In December, World Vision's Kirsten Stearns traveled with our True Spirit of Christmas Trip to Sri Lanka and Zambia to see firsthand how gifts from the Gift Catalog are helping to change the lives of children and families in need. Here, she shares an open letter with our donors, reflecting on how your generosity has helped make stories like these possible.
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While I will never forget any of the people I met during the 2011 True Spirit of Christmas trip, there are two who really stand out in my memory.
I wrote about these women during my trip, but I want to make sure that each of you understands the amazing impact of your gifts. I am still wrapping my head around it. The impact is beyond your wildest dreams. I am almost jumping with excitement just writing this -- YOU are heroes.
Kirsten Stearns visits with Chooti the cow in Sri Lanka.
Irangani was at the end of her rope when World Vision came into her community in Sri Lanka and she was given a cow through the Gift Catalog and World Vision’s livestock program. As her husband said, Chooti the cow marked the beginning of a new life for them all.
Irangani asked us why we would leave our comfort to experience her pain and her joy. Deepthi, a local World Vision staff member in Sri Lanka, said simply, “We do this because our God is love.”
While Irangani practices another religion, she agreed that our God is indeed love. She also shared that she experiences this through World Vision’s local staff and through the gift of Chooti the cow, given by a donor whom she will never know.
Irangani and thousands of other families who received gifts because of your generosity have now experienced that our God is love because of your faith in action.
You know the saying "put yourself in her shoes’? Well, in Zambia, I couldn’t do it. When we met Joyce and heard her story, I could not put myself in her shoes. I could not imagine her circumstances; that, or I was afraid to let my mind imagine something so dark.
Despite her profoundly sad story of stigma and rejection, Joyce can still smile while telling it.
We learned that, several years ago, Joyce’s husband died of AIDS. Joyce moved back home to live with her mother. When her mother found out that Joyce also had HIV, she disowned her. She kicked Joyce and her three young children out of her home, leaving them homeless in rural Zambia. Joyce was sick; her children were too young to fend for themselves and she was too weak to protect them.
As Joyce is sharing this unimaginable story, she is smiling. I can’t help but wonder if the translator missing something. How is she smiling?
And then she says it. Joyce says something that even today makes me consider the depths of my faith: She knew God was with her throughout it all. She knew He was protecting her and her children. She had faith.
Joyce breaks into laughter and says, "I just didn’t expect his response to be in the form of goats! They are wonderful!"
Your gift just might have been the answer to a prayer of a woman in desperate need. Your gift will bring laughter and light to a situation we cannot comprehend.