The Justice Conference and Film Festival recap

What an incredibly exhausting weekend. I just spent the last five days in Philly for The Justice Conference and The Justice Film Festival. It was such a blast to be there with Venture Expeditions. Their community was the most at-home I have felt since I moved to Chicago.

Our first night there, a few of us ran around some of the sites at night (Rocky steps, the Liberty Bell, etc.). We also saw a beautiful view of the skyline.


The weekend reaffirmed my passion and call to a life of justice-seeking. It challenged my commitment to the poor, and consequently inspired and encouraged me in the 1000 miles “Run Free for the Border” challenge. The film festival was radical and I was thankful for great story-telling with raw, unedited content. The films were my favorite part of the whole experience.

However, the most influential part of the weekend had little to do with the conference. I was at dinner with a Venture friend, and four strangers who work for or are connected to International Justice Mission. Part way through our meal, I had a burning desire to tell them my story and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I prayed, “God, right now? You want me to tell then right now?” Just moments later, I was prompted by one of the strangers with a question that naturally led to my story, and I shared.

It was challenging, embarrassing and nerve-wracking. I don’t like having all attention on myself in groups of people (especially those I don’t know) for long periods of time, so I always tend to cliff-note, abbreviate and pass through what I have to say as quickly as I can. I always have the mentality, “Am I boring them? They don’t want to know all of this.” I assume on my blog, people can stop reading whenever they want 😉 While I still left out much of the details, I slowed down and explained myself more than I usually do. It was a growing experience.

I never realized how much of an introvert I am, until I uprooted to Chicago without promise of making friends or connections through school or a job. I have deeply turned inward and find it more difficult than ever to branch out.

Quotes from the weekend:

“Heroes are ordinary people sick and tired of trying to be neutral.” Micah Bournes

“We ought to be sharing that stewardship with the poor. But the poor need something more than materialism.” Dr. John M. Perkins

“All mankind was created in the image of God. People don’t have to do anything to earn dignity.” Dr. Perkins

“You’ve got to have affirmation that God has called you to justice, and you will always come back to that voice.” Dr. Perkins

“We live out our call most fully when we are a community of faith with arms wrapped about a community of pain.” Dr. Perkins

“We must not only recover justice. We must recover prayer.” Gary Haugen

“When the grass looks greener on the other side, God wants us to water the grass we are on.” Eugene Cho

“We must be honest at how laborious and messy pursuing God and doing justice is.” Cho

“We might be living amongst the most overrated generation. People are constantly telling us how we’re going to change the world.” Cho

“Seek justice. Love your neighbor. These two imperatives do not conflict.” Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff

Regarding poverty: “It doesn’t matter how they got there. They are past that now. It’s not up to you to ask ‘how.'” Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil

Film Festival Favorites:

Every movie this weekend was excellent, and I truly enjoyed the experience (even if it meant I sat watching the films for more than 13 hours straight 😉 ) I chose my top three favorite films, which you can find below. I strongly encourage you to watch the trailers and also consider watching the films.

1) NEFARIOUS: MERCHANT OF SOULS: a hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends in modern sex slavery.

I had been anxiously waiting to watch this documentary since it was released. It was absolutely excellent: raw, realistic, informative and gut-wrenching. I want to show this film to every person I know.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Official Trailer from Exodus Cry on Vimeo.

2) RAPE FOR PROFIT: Realities of sex-trafficking in the U.S. (Seattle).

While this is another documentary on sex-trafficking, it is based in Seattle and brings a completely different perspective with even more gripping interviews and raw footage. Another must-see.

Rape For Profit – Theatrical Trailer from RapeForProfitFilm on Vimeo.

3) I AM: “We started by asking what’s wrong with the world, and ended up discovering what’s right with it.” –Director Tom Shadyac, Four-time People’s Choice Award winner (Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty).

I was blown away by this film! I shook Tom Shadyac’s hand about four years a go in LA, and thought he seemed like an interesting guy (I mean, he DID direct two of my favorite comedies). However, this film was such a different journey. After he was in a serious accident and struggled with the thought of dying, Shadyac decided to take a film crew around the world asking the question “What’s wrong with the world?” to several influential leaders.

