Stories

An ode to the toilet (PHOTO BLOG)

How many times have you used the toilet today? Judging by the fact that you are awake enough to be reading this blog, I’m assuming the answer is at least once, and probably more. (Maybe you are even reading this while on the toilet, which means you probably have the luxury of using a loo that is clean, private, and relatively comfortable).

For all of you who are fortunate enough to have a toilet in your life, I would like to wish you a happy World Toilet Day.

No, I’m not kidding -- Saturday is World Toilet Day. You mean you didn’t get the memo?

Granted, for those of us who are lucky enough to have an abundance of bathrooms in which to “do our business,” it might seem a bit silly to celebrate the toilet. Aren’t there bigger development problems to tackle? Bigger accomplishments to celebrate?

But I want you to think back to the last time you didn’t have a decent toilet when you needed one (maybe your last camping trip, that port-a-potty at the stadium, or that long stretch of road between rest stops). Toilets, or lack thereof, are no laughing matter. Are they?

The story the photos will never tell

Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words -- but as I sit here looking through photos from my recent trip to the Horn of Africa, I don’t think that’s true.

This picture is of Falima, a 25-year-old Somalian who recently entered the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. She is holding her son, Abdullah, while her 3-year-old daughter, Fauhuya, hides behind her.

The mystery of suffering: A before-and-after photo story

I’m often asked how I’ve been able to photograph human suffering for so much of my career and still maintain my sanity and belief in the goodness of God.

Suffering is a mystery. I’ve met many good, righteous, faithful people who have lives full of misery. My dear sister-in-law, Karen, passed away last week after years of battling cancer. She volunteered with orphans in Haiti and gave to people in need in India. She made sure her home was always open to visitors, both family and strangers, even during her illness. She was generous to a fault, wonderfully kind, encouraging, and selfless. Her life of service was lived to the glory of God. Yet she died painfully and young. Suffering is a mystery.

One thing I do know: In the midst of the worst of the worst situations, God is still there.

Operation Seasweep: A 32-year story of God's provision

Thirty-two years ago, World Vision reported the rescue story of Operation Seasweep, the boat Mr. Vinh Chung was on, in the August 1979 issue of World Vision Magazine. Mr. Chung recently retold his story at our headquarters office. I spoke with him afterward for a fuller picture of his life after Seasweep and the miracle of God's provision for his family.


Two very different parts of Vinh Chung’s life meet when he walks on a beach.

In an instant, the smell of sea salt takes the 36-year-old skin cancer surgeon back to his 1979 exodus from Vietnam.

Just four years old at the time, Vinh recalls fleeing the southern city of Ca Mau by boat from the Mekong River Delta toward the South China Sea with his parents and seven siblings.

The Chung family -- ethnically Chinese -- escaped the communist government’s persecution of ethnic minorities.

Once they reached the open ocean, Thai pirates stole their valuables. Their boat eventually made it to a Malaysian beach, but instead of offering asylum, soldiers held them at gunpoint and brutally beat Vinh’s father and uncle. Then they were towed back out to sea on a smaller boat with no working motor or fuel. They were left to die.

What does famine teach us?

The thing that has moved me the most about the current famine in the Horn of Africa is learning of the women and children who have been robbed and assaulted as they have fled Somalia.

Their plight reminds me of a boy called Maror Bol. He was about 13 years old when I met him in Sudan. Maror was in similar dire straits and was also robbed. He also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.

In 1998, bad weather and factional fighting had provoked a famine in Southern Sudan. Maror had walked about 50 miles to reach a World Vision feeding center for malnourished children -- located at a rough camp in the middle of nowhere. I spoke to Maror as he joined a line to register for assistance. He explained that his brother had kicked him out, saying there was not enough food to go around. So he took a long walk across Sudan’s parched landscape to see if he could get assistance.

When I saw him, he had not eaten for days and was naked. He is the only person I have ever met who had absolutely nothing.

Bolivia in 100 words

Before you read this, let me just say that 100 words does not do this post justice. Just 100 words will barely begin to describe the beauty of Bolivia and the warmth of its people. Just 100 words isn't enough.

But please, please take these 100 words to heart. Understand they represent a fraction of a deeper story we're desperate to tell -- a story about survival and faith, sacrifice and family, difference and commonality. I hope these 100 words paint for you a picture as vivid as the memories in our minds, and as resilient as the love in our hearts.

This list was created out of the words from and expressions of the families and individuals we met, those who translated for us all week, and our own feelings. It is a combination of words that describe Bolivia -- the country, the people, the experience, the food, the faces, and the moments we'll never forget.

Love,

The Bolivia bloggers team


100. Breath-taking

99. Colorful

98. Rich (in love and family). I asked one of our translators before we left if Bolivians considered their country poor or in poverty. She said to me, "Well, that depends on what you mean by the word poverty. Bolivia is rich in culture, love and family. By those measures, we are not poor at all." Amen.

