A handful of representatives from the Oklahoma Wesleyan University community recently had the unique opportunity to attend a conference put on by the International Justice Mission (IJM).
The group of students attending the conference was led by Reed Garland, Men’s Residence Director, who has taken over the task of helming the OKWU Orange Movement, which began on campus in 2014. The purpose of the Orange Movement is to raise awareness of human trafficking, but Garland points out that OKWU is also making a tangible difference through their support of the Rahab House, a rescue home in Southeast Asia for trafficked girls.
“They literally take these girls in and they raise them,” Garland said, noting that OKWU supports the home through donations and money raised by student events around campus.
The mission of the Orange Movement runs parallel to the mission of IJM, which is to abolish all forms of slavery worldwide, and OKWU has partnered with the non-profit before. This is the second year that a delegation from OKWU attended IJM’s annual conference.
This year, three students from OKWU attended: Sam Hurley, a senior Global Studies major; Bri Hudson, a sophomore English major; and Taralynn Hurdle, a sophomore Elementary Education major. Each of these students brought a unique perspective to the event, along with varying levels of know-how in relation to IJM and the Orange Movement.
Hurdle, for example, only found out about the trip a few days before leaving, and she decided to take the leap. “As I saw what they were doing, I wanted to get involved more,” she said. “I was just going to go for it.”
For Hudson, the mandate to take up the work that IJM is doing comes straight from Scripture. ““I’m pretty passionate about helping people,” she said. “God asks us to defend the widow and the orphan and the people who are suffering… I’ve been wanting to find a way to actually do something about that.”
IJM assists people in just that way, giving them a practical outlet to help. This year, the conference had two focuses. The first half of the event consisted of various college chapters around the country getting together and working with each other to further awareness. Various speakers also presented, sharing the stories of people IJM has rescued. One speaker specifically spoke from a business perspective, sharing how to combat the systemic causes of slavery through business practices. “We really got to see the stories of the people who were impacted by IJM,” Garland said.
“God asks us to defend the widow and the orphan and the people who are suffering… I’ve been wanting to find a way to actually do something about that.”
The second part of the conference focused on more practical advocacy and featured an opportunity for IJM representatives to meet with the members of Congress who had recently passed a bill allocating funds to the mission of IJM and other non-profits like it. Garland and the team met with the staffs of Senators Jim Inhoffe and James Langford, and also got a chance to personally meet with Congressman Kevin Hern.
This aspect of IJM’s conference—the hands on, practical know-how—was important to the OKWU students who attended, because it gave them tangible proof that their efforts were yielding fruit. “I got to learn about it and actually do something to help, which was fun,” said Hurdle.
Garland agreed that this was the most powerful part of the conference. “It was nice because we got a chance to actually have our voice heard,” he said. “The amount of interaction that we got to have was huge for me. I learned so much about IJM and the process they do and the impact they have.”
Bringing it Home
That impact is something that the team hopes to bring back to Bartlesville. They hope to raise awareness for Orange Movement to new levels around campus, so that by the time Orange Week rolls around they can get more students involved and engaged. “I was hoping that we could get the word out about Orange Movement more on campus,” Hudson said, noting that students are not always as aware of events as they could be.
But even more than ideas to help spread the word, the team brings back encouragement from their time in Washington, and they hope to spread that encouragement through the student body. ““Don’t be afraid for new experiences,” Hurdle said. “Don’t be afraid to try something new even if it seems scary, because the things you learn are so valuable.”
Hudson stresses the fact that people can make a difference, even when it seems like their work is ineffectual. “You can do something about what you’re passionate about,” she said. “The people in government are people…. We can actually go to them and petition them and ask them questions and have our voices heard.”
For Hurley, the message from the conference is simple: there is great pain in the world, and help is needed. “There are people out there who are in need and are hurting,” he said. “You can do more than you think you can. You can have more impact than you realize.”
And hopefully, that potential to impact the world for good is only just starting to be realized on OKWU’s campus.
“There are people out there who are in need and are hurting. You can do more than you think you can. You can have more impact than you realize.”