I want to thank InterVarsity Press for the courtesy copy of Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary A. Haugen for review.
Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
Gary A. Haugen
InterVarsity Press, June 2008
I think every Christian at one time or another is forced to ask, "Shouldn't there be more to this Christian life?" Gary A. Haugen describes this another way, "Indeed, there comes a time in the life of every believer...where a voice inside us simply asks, Now what?" Mr. Haugen describes this phenomenon as "a voice of divine restlessness," "a voice of sacred discontent," and "a voice of a holy yearning for more."
For anyone who has ever felt that "divine restlessness," and, in particular, for those who presently have that feeling of "sacred discontent," Just Courage might just be the holy kick in the church-pew-softened backside you need.
Haugen begins his book by recounting a relatable childhood memory about a trip to Mount Rainier with his father and older brothers. In short, Haugen laments letting fear and anxiety prevent his climbing to Camp Muir (the base camp used by summit climbers) with his father and siblings. Haugen spent the rest of the day in the visitor's center waiting for his family to return. His father and brother had an unforgettable day and stories to tell, he did not. Haugen says he went on the trip but missed the adventure.
Haugen likens the regret of missing that adventure to the "divine restlessness" felt by many Christians. Haugen's answer for satisfying this "voice of sacred discontent" is responding to the call of God in the struggle for justice. The justice to which Haugen is referring is not the typical 90-day sentences meted out by judges and juries to misdemeanants, but rather the international war against forced sex trafficking and slavery. Haugen maintains that the root cause of much of the suffering he and his organization encounters is violence.
Gary A. Haugen is the president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization dedicated to securing justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of oppression. Haugen notes that the body of Christ has been mobilized to address many of the symptoms (hunger, homelessness, sickness, etc.), but that the root cause is the less-familiar problem of violence. An issue the body of Christ has yet to address.
Haugen provides riveting examples of how the IJM lawyers, investigators and human rights workers battle this international problem. One of the many examples worth noting is that of Sean Linton, a lawyer at an elite national law firm who decided to test a divine paradox, "the hypothesis according to Jesus," that you find your life when you lose it. Linton left his life as a high-powered lawyer to work for IJM. Linton, who opened IJM's first office in the Philippines, "thought, If I can rescue one child from the unspeakable horror of forced prostitution, it would outweigh any sacrifice I could possibly make." Linton said, "It was like math...No emotion. I did not have the faith to believe that God could somehow provide for me and that I might even find joy in it. No, I just expected to be lonely and to suffer. But I signed on to try and save that one child."
Linton noted the four things holding him back: 1) comfort, 2) security, 3) control, and 4) success. Haugen writes, as "Jesus said, 'If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.'" In return, Linton got 1) adventure, 2) faith, 3) miracles, and 4) deep knowledge of Jesus. "Who among us wouldn't want these?" Haugen asks.
In contrast to the many other reports of international injustices, Haugen goes beyond reporting on the problem and offers practical advice for the reader who wants to get involved. Just a few of the practical ways anyone can get involved:
- Sending a text or an email to get people involved.
- Obtaining a IJM Mission Training DVD to assist churches and short-term missions teams in identifying injustices.
- Becoming a IJM prayer partner.
- Partnering financially with IJM.
- Engaging Congressional Representatives on justice issues.
- Join IJM's church mobilization staff for worldwide field offices.
Just Courage is undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in years. More than just thought provoking, Just Courage is faith-provoking, action-provoking, and provoking in general. I strongly encourage anyone called to the mission or justice fields to read this book. For those who aren't called into those fields, Just Courage might stir another calling or prompt you help others who are so called.
People who should definitely read this book:
- Pastors, missionaries and missions team leaders;
- High school and college students who are internationally or missions minded;
- Law and criminal justice students and professionals and law enforcement officers;
- Sociological, psychological, and social work students and professionals;
- Educators of any kind; and
- Anyone who is bored.
The book is a quick read, approximately 150 pages, only 130 or so of which are the book's text. The remaining pages are the appendices and acknowledgments.
If there is a criticism I have, and I'm not entirely sure that I do, but if I do it is the focus of the book. Not the subject matter, but the scope. "Justice" as a subject is highly appealing to me (as a lawyer), but others may be less attracted. I think Haugen appropriately addresses this foreseeable objection by providing a variety of methods and opportunities to get involved short of being thrust into the brothels and sweat shops of some foreign and unfamiliar land.
I not only encourage everyone to read Just Courage, but to support and participate in the International Justice Mission's mission: