"Are You Taking My Message?"
by Jen Hatmaker on July 17th, 2014

Pull up a chair and grab some coffee. I’m going to tell you a story. It is a story about systems, but please don’t let that stop you from reading, because it is ultimately a story about the dignity of human life. It is an important story and you matter in it.
 

Because we aren’t trained to appreciate systems, I will bold them when mentioned. It goes without saying that our western systems are terribly imperfect; there are holes, weak spots, gaps, catastrophic failures. People fall through them, absolutely. I know this, dear reader. I realize our structures have failed some of you, and that grieves me. Hear me say that. But this story isn’t the moment to cry foul on our systems (we can have that important conversation later), because though our structures are imperfect, THEY EXIST. Though the following progression is the way our systems are designed, it doesn't mean they always work. Yet...they exist.
 
This is the story of Jamie, an American 14-year-old girl. Jamie goes to ninth grade at her local school and comes home around 4:00 one day. While waiting for her mother to get home from work, her neighbor sexually assaults Jamie. She goes to another neighbor who immediately calls 911 on her telephone, and within five minutes, highly trained paramedics and police officers are at her doorstep. (For the love, if your toddler accidentally dials 911, the cops are on their way. Bless.)
 
She is taken to the hospital by ambulance where a rape specialist conducts her exam with sensitivity and attention to evidence collection, because already at this early hour, our systems are attuned to a conviction. Before she leaves the hospital, Jamie is visited by a trauma counselor and is also referred to a specialized adolescent therapist and group counseling. Her bills are entirely or partially covered by either private insurance or Medicaid.
 
Jamie’s safety is addressed either by the neighbor’s immediate arrest or her relocation until the investigation is complete. If she cannot afford one of her choosing, Jamie is given a public prosecutor to represent her in court, and he works in tandem with the officer on the scene, investigator, hospital and trauma staff, and witnesses.
 
One of the major TV networks regularly runs a show during primetime called “To Catch a Predator” targeting online child predators, because our society won’t have this. Should Jamie’s case end in a conviction, if her neighbor ever gets out of jail, not only must he comply with a restraining order, but he must register as a child sex offender for the rest of his life, so every neighbor, boss, and coworker will know his history.

 
Jamie is real, and this would have been her story had she been born in, say, Atlanta, but she was born in a country without the justice system we take for granted.
 
It is hard to believe, but Rwanda was absolutely decimated just twenty years ago by genocide. From April to July in 1994, this country lost one million teachers, store owners, policemen, pastors, children, mothers, leaders, doctors. Every structure collapsed. So Rwanda is a young justice system, still rebuilding many major infrastructures while diverting much energy to convictions related to the genocide. Great strides have been made in a very short amount of time; you would be moved by the beauty and order already restored.

But in such a fragile system, the first to go are the poor.
 
After Jamie’s assault (many details omitted because the atrocities against her cannot be borne), her government was not structured to grant her physical and emotional care, protection, safety, advocacy, justice, and healing. Virtually every system listed above was too underdeveloped to provide the scaffolding for prevention, justice and repair. She was a poor, vulnerable girl in a society where once abuse is reported, passing the baton through the various necessary systems – from immediate care to police enforcement to the law – is clunky and lacks cohesiveness.
 
With less than 1000 attorneys in the entire country of 11 million, unfair laws (children are not allowed to testify in court), few victims rights, and lack of police and lawyer training regarding child sexual assault, the systems you and I depend on were simply not available for Jamie and other children like her (approximately 10% of Rwandan girls were sexually assaulted in 2009).
 
Enter the work of International Justice Mission (IJM) and Noonday Collection.
 
IJM understands that the threat of violence (and lack of prosecution and justice) cripples the world’s poor. Schooling a young girl is to no avail if she fears permissible rape on her daily walk. Without access to basic human safety – neither protected from everyday violence or from broken systems – millions of people live in fear and abuse every second of every day.
 
