared about,” Schuler said. “Many people ask, ‘How am I, as a single person, going to do anything about this?’ But we can do so much.”
Taylor Studer is joining Doornenbal, Schuler and the rest of the group for the conference. She is passionate about helping those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault and is eager to learn more ways to help through the workshops and speakers.
“I’m hoping there will be different areas to learn about,” Studer said. “It would be good to expand my knowledge in other areas and expand outside of women’s rights.”
After traveling to Greece on NW’s Summer of Service program this past summer, Studer said she wants to continue finding ways to apply what she learned there into serving people on campus and in the local area.
During Studer’s sophomore year at NW, she took a class called Violence Against Women that focused on the oppression of women around the world. The class watched a documentary called “Half the Sky,” which showed how women are treated in different countries.
The documentary made Studer realize the time she is putting into her education could be put to better use by helping others.
“I remember leaving class one night and just sobbing,” Studer said. “I told my roommate that I was moving to another country. I don’t feel like I’m doing any good here. One woman I met while in Greece was brutally attacked by her husband. I can’t be there now to help her, but I can help by treating the women I interact with here with dignity and respect, like every woman deserves.”
Studer and the other students going on the trip are eager to learn more about practical ways to fight injustice through the NorthStar Conference.
With the help of IJM, more than 18,000 people have been relieved from oppression, and with the help of students from NW and all around the world, this number can continue to grow in the future.