The World Vision Artist Program is celebrating a great milestone: 1 million children sponsored over the past 25 years! We've asked a few of our artists to reflect on what it has meant to partner with World Vision in helping children have hope for the future.
Today, World Vision Artist speaker, author, Bible teacher, and singer Sheila Walsh writes about a recent trip to Ethiopia where she met one of her sponsored children and saw the bigger picture of what child sponsorship is all about.
* * *
I have always believed 100 percent in the work of World Vision. I’ve been passionately committed to what we were doing together through the Women of Faith platform, but I felt I was missing something, something that really mattered.
One trip and two families opened my eyes and changed my vision forever.
The mandate to reach out in the name of Christ is crystal clear. Start in the book of Genesis and keep reading until you hit the maps, and it’s profoundly apparent that God’s heart is with the poor, the broken, and those who suffer simply because of where their lives are located on a map. While some of us have been born into more than plenty through no merit of our own, others open their eyes every day to desperate poverty and disease. It’s impossible to read God’s Word, take it to heart, and not be compelled to address this heartbreaking inequity. But how?
World Vision has always given a tangible way to care. They have taken the overwhelming statistics of the millions who struggle and broken it down into child-sized pieces. That made sense to me and to the thousands of women across the country who have wanted to do something but didn’t know how until they heard about child sponsorship.
It’s a gift you can wrap your heart around: “I can’t change the world, but I can change the world for one child.”
But sometimes that child turns around and changes you.
I have taken several trips with World Vision and each time been impacted by what I’ve seen. I’ve celebrated by water wells that provide clean, safe water. I’ve sat at desks in schoolrooms where children, who used to gather in a filthy hut, now have chairs and books and pencils. But it was the trip to Ethiopia last year that gave me a bigger picture of the heart and purposes of God.
For the first time, I took my then 15-year-old son Christian with me. As a family, we sponsor two boys in Ethiopia, and on this trip we’d get to meet one of the boys, Awellu. Christian was excited and had filled his backpack with gifts for the children we’d meet, but he had one bag just for Awellu. In it he had a soccer ball, paper airplanes, school supplies, and candy.
Awellu was understandably a little shy at first, but once a soccer ball was introduced into the picture, he and Christian embraced the universal language of boys. I laughed at the piggyback rides and the races, but it was the final moments of our time together that shaped me. The boys were tired out, so my husband Barry, Christian, and I sat down on a bench with Awellu and his dad. Two families, separated by miles and circumstances, with one weighty thing in common: a desire for our children to fulfill their God-given destiny.
Awellu’s father took my hand and said, “I pray for you all each night. Thank you for praying for my family.”
It was as if God pulled back a curtain for a moment and showed me that there is far more at stake here than simply food, clean water, and medicine, essential though those things are. This is about boys and girls all over the world rising up to be the men and women that God has created them to be. That is the prayer of every parent who loves God. In that moment I saw that what we do together is eternal. Every child is worth fighting for so that they can run the race Christ has set for them and change this world!
* * *
Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh is a multi-talented author and Bible teacher (with more than 4 million books sold), Grammy-nominated singer, wife to Barry, and mom to Christian. Prior to joining Women of Faith, Sheila co-hosted television's The 700 Club and her own talk show Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh on the Family Channel (ABC Family).
There is more at stake than clean water, food, or healthcare alone. World Vision’s holistic approach to community development aims to address the root causes of poverty and empower boys and girls to become the men and women God created them to be. Join us in changing a child’s life for good. Consider sponsoring a child like Awellu in Ethiopia today!