Answering the Call to Courage: A Personal Journey into Meaning and Adventure 

“Do we want to be safe or brave? This question, relevant to filmmakers and seekers of meaning alike, echoes through the pages of “Just Courage.” 

Sometimes, you stumble upon words that resonate so deeply within you that they become a source of enduring inspiration. Gary A. Haugen’s book, “Just Courage,” is one such profound encounter.

Gary A. Haugen is an American attorney, author, and human rights activist. He is the founder and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization that focuses on combating human trafficking, slavery, and other forms of injustice. He has dedicated his career to advocating for the rights of the oppressed and has been a prominent figure in the fight against global injustice. In his book, he shares the story about how he started IJM and how the organization operates.

Haugen believes many Christians are yearning to walk on a pathway to courage, and they yearn for liberation from small and trivial things, and that God specifically used the work of justice as the pathway for liberating us from the Christian cul-de-sac of triviality and small fears. He writes that in a world often driven by the pursuit of wealth and status, there exists a deeper calling—one that transcends material success and resonates with the very core of our humanity.


Gary Haugen receiving the Trafficking in Persons Report “Hero Award” from Hillary Clinton in 2012.

God of justice and rescue

Haugen emphasizes that justice is not merely a facet of God’s nature but at the core of His being. Drawing from biblical foundations, Haugen explores how God’s compassion extends to the victims of injustice, portraying a deity intimately connected to the suffering of the oppressed.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

God is not only displeased with injustice but actively appalled when His people fail to intervene. Through Haugen’s lens, God emerges as a compassionate and active force against injustice, a deity intimately concerned with the well-being of the vulnerable. And not only that; Haugen’s exploration extends to the profound realization that God’s response to injustice is a divine collaboration with humanity.  God calls upon His people to actively engage in the work of justice, becoming agents of rescue for the oppressed. As he writes: “The divine call to justice is not optional for Christians; it is central to God’s heart and critical to our relationship with Him.”

Some leaders of the March on Washington walking along Constitution Avenue, 1963. By Rowland Scherman – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain.

Successful or significant? 

Gary underscores the belief that our heavenly Father, in His role as a loving parent, guides us with deep affection, especially in making pivotal choices on our life’s journey. As Christians, Gary points out a fundamental choice laid before us by our Father: the decision between bravery and safety, a choice that inherently demands commitment to one path over the other.

Furthermore, Gary highlights that pursuing God’s will may lead to situations that seem daunting, as we are asked to choose between a life that appears successful and one that is genuinely significant. Gary emphasizes that this choice may involve relinquishing comfort, security, control, and even societal approval. However, he offers a compelling trade-off — in choosing bravery, one gains adventure, faith, miracles, and a deep knowledge of God. The fundamental question then emerges: Do we aspire to be safe or brave? Smart or loving? Successful or truly significant?

Strength from above 

Haugen also asserts that those who answer this call will find strength and guidance bestowed upon them by the divine. By aligning with God in the pursuit of justice, individuals unlock a source of strength beyond their own, finding guidance that transcends the limitations of human understanding. As promised for those loosing the chains of injustice and setting the oppressed free in Isaiah 58:8-9:

“The Lord will guide you always, he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Haugen underscores the vital role of prayer in their mission at IJM. Starting every working day with thirty minutes of silence and prayerful preparation, and coming together again for prayer at 11 a.m., is not merely a matter of discipline but an act of desperation. It’s an acknowledgment that the mission they are called to and the love they must show each other require spiritual resources accessed through prayer. As he writes:

“We don’t think we can do the mission God has called us to or love each other the way we ought to without spiritual resources accessed through prayer.”

Storytelling crossroads

As a filmmaker navigating the uncertain terrain of storytelling, I’ve often found myself at a crossroads. The next steps in filmmaking—the financing, the editing and structuring, the distribution—are a haze of uncertainty. It would be more comfortable to seek a steadier path, a predictable income and a job that you can leave at the office when you go home. Yet, Haugen’s words challenge me to ask, “Do I want to be safe or brave?”

For me, creating films is not merely about capturing visuals; it’s about revealing the narratives of people that have not been seen or heard and bring untold stories to light. It could be orphans in South Africa or Zambia, persecuted minorities in Iraq, refugee kids in Lebanon or undocumented immigrants in Norway, to mention some of the stories I have worked with. Our aim would be that more people would be aware of the issues and get involved in different ways. We want Haugen’s reminder that we are part of God’s rescue plan, to resonate with every story we bring to life.

Interviewing Yesidi women in a refugee camp in Iraq.

There’s no guarantee that the hard work will be worth it. Yet, the challenge mirrors Haugen’s call to embrace the uncertainty, to trust that solutions, creative strategies, and funding will come just when needed. And to rely on divine guidance step by step, acknowledging that small and bigger miracles unfold every day and are threads woven into the tapestry of my own expedition.


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