I didn’t want to leave India.
My family’s first year there was filled with tremendous challenges. I had the daunting task of developing a replicable method of rescuing slaves under Indian law and building a team to make it happen. Meanwhile my wife almost died following the birth of our second child and suffered through a slow physical recovery. We had two kids under two-years old in a new culture with a fledgling office to run.
It was a struggle.
Yet, over the next few years, things got better.
Together with an amazing group of team members at International Justice Mission, we figured out how to rescue slaves, prosecute traffickers, care for survivors, and work for structural transformation.
I felt like I was in my sweet spot. The world’s great need, God’s passion for justice, and my professional training found their intersection. Most importantly, I was working with my best friend and a team of Indian advocates, social workers, and investigators who can only be described as heroes.
Their work ethic and personal sacrifice inspire me to this day.
The feeling of personal fulfillment was powerful and infectious.
Our family even had a “beef bootlegger” who covertly delivered cow meat to the door of our fifth story flat. I could have lived in India forever.
I didn’t want anything to change.
Then change came.
Through a series of conversations with my bride, it became clear that it was time to return to America. We both knew that it was the right time to leave India, but I was reluctant.
I did not want to bail on the team I helped build. I did not want to leave the pursuit of justice. I did not want to disappoint my IJM colleagues . . . people whose leadership I deeply respected.
And yet, I felt compelled to embrace the transition.
As it turned out, the first two years after our return from India were the most stressful and challenging of our marriage. Honestly, it was much easier to relocate to India than return to the United States.
We felt isolated and discouraged.
In the mist of this discontent, I thought about the following image and it really helped me.
Imagine a child at the end of a wonderful day at amusement park when it is time to go home. The kid doesn’t want to leave and he starts complaining to his Dad that he wants to ride more rides and play more games. He doesn’t want the day to end. He doesn’t want things to change so he complains to his father.
Now, imagine that same child at the end of a wonderful day at the amusement park, but this time the he is filled with excitement and joy. All the way home with his Dad, he celebrates and relives how much fun they had on the rollercoaster, the water ride, and the silly games.
Together they enjoy what had just occurred without lamenting that the day could not go on indefinitely.
As I pondered the boy leaving the amusement park—
my frustration with change shifted to gratefulness. I got to be a part of something wonderful for a season and now it was time for something new.
Instead of being upset that my status quo was disrupted, I should celebrate all the joys and adventures in India that I had experienced. Many had been rescued from slavery, families had been given dignity, and the office was under terrific new leadership.
It has been almost a decade since our family returned from India and I began prosecuting human trafficking cases at the U.S. Department of Justice. With the benefit of hindsight, there is no doubt that leaving India was the best thing for my family, my career, and my ability to combat modern day slavery around the world.
In seasons of change and transition, the questions for each of us are clear.
Will we cling to the status quo or embrace the unknown future adventure? Will we be the kid throwing a fit at the amusement park exit or the kid gratefully remembering the joyful experience with our Father?