“Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
In the early 2000’s, God invited people from England to the Amazon, and from the US to Eastern Europe, to create something new. Their hearts beat for the poor, the orphaned, and the vulnerable. But little did they know how God would weave their lives together to shine His light into dark places, to bring His hope into desperate situations, and to make justice personal for generations to come.
God has done more through Justice & Mercy International than anyone could have imagined. As we gathered together on September 28 to celebrate His work, excitement filled the air. About 550 people, a record attendance, streamed in the doors at Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Friends greeted one another and introduced new faces into the mix.
Gold shimmering installations hung in the middle of the large gathering space with twinkle lights strung outward, while disco balls on the tables added to the upbeat, celebratory atmosphere.
Guests enjoyed dinner provided by Flavor Catering, which served as a reminder that the act of sharing a meal together can be a source of joy.
Dove-award-winning musician, Jordan St. Cyr, led the room in soul-stirring music at key points throughout the evening. His melodies and lyrics resonated with the audience, offering time to reflect on God’s presence.
Saying ‘yes’ to God’s call into the unknown
As the lights dimmed, all eyes looked turned to the opening video that painted a picture of where JMI started and how far the organization has come over 15 years because people said “yes” to God’s calling. This “yes” became a theme of the night.
The heart of the evening was centered on JMI’s transformative work in Moldova and the Amazon region of Brazil. In the vast rainforest, JMI was a beacon of hope and transformation in 333 villages this year. Amazon National Director, Sarah Rodrigues, took the stage and talked about God calling her from the city to the jungle in 2009 to work for JMI. She knew her strength alone wasn’t enough, but she said “yes” to God because she wanted to be a part of whatever He was going to do.
God made a way for JMI’s efforts to multiply by working through jungle pastors who were already ministering to their communities. “I was standing before an army of pastors and missionaries who had nothing, but were giving everything and had the courage to say ‘yes’ when God said, ‘Will you go?’” Sarah recalled. By reaching them, JMI has been able to access some of the most remote places on earth with the hope of the Gospel.
Sarah introduced a video about the importance of hosting these pastors for annual conferences. This year, we had the privilege of having over 300 pastors and their wives attend conferences, providing them with invaluable training that will benefit the communities they serve. They are the center of all of our work in the Amazon and the conduits to not only address immediate needs within villages but also nurture minds and souls. Because of their partnership this year alone, we provided vital support to 134 vulnerable kids and 13 special needs kids through sponsorships. Over 500 Bibles were distributed, and two school libraries were constructed. Additionally, we delivered 25,190 food bags and 1,380 hygiene bags, as well as offered healthcare services to almost 2,000 people.
Transforming the next generation
Next, Alina Magdaliuc, our Moldova National Director, took the stage. She talked about her first experiences with JMI as a translator, hitchhiking to an orphanage several times a month to minister to the children, and dreaming of a day when JMI could have the resources to do more.
“It all started with a ‘yes’,” she said. “I kept saying yes for 15 years.”
Fast forward, and we have 46 staff on the ground in Moldova serving in 71 villages. This year, a total of 883 vulnerable kids found hope and support through sponsorship, and 26 special needs kids received care and attention tailored to their unique needs. Nearly 1,000 children had the chance to experience the joy and camaraderie of our summer camp, where they heard the Gospel, some for the first time.
“This is so much more than I could ever have dreamt of,” Alina said. “We are blessed to see miracles happen and lives transformed.”
But that’s not all; 69 vulnerable teenagers were also sponsored through our Transitional Living Program, providing them with opportunities for personal growth and development during a crucial phase of their lives.
A special video highlighted the Transitional Living program, and afterward, one of the graduates, Tudor Frimu, came up to share more about his experience. Tudor and his wife Stela, who also graduated from the program, now sponsor a Transitional Living youth, Vladimir. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Tudor spoke about the contrast of living without hope and then finding it through Christ because of the program.
“For me, sponsorship is somebody’s last hope. It’s a bridge…toward a different life,” he said. “I feel so blessed because now I’ve been on both sides.”
Tudor ended by thanking everyone in the room for the impact their support will now have on his children’s lives. “There are things that only God can do, but there are things that we can do. And when we do that, God just multiplies it. And the results are unbelievable.”
Looking forward to the next 15 years
Each year at An Evening with JMI, the event crescendos as the giving thermometer steadily climbs toward its target. This year, the aim was to raise $500,000 to support our ongoing work. Everyone watched with excitement as the thermometer climbed to 75% of the goal, thanks to the generosity around the room. (You can still give to help us get to 100%!)
Jordan St. Cyr led a final song, as voices praised the Lord: “You turn mourning to dancing. You give beauty for ashes. You turn shame into glory. You’re the only one who can.”
Attendees left with a sense of gratitude and renewed dedication to bring God’s justice and mercy to the poor, the orphaned, and the forgotten. JMI’s 15-year anniversary event was a powerful reminder that in a world filled with challenges, God is still calling us to be part of His transforming work, and it all starts with a “yes.”
We look forward to the next 15 years and beyond, continuing to make a lasting impact on the lives of vulnerable children, families, and communities across the globe.