In October I had the privilege to go on my first rescue operation.
We gathered together early one morning, ready to provide rescue to humans (!!) with our cars packed with bottled water and a small army of people– as if it were just another day of work. The day before we looked at the maps of the two facilities and the investigations team briefed us on life in each facility with pictures of all the victims who were waiting for IJM and the government to give them hope through rescue from bondage.
We arrived at the government official’s building who was expecting us to show that day. We waited for several hours before he met with us. Alex and I were part of the logistics team, meaning, on the way to the district we were responsible for finding two drivers to come to the facilities with us and stay with us all day until we would drop the released labourers at their home villages in the evening/ early am hours. Other duties included: getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all staff, attending to the children, and off-site surveillance and videoing.
After 4 hours we finally got an audience with the government official and he was quick to provide what we needed to go to the facilities and get the people out; the logistics team stayed back and the investigation and communication teams went ahead. When IJM showed up to the facility they provided gunny sacks for packing the labourer’s belongings. Max, they spent 10-15 minutes in the facility gathering the people and their belongings and they were outta there! They didn’t encounter any hostility from the owner, but this is not always the case. Our staff were assaulted in a previous case.
When the buses pulled up to the RDO’s building the people were reaching out the windows to wave and kiss their fingers in gratitude. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at them, feeling deep concern for their well-being and knowing of their potential freedom by the end of the night. I thought about how this might be different if we were rescuing westerners from bondage – I imagine there would be tears flowing, lots of hugging, and shock on their faces. But these people (some had been in the facility for over 10 years) looked as if we just got them out of a really bad job. Life in the facility wears on your identity and independence as a person so maybe loss of identity is part of the reason they are somewhat unmoved by the rescue — they’re Irular people; the scum of the earth, right? This is just the beginning of making them feel dignified again, or for the first time. Even now I’m getting emotional and angry as I remember their plight.
We fed them idly and sambar, assessed their immediate needs and waited until the officials were ready for them to provide an account of their bondage. They came prepared with paper and pen in hand, and they listened to one by one; each man, woman, and child gave an account of the details of their bondage – the amount of the advance, unfair wages (that would never be enough to pay off the advance), different types of abuse, restricted movement, and being prohibited from pursuing employment elsewhere. I videoed each melancholic testimony and was really taken aback by the undramatic atmosphere of the whole ordeal, thinking, doesn’t evil usually put up a fight? This case went smoothly without complications. The laborers presented their testimonies with courage and accuracy and that evening the officials decided to grant them all release certificates from the owner, declaring each of them a free person. We printed their release certificates and laminated them for their personal use to protect them from the owner’s threats later. The RDO was gracious in allowing us to hand the certificates to the laborers as fruit of our labor and that evening, 12 people started over. For some, this is their first experience of fairness and equality – this is great news for the poor. What a tangible example of how the Lord is releasing the oppressed through willing and able-bodied people. God is not silent or inactive. We are his plan and he is releasing the oppressed through hard work and prayer.
Today we can subtract 12 from the 40 million still in bondage in this country.
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Quite literally, this song is appropriate for these Irular people. Came to my Rescue