We met with the IJM team here in Kigali (all Rwandans) who explained their structures, challenges, and interventions. I could not have been more starstruck if I was sitting in a room with Bono. They are lawyers, former investigators and police officers, psychologists, social workers, church and community educators, and administrators. They are heroes and there is no other way to say it.
 
Isn’t it a simple concept? Accountability for perpetrators through the legal system. While violence is universal, justice is not, and where lawfulness breaks down, violence, instability, and oppression reign. The correlation between poverty and lack of justice is astronomical – it shakes the foundations of human security, fostering abuse, fear, victimization, and despair.
 
But like the IJM team explained, no community need convict every crime to affect change. Engineer one, then four, then ten convictions, and you If predators begin to fear prosecution from their legal system as well abegin changing the equation of fear: Who will be afraid? The abused child? Or the perpetrator? If predators begin to fear prosecution from their legal system as well as outrage from their community (IJM educates churches, local leaders, healthcare workers, and parents toward this end), then justice for the oppressed is absolutely within our reach.
 
These victims will rise up to tell a better story.

 
Enter Noonday. Because nothing provides dignity like sustainable employment and economic independence. Noonday helps restore what has been stolen, a partner in the curative work of justice. A likeminded organization, they not only employ vulnerable women from the community but also former IJM clients who are in the difficult process of rebuilding their lives. Women move from simply surviving injustice to thriving.
 

The Rwandan artisans (and all 28 Noonday artisan groups) operate as an independent business in which they call all their own shots. They voted on their internal leadership positions (“El Presidente Grace!”), interviewed and added two women in the last three months, supply loans to one another as needed, do all the material shopping/ordering/organizing/executing, and hired a cook for the co-op, cause ain’t nobody got time for that. Women who did not know how to turn a computer on three years ago are now supplying handmade products to hundreds of thousands of consumers through more than 600 American ambassadors.
 
I can’t even with this.
 
The partnership of justice and economic empowerment is so strong, so extraordinary, it is fundamentally transforming not only precious lives but entire systems, whole communities. It is changing the conversation from hopelessness to strength, surviving to thriving.
 
I am seeing it with my eyes. I see it in Jamie (whom IJM walked with through each solitary step to justice, filling in every structural gap), bopping her head to her favorite musician, Chris Brown (God help). I see it in Teresa and Solange, IJM clients and Noonday artisans who’ve survived heartbreaking abuse and now live in dignity, businesswomen and providers, counselors to their sisters.

I see it in the Rwandan IJM team, some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, working tirelessly to bring justice to their country’s poor, working not against their systems but within them, the strongest approach for societal change.
 
They want you to know they are strong. They want you to hear their stories, affirm the injustice, and celebrate their triumph. In fact, Jamie said this as her parting words to us yesterday:
 
“Give your friends my greetings. Tell them thank you for listening. Tell them I pray for them. I want them to know I can walk by myself. And I am in school…ninth in my class…” and she paused for a few seconds with her head down, looked up into the eyes of all us mothers who loved her precious self, tears wobbling in her eyes and ours, and said:
 
“Are you taking my message?”
 

Yes, Jamie. By God, yes. I am taking her message to you. I am taking Teresa’s and Solange’s message. We can do right by all the Jamies and Teresas and Solanges, even from our cozy couches in our orderly lives. We don’t even have to innovate a thing, because the innovators are already here, bringing order out of chaos and strength out of powerlessness. We need only equip the rainmakers; take the message of the redeemed.
 
Equip the rainmakers:  Become an IJM Freedom Partner for $24/month, so IJM can show up 24 hours a day in developing countries around the world. Are you taking the message?
Equip the rainmakers: Become a Noonday Ambassador, which drives handmade product orders, which provides work, which sustains businesses, which empowers women, which financially transforms their families, which turns mourning into dancing. Are you taking the message?
Of course we can do this. It is too easy. BUT IT COUNTS. These simple measures are the fuel that keeps the fires of justice burning.
 
It matters so much. You matter so much. These are our sisters and brothers and Jamie is our daughter. Mothers the world over must demand justice for our children, our sisters. Security for us and ours is not enough.
 
The message has been delivered.
 
Let’s receive it.

Are you with me? What fuel will you add to the fire? It counts, sisters. It all counts. Let's use our power and influence for all its worth.

Follow the #StyleForJustice Story Team Trip here.


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43 Comments

Jelise - July 17th, 2014 at 12:14 PM
Jen - you are not only a beautiful writer, but you are writing about the things that need to be read, heard and discussed. And you do it always with compassion and honesty. Thank you for sharing Jamie's story and the story of Noonday and IJM's work in these countries. Thank you for being an inspiration to those of us on the home front wondering how we can make a difference and how to serve God with our gifts. God is using you for His good!
Amy - July 17th, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Stunningly beautiful.

Does noonday do journals? Because I am just not a jewelry girl but I would be allllll over pretty notebooks.
Noonday Collection - July 17th, 2014 at 1:24 PM
Amy - We have done journals in the past and have a few more in the works for our Spring line so keep an eye out.
nicole - July 17th, 2014 at 1:57 PM
Yes!! I would be SO into office things: little zipper pouches, notebooks or journals, etc.
Alana - July 17th, 2014 at 12:43 PM
Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." - Mark 4:9
Thank you for relaying the message!
Theresa - July 17th, 2014 at 12:48 PM
Preach it sister.
Adrienne - July 17th, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Coming from a PhD candidate in sociology, someone, please give JH an honorary degree in sociology. She GETS it. She gets systems, she gets God's love, she gets mercy, compassion, humor. She get all of it. God has blessed her and she uses it to bless others. Amen!
Krysten - July 17th, 2014 at 12:50 PM
BEAUTIFUL!!! We hear your message, Jamie! And Theresa and Solange! We hear you and we love you!!!

Thank you Jen, for bringing this message and for taking the time to love and learn from these women.
Brenda - July 17th, 2014 at 12:52 PM
So that no one thinks they would need to hire a prosecutor if they became a victim of a crime in the US, please note that the job of prosecutor is a state paid position through the State Attorney's office. There is no such thing as a private prosecutor. Crimes are prosecuted by the state or federal governments. Hopefully, Rwanda will one day have enough prosecutors to prosecute these kinds of crimes and others for their citizens.
ursula - July 17th, 2014 at 1:14 PM
I loved this post and has exact same thought.
jenna - July 17th, 2014 at 1:09 PM
Wow, so powerful. Was just telling a friend about IJM yesterday. They make the world a better place.

But one line shocked me. 10%?! 10% of all the girls in Rwanda assaulted. That's unimaginable to us. I know not everyone's rape story in the US is like the hypothetical "Jaime" in the story, I know that even here systems fail and justice is not always served and bad people continue to stay free while girls live in the bondage of woundedness... but for it to be so normal, so prevalent... we can't fathom that.
Mary - July 17th, 2014 at 2:27 PM
It makes me want to weep at my desk that the numbers are so high everywhere. Just so people know what's happening in the US, too:

https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

As Jen says, the systems we have in place in our country, while possibly faulty, are IN PLACE.

I don't understand why we get to live in the US, but we do. To whom much has been given, much is expected.


