Defenders of childhood

Defenders of childhood | World Vision Blog

Cheerful children at a World Vision Child-Friendly Space in Bangladesh. (©2013 Plaban Ganguly/World Vision)

Often, it takes a community of supporters to lift another community out of poverty. That’s why World Vision’s Child Ambassadors are so powerful: They build a community of passionate advocates who together have the power to make a difference in the world!

Read about Stu and Celeste Sherman from Connecticut, who are working to build a community of child sponsors to help change a community and defend childhood in Bangladesh.

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Some topics are hard to hear about. They are hard to talk about.

At the World Vision Child Ambassador National Conference this past September, we learned about child sex trafficking. It was disgusting to learn how pimps prey on the insecurity and vulnerability of girls and boys. They are so calculated and so evil.

But we believe that this is why we have been called to be Child Ambassadors: to present the world as it is to people within our own community and show them how they can help change how the story ends for a child. We talk with them about how children who are sponsored have options that give them hope for their futures.

Two weeks ago, we were asked to speak about World Vision at a small, rural church about an hour away. We were given five minutes during the service and an entire hour during the Sunday school class that followed.

For part of the longer presentation, we wanted two teenagers to read the true stories of girls who had been trafficked and rescued. When we arrived at the church and saw that there was only one teen girl present, we prayed about who else might read. During the earlier church service, we had distributed Rich Stearns' book, Unfinished. So when we saw a woman carrying the book into the class, we decided to ask her. The woman reluctantly accepted.

Her eyes filled with tears as she read in first-person the story of Juli, a 17-year-old girl in Bangladesh:

A woman came who was one of my distant aunts. She lured me with assurance of taking up a well-paid job in Mumbai and providing me a luxurious life. I could remember I was only 14 at that time. They said that sex trading is a good job to earn money. But I strongly refused my mistress’ proposal and wanted to return home. Bristi, my mistress, started to abuse me physically and stopped giving me any food to eat, and this compelled me to engage in the profession. I was forced to go to them (clients) while shedding my tears silently as nobody was there to hear my piteous cry. My mom didn’t know what to do to get me back.

Juli managed to escape and was eventually connected with World Vision staff who helped her return home. They provided her with invaluable counseling, job training, and economic support.

We attempted to help the group understand what it would be like to be parents under those circumstances. How would YOU, as a mom or dad, respond if YOUR child was abducted? Wouldn’t you scream from the mountaintop and call everyone that you know to help you? And isn’t that how God feels about every boy and girl? God is calling us. He says to us: “THESE are MY CHILDREN.”

Words came out of our mouths that we didn’t plan to say, but it’s amazing what happens when you speak from the heart and ask God to use your words. As we stood there, we could see the Holy Spirit working. We saw people responding emotionally to the stories of these girls.

We wrapped up our presentation and invited the small group of 25 people to our sponsorship table. One woman came over with two of her four children and looked over the pictures of children waiting to be sponsored. She took a few of the pictures back to her own table where her husband and children sat. Minutes later, they returned to our table and handed us four pictures of children and a check.

We looked at her and said, “Four?”

“Yes,” the woman replied, “one for each of my children.” They had chosen three girls and one boy, all from Bangladesh. Before us stood a family who had responded to God’s call. They responded to God, saying: These are my children. Won’t you help me protect and defend their childhood?

That day, in one small body of believers, six children were sponsored. These new sponsors have become a community that now has a bond to children and families within another community across the waters in Bangladesh.

We desire to have hearts like John the Baptist: “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Our dream is to look into the eyes of everyone we speak to about child sponsorship and see the potential joy they will experience from sponsoring children. Our prayer for ourselves is to share and reflect God’s heart so that their hearts might also be broken for children they choose to sponsor.

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Stu and Celeste Sherman have been World Vision child sponsors since they were first married 36 years ago and have been serving together as volunteer Child Ambassadors since 2006. “It has strengthened our marriage so much to be together in this — to be working on something bigger than ourselves,” they told us. The Shermans have two grown daughters and live in Bristol, Connecticut, with their faithful (Labrador) friend, Swanson.

Currently, our national volunteer team of Child Ambassadors is on a mission to DEFEND CHILDHOOD. They are learning about child trafficking, sex slavery, early marriage, and child labor, which are prevalent in certain areas of the world. But there is hope to be shared through child sponsorship, which literally helps to rewrite the futures of these children!

If you feel a tug to be more involved, consider becoming a Child Ambassador today.


Join Stu and Celeste in making a difference for children in Bangladesh! Sponsor a child in Bangladesh today.

    Comments

    Thank you to Stu and Celeste for talking about this difficult topic, for sponsoring children for 36 years AND for serving as Child Ambassadors! What a positive impact you've made on so many children and their families!

    It was a delight meeting the three of you at Conference...and what an inspiration!! 36 years of dedication...amazing!

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