Often times we have certain expectations or assumptions of where our life is headed. How does the saying go? “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
It was June 2009, and in six months I was going to graduate college with a degree in Criminal Justice. Yet, I really had no idea what life looked like post-graduation. Criminal Justice is a tricky degree when finding a job post-college (or that’s at least what I was telling myself and my parents at the time). It’s a very specific “industry” and I was struggling to understand my place. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to interview with Texas State Law Enforcement that I gained perspective.
The position, based in Laredo, Texas, focused on combating drug trafficking along the border. The idea of a high-profile position with state law enforcement was thrilling to me. As my interview drew closer, I found myself romanticizing the job more and more.
When the day finally arrived, the recruiting officer walked me through the in’s and out’s of the job and what my position would entail. I mentally checked off the boxes that sounded “really cool.” Then he closed saying, “Now I want to be clear. If you take this job, I can’t guarantee your safety but can guarantee the likelihood you will burn out within a year’s time.” Whether or not that was true or a great tactic to thin the herd, I felt my perspective shift. Was I called to die for this job?
What I thought was “really cool” or thrilling was no longer the gauge for where I felt called to work. I felt a recalibration of my priorities towards what I was deeply passionate about. On the five-hour drive back from Laredo, I wrestled with the question, “If I had a year to live, what would I want to fight for? How would I spend it?” Let me be clear, it’s not that I believed then (or now) drug trafficking wasn’t worthy of my time or career. I do feel that it aligned with my heart at the time, but I felt there was something else.
Another month passed, and I was still praying about where I felt called to serve. Then I had the opportunity to hear a man by the name of Gary Haugen speak on the epidemic of Human Trafficking. For those not familiar with him, Gary founded International Justice Mission. IJM is a nonprofit that specializes in combating human rights violations through their 17 field offices around the globe. It was that night I learned about the 40 million people held in modern-day slavery. With an annual revenue of $150 billion, it is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
Hearing these facts coupled with survivor’s testimonies and Gary’s insight, I had my first glimpse into the jarring reality of human trafficking. In that moment, I felt the writing on my heart to combat human trafficking and God directing me to my next chapter. And with God’s sense of humor and grace-before graduation-I was blessed with the unique opportunity to work in IJM’s Kolkata, India field office in the Investigation’s Department.
Looking back and revisiting my former perspective, I can’t help but laugh with God on the drastic change of plans within months of graduation. It brings to mind some other wisdom that rings true for me, “Dream a dream so big, it is doomed to failure without God’s intervention.”
In the fight against sex trafficking with Rescue Houston, we have the opportunity to contradict the idea of hopelessness with rescue and restoration. Whether it’s with one year to live or many more (I’d like to think more), there is no other place I rather be.