Faith in Action

Giving up more than chocolate for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when Christians focus on Jesus’ sacrifice through prayer, fasting, and giving. World Vision's Katie Swift reflects on taking a "Life Audit" -- part of our Live Life campaign for youth and college students around the world.

National Day of Prayer: Pray to end the West Africa hunger crisis

Today is National Day of Prayer, a chance for Christians across the United States to come together around the belief that we serve a God who hears us when we pray.

Join us today in lifting up families affected by the food crisis in West Africa. Failed rains have led to poor harvests across the region, affecting as many as 15 million people in six countries -- Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, and Burkina Faso. Many families have exhausted their traditional means of coping and are cutting back on the number of meals they eat every day.

Without access to basic nutrition, growing children may suffer developmental issues that can last a lifetime. Your prayers for these families already affected by poverty are urgently needed.

Give yourselves fully

I always enjoy Easter for its atmosphere of wonderful, joyous celebration.

While Christmas might be described as special, Easter is triumphant. We celebrate the astounding miracle of a man, the Son of God, risen from the grave. But like a parade after any victory, Easter’s celebration is more than the festivity following an unexpected triumph.

We also celebrate what Jesus’ victory over death has freed us to do: to work for the kingdom of God.

What's "good" about Good Friday?

Visualize this: It’s 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. A crowd of Roman soldiers and community members gather around three crosses. You see Jesus, bloodied to a pulp, crucified. You smell impending death and hear a mixture of cheers, jeers, and sobbing.

All you want to do is run away so you can curl up in your own bed, desperate for any ounce of comfort and familiarity. But you don’t. Paralyzed, you stand and stare and hear and smell and feel.

So, what’s good about Good Friday?

Why my Grandma may be wrong: Living a life of sacrifice

"Sacrifice" is a funny little word. It conjures up images of pain, hurt, and unfinished to-do lists. This word especially takes on a warped meaning when combined with the word “Lent.”

Growing up, Lent was always a little bit of a joke. We teased each other for the excuses we all made for giving into the things we had given up.

My Grandma always had the best excuse. She said that Lent is technically only 40 days if you exclude Sundays, and that on Sunday, she could “break the rules.” I’m almost positive she somehow found biblical support for this, and I wasn’t going to argue if it meant my Sabbath was filled with Thin Mints.

That’s how sacrifice is most of the time, though, isn’t it?

"Be a person who is love"

Have you ever met someone who just radiates the love, light, and peace of God?

Last month, while traveling in Swaziland, I had the privilege of meeting Nomsa, a World Vision volunteer AIDS caregiver. She is one of those people -- so full of the love of God that it can’t help but spill out to those around her.

This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share her story. Nomsa presented me with a new way of looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV): “Love is patient, love is kind…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

In a society that often equates the word "love" with romantic love, I had forgotten that this verse is talking about the way we should show love to everyone -- even the unlovely -- without condition, the way God loves us.

The power of one person's obedience

I am continually astounded by the power of individual people to make a difference.

After The Hole in Our Gospel was published, readers started sending me letters, telling me how God has used them to do remarkable things. Sometimes they took in foster children or became adoptive parents. Others changed careers or sold vacation property so they could be more useful to the kingdom of God. All of them are changing lives, spreading hope, and making the Gospel tangible to people in need.

The power of individuals to change the world has been a theme in our culture over the last year. It was a single person who launched what became the Arab Spring. Protesting corruption and inequality, a street vendor set himself on fire, galvanizing demonstrations that toppled the Tunisian regime, and setting off a protest movement across North Africa that continues even now.

Mission above mammon: Charting a course for success

As the president of World Vision U.S. and the former CEO of two for-profit corporations, I have spent all of my professional life trying to manage organizations to achieve success. Every organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, must have a successful financial model to succeed, but long-term success doesn’t come from just managing numbers. The most successful organizations are mission-driven.

In Christian organizations, this truth may be even more compelling.

At its core, this is the question of the means versus the ends. In a secular corporation, the goal is to create profits for the owners or shareholders; the means to that end might be selling automobiles, or books, or delivering a service like air travel or lodging. At the end of the day, the bottom line is profit.

But in a Christian business or non-profit, the role is reversed. The activity, selling books or providing a service, is the end; it’s the missional impact. Profits are simply a means to that end. We are called to put “mission above mammon.”

Is Jesus more than a "sprinkle" blessing?

I'm excited to welcome Mark Hall -- the lead singer and songwriter for Casting Crowns, a long-time World Vision artist -- to the World Vision Blog. When I received this post from Mark, the source of the passion in his songwriting became immediately obvious. They're words of experience and depth from his heart. Thanks, Mark, for guest-blogging today and for giving us a peek into Casting Crowns' newest album. Don't forget to order the pre-sale of the album online at FamilyChristian.com.
Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor, World Vision Blog


When we went to adopt Hope and bring her home with us from China, she didn’t want me to hold her. I was told that usually when the orphaned children there see white men, they sometimes think they are doctors coming to do surgery on them.

It wasn't until seven days after we were back home that I told my wife Melanie, "I’m just going to go pick her up, and sooner or later, she’ll be too exhausted to cry anymore." We were at the zoo at the time. I picked her up, but she wasn’t going to have it. She screamed for the next 30 minutes.

