GRACIE MURPHREE, JUSTICE CHAMPION
Justice Champion Robin Gracie Travis-Murphree was asked so often how she survived the trials of her life that her answer, “By the grace of God”, led to the name by which she is now known: Gracie. The Lord confirmed this change through 1 Corinthians 15:10 and 1 Timothy 1:12. Gracie will tell you it is God’s grace that makes her who she is and God’s grace-filled gospel is what speaks hope to those to whom He has called her to minister.
Unlike the other Justice Champions Gospel Justice Initiative (GJI) interviewees, Gracie is not a lawyer. She is, however, answering God’s call to do justice. The Spanish version of Isaiah 59:14-16 particularly resonates with Gracie; because it says God sees there is no justice anywhere and is “disgusted to see that there is no one to intervene”. Gracie hears God’s command clearly calling all Christians to act in justice.
For Gracie, the question isn’t should we; the question is how do we? Gracie believes the answer is broader than one may think. Giving hope to the suffering, food to the hungry, rescuing women and children in peril, strengthening families, educating people who would otherwise not have access to education, offering refuge and safety to victims of violence and helping the oppressed are all part of the answer. Opening the first Gospel Justice Center outside of the United States, in Honduras, is a partnership which is a powerful answer to how to do justice and an answer to Gracie’s prayer.
GJI: Tell us about your journey to Justice Champion. How did you find Gospel Justice Initiative?
GM: I was at the Justice Conference in Chicago in 2015 and attended Bruce’s “Gospel Justice” preconference event.
GJI: Have you always had a heart for justice?
GM: It has just been something inside me–helping those who are weak, assisting to change people’s lives, visiting the sick, counseling the lost, standing in the gap.
GJI: Having the heart to help doesn’t always translate into the sold-out commitment you display. What made you realize you needed to dedicate your life to the call to “stand in the gap”?
GM: For me, it is like breathing. Subliminally, I have always known and always served in this area. When God made it clear, I was sitting in the office of a police Colonel in Honduras in January 2006. I handed him the program for victims of violence that the Minister of Security had asked me to create in Sept 2005. He turned to me and told me I was going to run the program.
We had come to Honduras in June 2005, obeying God, without knowing what we were going to do. We rebuilt a police post that had collapsed because God said our ministry started there – again obedience. After we rebuilt it, a Colonel showed up at our house and after getting to know us (in Sept 2005) he asked me to write the program. When I finished writing the program, the Colonel told me I was running it. He didn’t ask; he told me. It was like the heavens aligned and I finally understood everything in my life.
GJI: A prayerful obedience is something you have in common with other Justice Champions, but your location is certainly unique. Tell us more about where God has called you.
GM: Our community sits in the mountains in the middle of a third world country – in the jungles of central Honduras, which is the size of Tennessee. Macho attitudes prevail; women and children are treated like property– like the dogs and pigs in the yard. More than 70% of all women and children suffer violence in a country the UN labels with 94-96% impunity. Femicide is out of control. More than 5,000 women were murdered between 2005 and 2016.
We battle organized crime, gangs (MS13 and Barrio 18) and drug cartels, as well as corruption within authorities. Clients need advocacy, help in the moment of crisis, shelter, food, medicines, transportation assistance and more. There are no available social workers or psychologists to help them. If you can call the police, they don’t come. If you get to the police, many times the police revictimize people and/or turn them away.
GJI: What was the biggest fear or challenge you had to overcome before “jumping in”?
GM: There’s no such thing as a fear only being present in a moment. They are things we always struggle with. Mine has always been “Who am I?” “I’m not qualified.” “How can I do this?”
GJI: Self-doubt seems a recurring theme with Justice Champions. Also recurring is God’s power shining through His willing servants through answered prayer and success with clients. Did you have any misconceptions about clients or of starting of a center?
GM: That everyone (meaning government officials) would willingly do their job. That everyone would jump on board with the vision. Here, there are those who love it; and then, those who try to kill you for doing this work. It was and still is very difficult to get past the hate and the fact folks want to kill you. I have survived five assassination attempts, to my knowledge, and had to close the offices in 2011 November; high ranking officials ordered police to kill me and fake a shoot while executing an arrest warrant out in the mountains. But the office is opening on Sept 1, 2018. Praise God!
GJI: There is so much to Praise God for in the stories of justice. Tell us another, please. What has been a joy to you as you do His work?
GM: The greatest joy is seeing lives saved and restored and see justice realized. It is also a great joy to see authorities excited to serve and make their country a better place. It is exciting to see police praying over a rape victim in the moment of rescue. We had a 12-year-old we rescued from sex traffickers and cared for her a week until the trial. She couldn’t testify; she was terrified. I laid hands on her outside the courtroom and prayed over her. The prosecutor and the judge’s secretary did too. She went in and testified winning the only sex trafficking conviction in Honduras in 2010.
We work to rescue, care for and restore victims of violence (vulnerable groups – women, children, elderly, disabled, LGBT, indigenous) and to empower justice in their cases in one of the most corrupt and violent countries in the world. We have employees, not volunteers. They love serving their brothers and sisters. The Director of the Refuge and Children’s Home is always working late, and I sometimes must make her leave on time. Our nurse dotes on the children and women who are in our home for girls pregnant by rape and incest and on those in the shelter. She is quick to make sure they are tended to — immediately checking them out when they arrive. Our cook: man, she is something! Doesn’t matter if it is three in the morning when the police show up with a woman or girl who has been raped or abused or trafficked. She gets moving and the first thing she says is, “Have you eaten?”. She will open the kitchen and cook to be sure they are fed.
Our clients. . . some walk for hours to get to us, some arrive in the police truck covered in blood, and full of fear. But they never want to leave. The change that comes over them, whether they are two or twenty, is amazing to see. Fear changes to peace. Hopeless changes to hope. “Beauty for ashes” — to see restoration is an amazing thing.
GJI: Is there a story, quote or concept from Gospel Justice that really struck a chord with you?
- “Stopping to serve is unexpected. When that service is done with compassion and prayer, the effects are significant.”pg 105
- “Will you dare to set aside your life – your agenda – to be a Samaritan?” pg 121
- “Doing justice demonstrates love and destroys barriers in a community.” pg 146
- “In justice, we serve our wounded neighbor. We equip God’s people for the battle. We join the battle against injustice.” pg 158
- “When we administer true justice by showing compassion to our neighbors, we reflect our Lord and Savior.” Pg 161
GJI: How can we pray for you?
GM: [Pray for] People to come to serve, finances for the work, safety in the work, favor with leaders and others.
GJI: Your sold-out, obedient heart is an inspiration and a blessing to us, Gracie. Any final thoughts?
GM: I can’t think of anything else. Well, I can; but, it would be pages or a book. Oh yeah, (smile) I have a book called “Journey to Justice: Finding God and Destiny in Darkness” coming out Feb. 1, 2019. It is the first in a series of three books about God’s love for justice and the work here in Honduras.
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