Jenn - July 17th, 2014 at 5:59 PM
I'm also moved by this article, but your shock at 10% caught my eye. I live in Rapid City, SD about an hour from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The sexual assault rate there is 80%. I cannot even get my mind around that. That's in the poorest county in America.
Gwendolyn - July 17th, 2014 at 1:23 PM
Jen, I have been following, captivated for days by every tweet, instagram, facebook update or blog post that the Style for Justice team has posted. Beautiful work. I am humbled and awed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for telling these stories with such compassion and giving us here at home a way to make a difference. BIG FEELS!!!
Danielle - July 17th, 2014 at 1:39 PM
I went to Rwanda a few years ago to work with a local ministry in Kiglai (http://alarm-inc.org/). I was amazed by the joy I found there. I was able to meet some women who had started small businesses and my group worked with them on micro-financing options.
When I went to the genocide museum in Rwanda, I was saddened by the lack of treatment and justice for women and girls who'd been raped during the genocide. I am pleased to hear that you've seen progress being made in this area. And thank you for sharing the stories of some of the women you met. They deserve to be heard.
Shannon - July 17th, 2014 at 1:46 PM
Are noonday products only available through trunkshows or can I shop and order online? If only available through trunkshows, can I find out where & when a show might be?

Robin - July 17th, 2014 at 2:19 PM
Shannon - Visit noondaycollection.com and click on host a trunk show. You will fill out a short form and they will get your info to an ambassador in your area. You can also purchase online. Also, check out the impact tab! The stories there are amazing.
Tesney - July 17th, 2014 at 2:06 PM
Our artisans are brilliant. They're so very brilliant in every way.
Kelley - July 17th, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Shannon, you can order from their website as well!
Barb Ricw - July 17th, 2014 at 2:39 PM
What a beautiful story! May God continue to work with & through this team & those ladies who want to make a difference in their lives & in their country. I would love to help out by hosting a trunk party. Blessings to all!
Natalie Truman - July 17th, 2014 at 3:13 PM
I am so excited to host my first Noonday show in August! Thank you Jen for spreading the word and thank you IJM and Noonday for your work. My part is small but may this only be the beginning.
Nona Landers - July 17th, 2014 at 3:24 PM
Great job translating IJMs message! My daughter works as a marketing intern at IJM headquarters in DC and she said the entire office was freaking out and excited about your blog today! Your writing made a huge impact for their mission!
You are making a difference JH! Praise God!
Harmony - July 17th, 2014 at 3:25 PM
So good. I'm currently reading "The Locust Effect" by Gary A. Haugen and it talks alot about this issue of the poor not having a way to defend themselves or even fight for their rights when abused or victimized because of corrupt legal systems in their countries. I definitely admire you, NoonDay Collection and IJM for making a difference and bringing issues like this one to light.
Jessica Honegger - July 17th, 2014 at 4:33 PM
Love you. You laid it out there today and the world heard.
Joanna Whitely - July 17th, 2014 at 5:36 PM
Just read this for the second time today and AGAIN have tears and goosebumps! Thank you for your words, thank you for sharing the message! I am honored and humbled to be a part of Noonday Collection and take my job as ambassador seriously because of the difference I know it makes in the lives of our artisans! Again, THANK YOU!
Meredith Toering - July 17th, 2014 at 6:41 PM
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for telling her story so well. You truly took her message to the world.
Kim - July 17th, 2014 at 7:31 PM
I just have tears. Thank you for giving us these opportunities.
Karen Barnes - July 17th, 2014 at 7:47 PM
Jen - Thank you so much for sharing this. Your post is so beautifully written and does such an amazing job of capturing IJM's work. I was almost in tears reading toward the end. Thank you for pointing people to ways that they can take action. We need people to know and then need them to act. I'm praying for you as you process this entire experience and figure out what may be next. We appreciate you!
KC - July 17th, 2014 at 8:31 PM
Thank you for sharing her message. I go to bed with a heavy heart knowing that this world is a broken place. Yet, I am confident that His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. IJM is living out Micah 6:8; being the hands and feet of God's mercy. It is a beautiful thing.
Tracy - July 17th, 2014 at 8:36 PM
There are simply no words right now, just tears. I have been reading each storyteller's contribution and each day I cry a little more.

Always you have a way of writing that speaks straight to my heart, but this story is so poignant. Terribly heartbreaking to hear of the unspeakable tragedy and trauma experienced by these graceful people. Beautiful and heartwarming to hear stories of hopefulness and joy as these precious ones are supported to rebuild their broken lives and communities through justice seekers like IJM and providers of meaningful work like Noonday.