The 'salt' in a modern-day Jericho

For five days, we listened as the women of the Congo shared with us the unspeakable horrors they had experienced -- personal stories of abduction, rape, and mayhem at the hands of men who use violence against women as a weapon of war.

But harder still for me to hear were their accounts of a second round of abuse at the hands of those from whom they should have expected comfort and compassion -- parents who rejected their own daughters after they had been impregnated in violent attacks by local militias; in-laws who laid claim to land and possessions from widows forced to watch as their husbands were killed in front of them. More than a decade of fear and devastation has ripped apart the very fabric of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Interns with a [world] vision

As we get ready to send off our amazing summer interns -- some back to school, some onto start their careers, but all to wherever God leads them -- we want to say THANK YOU for the help you've given us this summer, and the impact you've had on the lives of children around the world. As our president Rich Stearns has said so many times this summer, "You are world-changers and we only wish we could hire every one of you."

Special thanks to Chris Clouzet, World Vision intern with the web content team, who compiled and edited this edition of "what working at World Vision means to me"... but with a twist -- what interning at World Vision means to me from four summer interns.


I wanted to be a blacksmith’s apprentice this summer, but it just seemed so "Middle Ages." Fortunately, a friend introduced me to World Vision’s internship program, and I was accepted. So, while I don’t get to make swords, I get to help with tasks like updating statistics and editing stories for the website -- and know I’m a part of helping children in need. For me, that means a lot.

Four days old: Many hopes, many challenges in new South Sudan

Chants of “Republic of South Sudan Oyee” will forever be etched in the minds of many South Sudanese as they reminisce over their independence -- today, only four days old.

An overflowing crowd of people, both young and old, showed up at the John Garang Memorial to mark the historic event on July 9. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese endured the blistering sun, all along energized, as they erupted into song and dance when the country became the world’s 193rd country and Africa’s 54th.

I saw men and women faint as the declaration was made. Others openly broke into tears as the new flag was hoisted.

Fullness of life: A new father's story

Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, Pato Isquierdo, a communications officer in Ecuador (pictured above with his wife, Karly, and son, Matias), shares with us how becoming a new father has changed his perspective and lent new meaning to his work with World Vision.

The bus was already entering Quito, Ecuador, at 9 p.m. I was fully loaded with cameras, a laptop, and back pain.

But it was OK -- I was finally arriving home. It was my first trip to a World Vision development community since I became a father. I just needed to get home and rest for the next day.

But while riding the bus home, I found a whole new level of understanding of the depth of a part of World Vision's mission statement: “life in all its fullness.”

Yes, I know that this is our goal with everything we do at work. But what about "fullness of life" for my own son? Then, it all made sense! Everything I've learned during my time with World Vision had a new angle.

Through our lens: 5 videos worth watching

Two weeks before Christmas, I was sitting on a small wooden bench, filming an interview with a brother and sister. They had been left to take care of their family after their parents died. World Vision had sent staff members to their home to check on them regularly and to care for the family's needs.

After sharing their story, the sister looked at us and said, “If someone loses a parent, they are still human beings. We should help them with their needs.”

Our small team of three tried to hold back our tears as the brother and sister broke down in front of the camera.

Now, the work begins

Editor's note: The World Vision family is comprised of thousands of staff members from various personal, professional, and spiritual backgrounds -- each of whom has a unique story of being led to our ministry. To highlight this diversity, we're starting a monthly series in which a different World Vision staff person will share "what working at World Vision means to me."

Growing up as one of the only Asian Americans in my predominately white neighborhood, I was often on the receiving end of racial slurs.

This left me angry and confused. I often felt misplaced.

In college, I began to ask questions about my family’s past. I hoped to find something that would explain all the childhood teasing and bullying.

In this search I discovered Malcolm X, a civil rights activist who found himself in being a voice for the voiceless. I believed that I, too, could express my family’s American experience and be heard.

Representing the marginalized and the oppressed became my call; writing and photography became my tools.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had a wide variety of seemingly random editorial jobs. I always wondered how it would come together in a focused way.

When my wife and I decided to move to Seattle to be closer to family, I applied to work at World Vision on a whim earlier this year, as other options were not working out.

'The Hole In Our Gospel' inspires football coach to sell his home

My email inbox is notorious for housing second-hand articles from my colleagues about new technology, philanthropy, trends in new media, or nonprofit stories -- my typical work-related interests. But last week, several work friends sent me the UGA Sports Blog article, "Mark Richt sells Lake Hartwell property."

