The Schiffmans have gone through a lot in 2010, but it may just be a glimpse of what 2011 has to offer. One morning in early 2010, during my daily Bible study, I came across these words that God spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah: “Learn to do what is good; seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17) Although I have tried to dedicate my life to justice, I knew that God was speaking directly to me. I was struck with the question, “What causes have I been missing?”
Over the course of a couple months, I decided to leave the Army. I’ve known for quite some time that I didn’t want be a Judge Advocate forever and I couldn’t think of anything else that I wanted to do before I left. I had tried a lot of cases, deployed to Afghanistan, served with the Special Forces, even jumped out of airplanes, something I never wanted to do. So I submitted my resignation and started looking for a new career. With my background, I got a lot of interest from defense contractors and the like and that didn’t seem like such a bad life at all. But as I continued looking, keeping my options open, I realized that my passion was for justice. I had always figured that when I left the Army, I’d head back to Texas and be a DA or U.S. Attorney. After having done that job for a few years, though, I couldn’t see myself doing it right now. As my resignation date got closer, I was still without a plan or even an idea of what I wanted to do.
On June 13, I lay in bed reading a book before I went to sleep. The book, Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, is about following God’s call. In the chapter I read that night, the author spoke about passions and how God gives them to us for a reason. I laid the book on my chest for a moment and silently prayed: “God, I know that you have given me a passion for justice. What am I missing? Please show me how I can really serve You in this area that I’m good at and enjoy.” I picked my book back up and in the very next paragraph I read about a man named Gary Haugen. He had been a senior attorney at the Department of Justice in DC when he decided to leave his job to start a human rights organization specifically designed to secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression in developing countries. I had never heard of work that sounded so exciting.
I committed to writing Mr. Haugen a letter when I woke the next morning. But when I looked online for his address, I instead found his organization, International Justice Mission, has grown to a staff of over 300 people located in 14 different field offices and has recently been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the number one service group “making a difference.” Their motto: Isaiah 1:17. I finished my application the next day.
And then my SF battalion got orders to deploy with only two weeks’ notice. I was confused and a little upset, but too loyal to the men who I had served with for the past eighteen months not to go. So, after talking it over with Kim, I requested to extend my resignation date several months to cover the deployment. I’ll now officially no longer be a Soldier on the first of June, 2011. I’m writing this letter from my plywood-walled office in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan after having been here for three months. I’ve already missed Jack’s birthday and still have a Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and anniversary away from home to go.
Looking back, though, everything has worked out perfectly. Had I known about this deployment months ago, I would have accepted the $60,000 bonus that was offered me (half of it tax free) without even thinking. But I’d be locked in to the Army for another four years. Who knows how many holidays I’d miss then? Instead, the Schiffmans now have an opportunity to join IJM’s summer training session that starts on June 1st before heading to one of 14 different field offices. And guess what? I’ve learned a few more things about seeking justice and fighting oppression in a developing nation.
Looking forward to doing more of it in 2011, wherever God sends us,
Dearest friends and family,
I hope this holiday season finds you well and that God’s blessings abound in your home! I would love to share God’s call in our lives from my perspective as a follow up to Steve’s. Please read his letter on the reverse side first so that my words and thoughts make more sense to you.
Stephen mentions waking up one morning and discovering IJM and all it does for suffering people throughout the world. What I would like to point out is that my loving husband let me sleep in that morning and did this while up early with the boys. When I woke up and came into the kitchen, he said “Good morning, sweetheart… How would you feel about living in Uganda?” WHAT? I didn’t really know what to say or what to think. He went on to tell the story and explain the organization to me. I began to realize that he was quite passionate about this and decided to give it some real thought.
My thoughts were more like questions at that time. They started off general such as: Where in the world would we be going? What kind of work would he be doing? How long do we have to stay? What is housing like? Weather? The people? And then the questions became more pointed, and thus more difficult to answer: What will my role be in all this? Will my children be safe? What about disease? How do I say goodbye to my family for so long? Why can’t we do this later, when our children are grown? How do I know that this is God’s call?
Although we had talked about it and decided it was the right thing, when Stephen deployed I really became filled with questions and doubt in my own strength to do this. Our communication wasn’t great and we couldn’t talk about our future as much as I wanted. But then, admittedly, I realized I was trying to do this without God. I began to pray, more earnestly and often than ever before. And God answered. One by one, He answered every question, every need. He gave me a peace that passes understanding and said to me, “My child, I chose YOU for this. I will protect you and I will bless you and everyone you meet. I created your family and I will take care of it. Be courageous. Follow me.”
I realized that the safest and best place I could ever be was right in the middle of God’s will. God showed me that my role will be crucial to this mission. I will be among the local people. I may be the first Christian that some of them have ever met. What a huge burden to bear for a sinner such as me! But what a reason to live for! Is there anything more important, more awesome, than living out Jesus’s Great Commission and showing our children to do the same? I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life!
So, yes, 2011 will probably hold many “firsts” for me, most of which I never dreamed of experiencing in a lifetime. I will move to another country, on another continent that I’ve never even visited. I may sell or give away most of my treasured possessions. I will likely start homeschooling my children, which is something I never really wanted to do. I will eat strange foods and not dress in style. I will see poverty and injustice first hand. I will answer a lot of questions as our boys come face to face with terribly sad circumstances and ask why all these things happen. We will face so much unknown and uncertainty. But most of all, we will rejoice in knowing that we are EXACTLY where the all-powerful, all-knowing, unconditionally loving God wants us to be!
Every day that passes is one day closer to our new adventure. Our family, holding hands and trusting Him, is ready to step forward into the unknown, knowing that GOD is guiding our steps. We ask for your love, prayers, and support as we step out in faith to His call.
We sincerely pray for God to richly bless you this coming year as well. If you are receiving this letter from us, we have prayed a prayer over it for your family by name. We will continue praying for you. Remember… God sent his son to die for your sin – that is the meaning of Christmas. Can you imagine any greater love? Merry Christmas! We love you and are always delighted to hear from you!
Love, Kim, and the boys… and Stephen
Romans 10:14-15: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”