I wish Noonday shipped to Australia! Beautiful, stunning creations by amazing artisans and all I can do is look.
Debbie Childress - July 25th, 2014 at 8:41 AM
Tracy- I'd be happy to let you ship to me in the U.S. and then on to Australia. I realize that raises your shipping prices significantly, but it's such a great cause to support these dear women.

Kelley - July 17th, 2014 at 8:41 PM
Beautiful post! Thank you for bringing her message to life and a comparison to our lives. You did not simply share it, you amplified it, and spread it from the highest rooftop. Thank you.
Jenelle - July 18th, 2014 at 12:03 AM
I'm hearing your message from Denver Colorado! Keep up the good work, young lady. It's wonderful to hear about your school accomplishments (9th in your class!) and hear about your kind heart. Girls rule! And thanks to JH for using this medium of communication to share the LOVE!
CJA - July 18th, 2014 at 8:25 AM
Please tell me Noonday is using Margaret Becker's "Noonday Sun" as your theme song.

https://myspace.com/margaretbecker/music/song/noonday-sun-grace-album-version-33876196-35120656
Melanie Strobel - July 18th, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I am hearing your message Jen Hatmaker. You have been given a gift to explain the unimaginable. Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of those who endure and have endured unspeakable traumas. I hope one day to meet the beautiful women you are sharing about but the truth is there are such amazing women all over the world who need protection, empowerment, education and a voice. I am blessed to advocate as best I can every day and have finally signed on with Noonday Collection to make a difference right here in a very easy way. I love the idea of women taking care to hear the needs of other women. No matter where we live we all share the same desires of love protection and justice. Thank you for your powerful read!
Lydia - July 18th, 2014 at 12:32 PM
we got your message Jaime. Thank you Jen for going, thank you for making me aware of this opportunity to partner.
Betty - July 19th, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Thank you for sharing the plight of this girl and the many others like her. Thank you, too, for giving us a concrete way to help. I'll be contributing to IJM today and continue to buy the wonderful items from Noonday Collection. So glad my precious daughter Sarah Caruth is a part of your group!
Christy Largent - July 19th, 2014 at 7:56 PM
Thank you for this beautiful story and all the other stories you've shared during your trip. I'm thankful to learn of this excellent work and look forward to supporting it starting August 7th at the #styleforjustice event. I'm having a trunk show at my home in our small town, and look forward to starting the conversation of how we, in California can help our sisters on the other side of the world. Keep up the great work!
Mimi - July 19th, 2014 at 8:55 PM
Oh, my heart.

Mimi
http://thisdomesticateddiva.com
emily - July 22nd, 2014 at 2:18 PM
Well said. Thanks for delivering the message.
Sherri - July 23rd, 2014 at 6:06 PM
Once we've heard, we cannot act as if we do not know. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. Thank you for your beautiful message, Jen. Is there anyway we can send cards/letters to these beautiful women/girls as a means of encouragement?
Sarah Crane - August 1st, 2014 at 9:22 AM
I read this with tears rolling down as well. I live in a far corner of Uganda working with high schoolers, coaching a girls football team, walking with these precious ones. The fear and the hurt and pain are real in their eyes, in their stories. It so encourages me to read of the work of IJM and Noonday and to pray they multiply and grow all over this continent and world. This work for justice, freedom, and dignity are a beautiful picture of the Kingdom come. May we each find our part in that call and, as you said, use our influence for all its worth! Amen and yes. Thank you sister!
michelle - August 25th, 2016 at 2:49 PM
This post really resonated with me. I just learned that my sister was a victim of a gang rape. I'm heartbroken and feel a bit lost on how to process, accept, and proceed. And if I feel this broken, how she must and is feeling, and how whether she likes it or not, this will be part of her story every day for the rest of her life.

I want to help. I want to be part of the change. How can I help? Can you help guide me there?
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