Later that night, I was lying awake in bed, staring at the fan, having a conversation with God about this. It took us three years to be able to adopt Hope. Our family began the adoption process before she was born, with all its red tape and expense, the testing and interviews and waiting -- lots of waiting.

But I do not despair

Close your eyes and imagine this...

Imagine if our culture was taken to the -nth degree, to its logical end.

Maybe Lady Gaga is president. Maybe digital devices hang in front of our faces, precluding any unmediated communication. Maybe our nations war over water. Maybe norms about intimacy and privacy have melted. And maybe our speech has deteriorated into grunts, slang, and chuckles.

If North American culture keeps it up, we could be in big trouble.

Our culture is infatuated with stars like Justin Bieber, and our top TV show is even called "American Idol." We revel in Charlie Sheen “winning.” Our king is LeBron. Chatroulette and PostSecret spotlight our basest tendencies and hidden shames. College grades are inflated. Polar ice caps are melting. Our states are broke, and our nation is $14,421,378,214,947 in the red.

As consumers, we spend more than we make. Kids kill other kids. Yesterday, I heard the phrase “economic collapse” on the radio a few times. A friend of mine jokes that she’ll put her tent in our yard when it really hits the fan.

'We refuse to be enemies'

It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!

The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”

The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.

Easter in Colombia

Editor's note: Celebrating Easter, including its preparation, is distinct to religious tradition and cultural custom. Candelaria, a World Vision community volunteer, and her daughters Martha and Mara describe how their family prepares and celebrates Easter according to Catholic tradition in Colombia. The following post was written by World Vision field communicators Ivon Curevo and Astrid Zacipa.

There is a Wednesday ever year in which Candelaria, 29, and her husband Carlos, 46, go with their daughters Marta, 11, and Mara, 7, to the nearest Catholic Church to receive from the priest the imposition of the "Cross of Ashes”.

"You are dust and to dust you shall become," says the priest, while drawing the symbol of the cross on their foreheads with ashes. This day is known as "Ash Wednesday” and marks the beginning of Lent -- forty days of preparation for Easter.

"Lent is the time to get together as a family, to feel at peace with God. It is a time to reflect on the positive as well as the negative aspects of our lives and to repent ourselves," says Candelaria.

[caption id="attachment_4130" align="alignright" width="246" caption="Candelaria with her daughters Martha and Mara outside their home in Colombia. (Zacipa & Cuervo/WV)"][/caption]

Especially at Easter, Candelaria and her family abstain from eating meat, except fish, like many of those of Catholic faith. "From what my mom taught me, we do not eat meat [so as] not to desecrate the suffering of Jesus on the cross," says Candelaria.

Because it is Easter, Carlos saves money from his bricklaying work so Candelaria can prepare a special meal for the family on Thursday or Friday. "Mom prepares fish from the river, beet salad, rice with beans and fresh fruit for dessert," says Mara.

As learned from her grandmother and her mother, Candelaria has taught her daughters the Catholic traditions of the Holy Week. The first Sunday of Easter recalls the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover and was acclaimed by the people. That day the custom is to "take a bunch of palm to the church for the priest to bless it," says Mara.

But then came Sunday...

Just a few weeks ago, I walked in those places where Jesus walked in the Holy Land. It dawned on me yet again that Jesus did almost everything differently than conventional wisdom would have dictated. I visited Capernaum and Galilee, where most of His three-year ministry took place -- a "hick town" ten days' journey from Jerusalem. Not the best location to start a movement that would change the world.

I also walked in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony that night -- and then on to Jerusalem, where He appeared before Caiaphas and Pilate, and where He was beaten and spit upon. Jesus was no conquering hero in the manner of Caesar or Alexander the Great. And then I followed His footsteps along the Via De la Rosa to Calvary, where He was brutally crucified. Not the best strategy to overthrow Rome and declare your new kingdom.

As a marketer, Jesus didn't seem to understand "ratings" and size of audience. As a political figure, Jesus had a penchant for telling people what they didn't want to hear -- take up your cross, lay down your life, the first will be last. And as a leader of the Jewish people itching to be freed from Rome's occupation and oppression, He commanded no army, brandished no weapons, and wielded no force.

Everything He stood for seemed to be lost that Good Friday afternoon as His disciples watched Him suffer and die. Peter denied Him, and the rest scattered. The lofty ideals had been crushed. The movement had failed. End of story.

But then came Easter Sunday...He is risen!

I sometimes feel the work World Vision does around the world is met by human suffering that never ends. Twenty-two thousand kids still die every day, 1 billion go to bed hungry, and more than a third of the planet lives on less than $2 a day.

Lent 2011: A Franciscan blessing

As today, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of the season of Lent, may this Franciscan blessing encourage and prepare you for a meaningful and blessed Lent Experience.

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships...

Celebrating 20 years with 30 Hour Famine

The 30 Hour Famine began in the 1970s when World Vision New Zealand and World Vision Australia sought ways to engage youth on global issues. World Vision U.S. adopted the Famine in 1992 through partnerships with churches, youth groups, and students who desired to fight global hunger. Some 20 years later....