BY Jeremy Johnson

The Impact of One Golf Tournament

When we created the Village Church Golf Tournament we had a dream that we would be able to effect massive change for the most marginalized, oppressed and desperate people in the world through a one-day event. Last summer, we partnered with International Justice Mission and raised over $425,000 to free and rehabilitate slaves trapped in bonded labour in Chennai, India. But none of us imagined the kind of impact this one event would have on the landscape of slavery in one of India‘s largest cities.

Recently, I had the privilege to travel to India with a team from Village Church to see first hand where this money is being used. We visited IJM’s field office in Chennai, met the incredible staff, listened to their stories, and came away humbled by the massive difference this one tournament made from the opposite side of the globe. I saw people rescued from slavery and in rehabilitation programs as a direct result of our 2016 Golf Tournament.

The IJM staff were truly inspirational. These hard working people are like a high-performance machine, tackling the issue of slavery from all sides in a highly coordinated attack. They have departments working on rescues, breaking up slave rings, working alongside and training law enforcement, compiling legal cases to ensure criminals are brought to full justice, spending countless hours with victims to give them the tools they need to live in freedom, and strategically aligning with media outlets to spread the word about bonded labour. This is an incredibly well-organized strategy that aims to eradicate slavery in India by creating social and political will so that the system itself will eventually have the ability and the will to end this injustice for good.

But what was perhaps the most impacting part of the trip was meeting former slaves who have been rescued by IJM and are now rehabilitated were being trained to be community leaders and fight this injustice in their own towns and villages by supporting and educating others. I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with these amazingly inspiring people, who had endured the worst injustices imaginable, such as beatings, rape, starvation, and the loss of children and spouses. But because of the work of IJM and Village Church, the money from our golf tournament has been able to fund this aftercare program that is turning slaves into human beings with dignity, hope and a new purpose in life.

I asked one woman, who had watched her husband die because of a lack of medical care while enslaved, who had been beaten and raped by her slave owner, why after all she had been through, she would want to be trained in fighting against these evil criminals. Wasn’t it enough to endure this and come out the other side and have a chance at a real life? She told me that she could not bear to see one more woman or girl go through what she had endured. So she has dedicated her life to fighting the dangerous fight against these slave owners. This is who we are supporting.

Ten years ago, slavery was not recognized as an issue in Chennai. Today, IJM is holding police trainings at the invitation of the Chennai justice system, and lawyers and judges are prosecuting and locking up slave owners. The public justice system is now working to actively fight slavery. With the support Village Church has raised, IJM’s full court press against every part of slavery in Chennai is making a huge impact. It is not unreasonable to dream that in the next decade, slavery could be wiped out in Chennai and the surrounding state, with the government and local officials leading the fight.

To anyone affiliated with the tournament, thank you. The IJM staff and the rescued slaves all marveled that we would do something that could play such a vital role in giving hope to so many people, and also change an entire social justice system. Whether you donated, sponsored, played, prayed, or volunteered at this event, know that your efforts have been crucial in seeing slaves given freedom and hope, and an entire system turned upside down. Continue to pray for the IJM office in Chennai, for the brave workers who risk their own safety to fight for this incredible cause, and pray for those still trapped in slavery, that their bondage would come to an end quickly.

When I spoke to one of the staff of the IJM aftercare program, I asked her what it was like for someone who had just been rescued. She told me that each person rescued is so damaged, that they don’t have the ability to dream. But once they are rescued and work through the aftercare program, they learn how to dream. Suddenly, they have hope, they have purpose and they have dignity. They are no longer a commodity, they are human. What greater thing could we have done than give these people their humanity back?

If you are interested in learning about this year’s golf tournament, and how you can get involved, please visit thisisvillagechurch.com/golf