It was the most intellectually stimulating film of the weekend as well, as it explored the scientific proof that we are all connected. He challenged “Happiness=more stuff” and radically changed his approach to life through the process.

Finding Peace in Change–Surgery Week.

Well, many of you know that after sitting down with the Dean of Admissions, and speaking once again with my surgeon, I was encouraged to defer a year of school. This has been pretty difficult to grasp. I just moved across the country again, to start school. I was excited to begin working toward a degree that I believe will help me most readily in my dream of helping those in modern-day slavery.

It’s hard to not feel like a failure or that I wimped out or that I gave up. I have never backed out of anything in my life…once I commit to something, I see it through. It was extremely hard to make the final call. I talked to several of my professors and they articulated how incredibly difficult it is to miss even one day of law school–and I was looking toward missing at least 5 days upfront. Also, while the surgery recovery is supposed to take 10 days, the ENT was clear that it could take some time to regulate my “fake thyroid” medication after surgery (I’ll be on this medication the rest of my life), and it is likely that I will be tired frequently. I will have radiation treatment about 6-8 weeks later, and that also looks like there will be a few days I’ll have to be down for the count. The Dean of Admin thought it was a wise choice to defer for medical reasons, which means that I have an automatic spot secured for next year.

With all of this in mind, it seemed unnecessary to struggle to hang on the first year of law school–a lot hinges on the first year and there were several other external factors that confirmed my decision:

  • Scholarships for your remaining years in school are determined by your grades your first year. I want to work toward being the top of my class.
  • The bar is mostly based on first year material.
  • I don’t want to just make it through the year–it’s essential to me that I truly understand the material. I want to know what I’m learning and not just frantically catching up.
  • I’ve been told several times that students develop study groups at the beginning of their first year that often carry out through all three years. I would be in surgery the end of the first week into the second and realize it is likely I will miss out on opportunities to connect with classmates from the beginning.
  • I’m really not on any time frame. Taking one year off at 22-years-old is not going to drastically change the outcome of my career. I’ve just never wanted to take any time off, because I have goals and I know what I hope to accomplish in the future.
  • If the doctor is trying to regulate my “fake thyroid” medication, I imagine it will be much more difficult if my stress level is through the roof with school.
  • I have been going non-stop for a very long time, and it could be very good for me to take a step back (I wouldn’t have made that decision on my own, without something health-related to stop me 😉 )

I know that this year is going to end up being something very special. I am going to make the best of it, and I am already extremely excited at all of the places I plan to go, people I plan to see, things I plan to do once all of this passes–whether it’s 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, etc. Whenever this passes, I’ll be ready to continue pursuing life at full force 🙂 :

  • Looking into an internship at International Justice Mission
  • Teaching percussion at the two high schools I’ve already started to help this year.
  • Riding my bike, just because!
  • Training for a mini marathon and/or decathlon
  • Writing more, taking pictures again, art projects with my roommate
  • Seeking a conversation partner to finally become fluent in Spanish
  • Spending more time with my family north of the city
  • Driving to Indy and spending time with my brother and sister-in-law and baby nephew (due in January!)!
  • Going to The Justice Conference in February! I have always wanted to go to this. It’s in Philly this year, assuming I can pull the money together for the ticket and travel, I can’t wait! I’ve always wanted to go.
  • Continuing to write articles from Halftime and freelance elsewhere
  • Jazz events in the city
  • WGI Finals 🙂
  • Participating in another Venture Expeditions trip!

I am also making sure over the next several months that I spend significant time alone, in reflection and prayer. I am opening my mind to what the Lord has in store for me, even if it may not be what I have been convinced of for so long. I am letting go of all of my expectations and remembering the journey and finding peace in the process. I pray that I am sensitive to my conscience and not stubborn in my goal-set ways. I’m already growing and learning.

My surgery is this Friday, August 31, and I’m really hope time passes fast between now and then. The anticipation and waiting is pretty rough. I’m SO thankful that my parents are able to fly in this week from northern California to be here during the process. I am so blessed to have them. I love them dearly.

My parents and I at Biola graduation– May 2012

My lovely parents