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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Justice served, 1 coin at a time

 •  Dalai Lama backs happiness science

By Hannah Gaskins

During Hawaii Baptist Academy's Spirit Week events, held earlier this year, our school's National Honor Society decided to raise awareness about International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that seeks justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

I had been volunteering with the organization for three years, and presented to the honor society the idea of raising enough money to free one person from slavery. It costs $500 to free one person. So, as the committee's chairperson, I thought that would be a reasonable goal that we could strive toward as a school.

We then created a fundraising challenge: a friendly competition for our high school students. We set up jars during lunch for students in each grade to drop coins and dollars into. At chapel that week, my committee and I gave a presentation about International Justice Mission to the entire school.

Many students seemed eager to learn more about the organization. As I stepped off the stage, a classmate came up to me and gave me some spare change she had in her pocket. She said: "This is for the jar." It was a small gesture that turned out to be the start of something big.

Each day that week, a different person would come up to me and give me bags of coins. Some were big and some small. Some were full of pennies, and some, quarters. But if there was one thing that was constant, it was the giving.

By the end of Spirit Week, the jars had been replaced with 5-gallon buckets, but the students were no longer trying to win a competition. Instead, they were setting goals for their respective grades to free people from slavery, thereby eclipsing my original goal of one person for the whole school.

On the last day of Spirit Week, a crowd of a hundred loud, excited teenagers marched into the cafeteria. Imagine the sound as each bag of coins dropped into the bucket, followed by a roar of the crowd cheering for our school's grade levels. Then, the cheering changed. Instead of rooting for individual classes, it became a collective cheer for International Justice Mission.

The purpose of raising the money was then front and center. I was overwhelmed at the response, to say the least. It was a big thing, but the little things made it all possible. I saw God in that moment.

In the middle of all the craziness, a student approached me and asked if he could pray with me. It is a moment I will never forget. Never in my life had I understood more about what the power of prayer can accomplish. It was a simple prayer another little thing that became a big thing.

The total amount collected was $8,669, and people continued to give.