An office building located on top of a bakery in downtown San Diego may not inspire visions of grandeur, but the individuals within the tiny beige-colored cubicles have a global impact. I entered the office doors and was immediately greeted by the towering frame of New York Times bestselling author and Restore International Founder, Bob Goff.
After Goff led me into a small room filled only with reclining chairs and bookshelves, I tried to appear nonchalant as I led our conversation onto the topic of Restore International’s progress since its inception in 2003. I knew this would not be your run-of-the-mill interview when Goff started to talk about his organization by saying, “I don’t have an organization.” I quickly decided the only adequate response was to sit there for ten seconds and then nod my head — so I sat and nodded. Goff clearly realized his answer had shot miles over my head and graciously explained that “Jesus did not have an organization, so I don’t want to have an organization.” Now that we had decided on our interview’s terminology, I asked Goff to elaborate on his nonexistent organization, which led to a much more fruitful answer.
Goff founded Restore International after a trip to India gave him firsthand exposure to extreme human rights violations. These violations revolved around the sex trafficking markets and brothel operations. Since 2003, Restore International has established ongoing operations in India, Uganda, Somalia, Iraq and Nepal. Restore International goes into these locations and conducts raids on brothels to rescue women and children who are being sexually exploited.
Once these victims are rescued, Restore International enrolls them in schools in their respective home countries to improve their lives. There is one more crucial step done by the attorneys of Restore International: Goff, who is an attorney and law professor, takes the brothel owners to court in their respective countries charging them with crimes against humanity. Goff and his legal team prosecute the criminals abroad, only allowed because Restore International has been granted access to the legal systems in the countries. When I asked Goff how Restore International got its start abroad, Goff gave a simple answer with saying, “We just started going into brothels asking for young girls, then we would set up raids to free them. After that we would take the bad guys to court.” Goff’s philosophy with taking the brothel owners to court is “love and justice go hand-in-hand. You cannot enforce your love if you don’t enforce justice.”
Three weeks prior to our interview, Goff made a trip to Iraq in order to tour the school that Restore International established. The other reason for the trip was to practice what he preached: loving extravagantly. “We went to the school because they [the students] were afraid, so I figured let’s go be afraid together.” Goff revealed that he is often criticized because the way Restore International works is not the most efficient or cost-effective. Once on this topic, Goff was visibly more energetic about defending himself against this accusation. Goff leaned forward in his chair and placed his hand on my arm while saying, “I don’t try to be the smartest guy in the room, I try to be the most loving. At Restore International we don’t love efficiently, we love extravagantly.”
Goff is an example of loving people extravagantly. On the last page of his book, “Love Does,” Goff lists his cell phone number. Yes, his actual cell phone number. During our interview Goff took a call from a reader in Oklahoma City who wanted to express his love for Goff’s book. Once he was off the phone, Goff explained that his goal is to never let anyone go to voicemail. I was visibly surprised and blurted out, “Never to voicemail?” with a tone of disbelief accompanied with reservations about this policy. Goff simply laughed, grabbed me by the shoulders and exclaimed, “That’s what I've been telling you! Love extravagantly, not efficiently.”
The importance of showing love to those around you is a perfect summation of what I learned from my interview with Goff. After our interview ended, Goff and I continued to talk. At one point, he scooted his chair closer with a look in his eye that foreshadowed a deep thought. With almost tangible emotion in Goff’s voice, he quietly said, “Don’t ask how your life is working for you. Ask how your life is working for those around you.”
The result of our last exchange of words had me leaving Restore International’s office with a quote that had implanted itself in my consciousness with earnest. Not all of us can begin our humanitarian efforts by raiding brothels and pressing charges, but we all can implement Goff’s infectious drive for spreading love. The most applicable lesson presented by Goff is simple and easily adaptable: love extravagantly.