When I first started reading it, I was thinking that my colleagues who sent me this must think I'm an avid Georgia sports fan, even though I went to college in California, and have never even visited Georgia (nor do I keep up with college football). My short attention span had just about given up on the article when I read this paragraph about half way down:

“Within the last year, I read this book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” written by Richard Stearns. He’s the president of World Vision U.S. I think people understand who World Vision is but, basically, they help the poor. Through their organization, you can help children, you can help build wells, you can buy them donkeys, whatever people need. World Vision helps people across the world. Well, anyway, there was a lot of statistical data in there about the amount of people that live on a dollar a day around this world. Billions of people. So I’m reading this book and it really affected me. It helped me realize that what we have is way more than we need and that our ability to give is hindered by this property. I guess that’s the best way to tell you. We just wanted to be in a better position to give and bless people that don’t have anything. We felt like this was one way to be able to do that.”

You are remembered

Editor's note: This Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifices made by men and women in the military -- as well as others whose service and sacrifice is equally worthy of recognition, even if it wasn't done in military uniform.

There’s a movement in some quarters to expand the roster of those honored on Memorial Day beyond the veterans of formally declared wars. My uncle returned from World War II a decorated bomber pilot for 24 completed missions, and my father, his younger brother, came back shell-shocked and on the brink of ruin.

But for me, it takes nothing away from their sacrifices to honor others this day who suffered and/or died to make a better world, even if they didn’t do it in uniform. Who would begrudge the victims in the Twin Towers a place among those being remembered today because they were civilians, or the Port Authority police officers and the firefighters because their uniforms weren’t military?

A "mom" to walk beside me

At 24, I moved across the country by myself for a new job.

At the time, my parents, as empty-nesters, moved to London, making the distance between us much, much farther -- six time zones away.

Having recently graduated from college, with a big move and new job before me, I was asking myself the typical “20-something” questions: What did my faith mean? What was God’s plan for me? Would I ever get married?!

As a beginning step to discovering those answers for my life, I started volunteering with my new church’s youth group. One of the girls’ parents, Kay and Sandy, invited me over for dinner.

Through Kay and Sandy, I was given what seemed like the two greatest gifts at the time -- free dinners and unlimited listening.

Of course, I was homesick and missed my parents, particularly my mother, very much.

Then, when the man I thought I was going to marry broke up with me, Kay put on the full eight hours of the "Anne of Green Gables" movies and cried with me.

A tribute to World Vision's 'birth mother'

Editor's note: Lorraine Pierce, widow of World Vision founder Dr. Bob Pierce, died on April 4, 2011, after a brief illness. Mrs. Pierce was 94. It was by the vision and calling of Lorraine's late husband that World Vision was founded in 1950. Today, Dr. and Mrs. Pierce's vision and dream to help those around the world lives on.

It is a time of mourning and also of celebration as the World Vision family honors the life of Lorraine Pierce, the spiritual 'birth mother' of World Vision, as many would say. I echo the words of our president, Rich Stearns, “The choruses in heaven must be especially sweet as this great saint is welcomed home.”

[caption id="attachment_3556" align="alignright" width="243" caption="Jane Sutton-Redner with Lorraine Pierce. (Greg Schneider/WV/2004)"][/caption]

As I spent time this morning remembering the life of Lorraine Pierce, I recalled her gift to serve, her elegance, her wisdom and her godliness. These quotes, taken from interviews with Mrs. Pierce from 2000-2006, will forever remind me of her legacy of faithfulness.

On adjusting to a life of ministry with Bob Pierce:

“I never thought I would marry an evangelist. I don’t think that my husband expected to be an evangelist. We were going to have a church, and that seemed all right to me. But it didn’t turn out that way. When I realized that it was going to be evangelism, that we were going to have to be on the road, and it was a life that was absolutely opposed to what I expected for myself, then there had to be a change in me. It was not going to be in my husband. It had to be in me. And I knew it was worthwhile, and I knew it was necessary, but I was very, very fearful that I was in no way ready to do this job and this work along with him. So I knew well enough that it was necessary to die to self.”

On the early years of World Vision:

“God has given us through the years a daring that was there in the beginning. I think he gave to my husband a great portion of daring to trust God when there seemed to be no way, knowing that if he stepped out upon an empty void, he would certainly find a rock beneath his feet—and he did.”

[caption id="attachment_3551" align="alignright" width="247" caption="Family portrait- Bob Pierce, Lorraine Pierce and children, December 1965. (Photo courtesy of the Pierce family)"][/caption]

Are you an ‘ageist’?

Any of us would be horrified to be accused of being a racist — someone who has a hatred or intolerance of another race. But I actually think that many of us are ‘closet ageists’ — people who discriminate against persons of a certain age group — especially when it comes to children and youth.

Most often, the term ‘ageist’....

Football frenzy: A super (bowl) success

On Sunday, many of us will be tuning in to watch the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers compete in Super Bowl XLV. The Super Bowl is always one of the most-watched events of the year, and I’m looking forward to gathering with friends to watch the game — and the commercials. But when I watch the big game this weekend, my mind will...