Here at World Vision, we deal with some heavy issues — famine, AIDS, human trafficking, war, natural disasters, abject poverty — the sort of topics that might easily have one reaching for anti-depressants.
But there are a lot of fun jobs, too. One of mine is writing about donors who have found wonderful ways to raise money to support World Vision and help cure some of the world’s greatest ills.
Here are some of my favorites of 2011.
1. Reversing the curse — Jeremy Freeman
Many people in Chicago remember when William Sianis and his pet goat were refused admission to Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series. William stood outside the stadium, shouting that the Cubs would never win again — an incident that became known as the Curse of the Billy Goat. The Cubs subsequently lost and have not won a World Series in 103 years.
Rather than despair, Cubs fan Jeremy Freeman started a “Reverse the Curse” campaign. It’s designed to make amends by promoting a higher regard for the animals, and, at the same time, raising money for World Vision to supply goats to families living in poverty in the developing world. Goats provide nutritious milk and cheese, as well as extra income.
Jeremy laughs when conceding that the curse is not yet reversed but maintains doing good is always a positive thing.
2. Star Wars nerd — Mark Hall
The lead singer of multi-platinum band Casting Crowns, Mark Hall, is also a self-confessed “Star Wars” nerd. Mark had an office filled with Star Wars statues, autographed helmets, storm trooper paintings, Emperor Palpatine’s throne, and a desk featuring Han Solo frozen in “carbonite.”
But Mark always knew that they would not hang on to the collection forever. He sold most of it at a Star Wars fans convention in Florida and donated more than $21,000 in proceeds to World Vision development programs in Rwanda.
3. Moving pictures — Nancy Conant
Despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, Nancy took up painting to satisfy a lifelong ambition to become an artist.
Later, she joined a study group reading The Hole in Our Gospel — a book by Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., that challenges Christians to respond to the plight of the poor. Although her ability to respond might have seemed limited, she came to the conclusion that everyone is responsible for doing what he or she can.
She was inspired by the cover of the summer 2009 issue of World Vision Magazine, featuring Ekidor, a Kenyan girl who struggles every day to get enough food to eat. Nancy decided to paint Ekidor and auction the painting to raise money for World Vision. The painting raised $2,000.
4. Mountain man — Ryan Melcher
When Ryan Melcher saw the documentary “Invisible Children” a few years ago, he was shaken to learn of Ugandan children forced to become soldiers and sex slaves for a rebel army.
At the time, personal setbacks had caused Ryan to reach the lowest point in his life, but he concluded that his problems were trifling compared to those of children in conflict and sexual slavery.
Ryan decided to climb a mountain on every inhabited continent to raise money and awareness for programs to help children of war and human trafficking. His first conquest? Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
5. Blessed biker — “Doc Holliday”
This donor prefers to remain anonymous. I only know him as “Doc Holliday,” a retired doctor from upstate New York. Holliday spent three years building a custom motorcycle, whose design and paintwork depicts the life of Jesus. Its many features include a headlight ensconced in barbed wire; a genuine 2,000-year-old widow’s mite; a Roman spearhead; and 30 pieces of silver fused into the gas tank.
Holliday felt the Lord directing him that the bike should be raffled and the money used in part to support World Vision and also to advance the cause of the gospel in the biker community.
6. Visibly shaken — Stephanie White
When Stephanie White was just 15, she visited the red-light district of a troubled Mexican border town as part of a church mission trip. Among the many shocks was to see girls even younger than Stephanie selling their bodies. The shacks they operated from had open windows, where prospective clients could view what was going on inside. Memories of the town, Matamoros, have haunted Stephanie ever since.
She decided to run 365 miles over the course of the summer to raise money for World Vision programs to help sexually exploited girls — each mile representing one day in a year of suffering for an exploited girl.
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Inspired? I certainly have been. If you’ve got a fascinating fundraising idea, please drop me a line. Who knows? I might have the privilege of writing about you this year.