Everyone, please welcome Kenny Sipes to the blog!
As, I pondered Natasha’s gracious request to write a post for her blog, I was reminded that I am not an expertise in any one area of justice. My heart just reflects my passion to participate in as much redemption as possible with this gift of life I have.
The greatest teacher in my life is experience. That’s what I have to offer today.
How to lead people into justice.
Honestly, my heart for justice was stirred when I saw this video. Global Night Commute. I was never the same. Soon after, I went on a mission trip to the country of Lesotho. The drive from Johannesburg to the mountains of Lesotho gave us a firsthand tour of poverty. You couldn’t not see it and you couldn’t unsee it. With no education, witchdoctors controlling with fear tactics, and no legal system for these remote villagers in the mountains, the future was bleak. My heart for Africa was solidified with these hard truths.
As a youth pastor at the time, I wanted to help our students see that justice is needed outside of our bubbles of suburbia. And God drove me to make that happen. I took twelve teenagers on that Lesotho trip. I led two construction trips and 100 people to East St. Louis; which at the time was most impoverished city in America. Having emotion over situations is one thing, but I knew unless we participated in trying to fix it, the emotion would fade and the memory of the injustice we were fighting would leave. So, I sought to lead our students to make an impact by way of their actions and their words.
As I type this, I think of those Lesotho trip kids (who are now adults pursuing justice in the world). One of them works in the Ohio Statehouse with a heart to fight sex trafficking. Another was scared to death on that trip, but has since returned to Africa several times mentoring young African children. Now she gets to watch them become thriving teenagers and adults in their communities. My daughter was nationally recognized for leading her fraternity to establish a music entity in an inner city school that didn’t have one. Another young lady left elite suburbia and took her education to be a teacher in inner city Chicago. Honestly, I could write a story on each one of those kids. They are now all adults making this a safer and more just world.
We need to lead others into the story of justice.
In my opinion, teenagers are the best of the best. I am convinced that what they seek as teenagers will probably be what they seek as adults. They want to stand for causes that mean something and then impact it.
Last year, we did an event inspired by the International Justice Mission where the students stood for 27 hours as a reminder to stand for freedom. Two seniors who participated in that event wrote their senior paper on modern day slavery. Another senior led his school in a yearlong Blood:Water awareness and fundraiser campaign.
We hosted several Invisible Children screenings at our church. And I can assure you, there are no students who showed up who don’t remember those nights. I saw them buy merchandise to serve the cause. I saw them purchase monthly scholarships for the education of those less fortunate in Africa. I see them still interact through social media with rescued child soldiers who spoke at our church. These are no small things. Out of them were birthed the lifelong understandings of the need for justice.
One year, we chose to participate in Invisible Children’s Rescue event. The goal was to meet with other IC supporters and walk around Ohio State’s Campus simulating the walks African kids have to suffer when kidnapped. Then we were to camp on West Campus until a local celebrity/politician ‘rescued’ us. Well, two of my students suggested we walk from our church to the event. It honestly, was an outrageous idea. But, those kinds of ideas speak the loudest when they are actually done. So, we did. Eighty five students walked twenty miles because they felt that would speak so much more than meeting at the destination.
Justice is communal. It craves a unified group hoping for restoration. But, nobody does something they are unaware of. As a justice advocate, I have to inform and inspire. I have to be informed and inspired. And I have to ask people to join in.
If you lead others into the story of justice, justice will be done.
In what ways have you led others into the story of justice?
Kenny Sipes served as a youth and college pastor for the past decade. He is a father of five and has been married for 23 years. Kenny is currently in the process of opening a non-profit coffee shop called The Roosevelt Coffeehouse. Its mission is to fight the injustices of hunger, unclean water, and human trafficking.