In late February, some 4,000 people from across the Unites States descended upon the “City of Roses” for two days. They didn’t travel hundreds or thousands of miles for a major sporting event or to see some famous music band.
In late February, some 4,000 people from across the Unites States descended upon the “City of Roses” for two days. They didn’t travel hundreds or thousands of miles for a major sporting event or to see some famous music band.
"Sacrifice" is a funny little word. It conjures up images of pain, hurt, and unfinished to-do lists. This word especially takes on a warped meaning when combined with the word “Lent.”
Growing up, Lent was always a little bit of a joke. We teased each other for the excuses we all made for giving into the things we had given up.
My Grandma always had the best excuse. She said that Lent is technically only 40 days if you exclude Sundays, and that on Sunday, she could “break the rules.” I’m almost positive she somehow found biblical support for this, and I wasn’t going to argue if it meant my Sabbath was filled with Thin Mints.
That’s how sacrifice is most of the time, though, isn’t it?
Counting your blessings this week for Thanksgiving? We are, too. Blessings #1 and #2: The people we serve and those who serve with us, and the many faithful donors and supporters of World Vision's work around the world. Thank you.
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I was in the Dominican Republic last year with World Vision.
On our last day there, the World Vision staff in Santo Domingo threw us a "goodbye" party. At some point during the festivities, I was asked to say a few words and then pray.
I don't remember what I said exactly, but I remember what happened after I finished. As I handed the microphone back to the sound guy, a woman grabbed my hand. And when my other hand was free, she grabbed it, too, and cupped them inside hers.
When she had my complete attention, the woman began talking. I couldn't understand what she was saying as she spoke in Spanish. I thought about stopping her so I could look around for somebody to translate her words, but so much was happening around us -- talking, laughing, shouting, music, and dancing -- that I felt compelled to keep my eyes on her, listen closely, and experience what she was saying.
When I met Grace Kapila Shilimbwa in rural Zambia, I had no idea about the story behind the owner of the premier guesthouse in the area. Standing by the recently added feature, a swimming pool, I was deeply curious to find out a little more about Grace’s background and journey.
Grace lost her husband in 1996. “My husband was providing for the family, and I was merely supplementing his efforts, but now, things were different; I had to provide all that was needed.”
After making several attempts to start a business, Grace sought help from a World Vision microfinance institution called HARMOS. With their counsel, she decided to reposition herself and pursue her dream of starting her own restaurant and lodge. This was despite her disability resulting from a stroke she suffered soon after her husband of 20 years had died.
The pain of her loss and the financial stress had taken their toll on her body -- but not her vision.
With a loan from HARMOS, she was able to roof her first structure. With the help of her children, Grace had literally molded bricks and provided the bulk of the labor. But that was just the beginning.
I'm excited to welcome Mark Hall -- the lead singer and songwriter for Casting Crowns, a long-time World Vision artist -- to the World Vision Blog. When I received this post from Mark, the source of the passion in his songwriting became immediately obvious. They're words of experience and depth from his heart. Thanks, Mark, for guest-blogging today and for giving us a peek into Casting Crowns' newest album. Don't forget to order the pre-sale of the album online at FamilyChristian.com.
—Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor, World Vision Blog
When we went to adopt Hope and bring her home with us from China, she didn’t want me to hold her. I was told that usually when the orphaned children there see white men, they sometimes think they are doctors coming to do surgery on them.
It wasn't until seven days after we were back home that I told my wife Melanie, "I’m just going to go pick her up, and sooner or later, she’ll be too exhausted to cry anymore." We were at the zoo at the time. I picked her up, but she wasn’t going to have it. She screamed for the next 30 minutes.
Later that night, I was lying awake in bed, staring at the fan, having a conversation with God about this. It took us three years to be able to adopt Hope. Our family began the adoption process before she was born, with all its red tape and expense, the testing and interviews and waiting -- lots of waiting.
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.
It was 48 years ago this week that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of his most famous speeches on the Mall in Washington D.C. His declaration, “I have a dream” remains one of the most stirring addresses in American history as well as a prophetic discourse opposing injustice and the continued oppression of grandchildren and great grandchildren of slaves.
If Dr. King were to deliver his address again this year, I’m sure he would continue to see the need to speak out against the injustices that continue to oppress many black and other minority communities in the U.S. But I believe that Dr. King might also speak out against the injustices, oppression, and poverty that cause suffering in communities around the world, including the suffering caused by the drought and famine now occurring in East Africa.
In The Hole in Our Gospel, I pieced together a letter that God might write to the church today. In remembrance of Dr. King’s magnificent speech, I’ve taken the liberty to imagine how Dr. King might dream again today and challenge the church to “preach good news to the poor.”
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.
Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were on a different planet in a different part of the universe without any idea of how you got there. Imagine what you would feel and the questions that would rush into your mind.
Well, I have news for you – that exact thing has happened to every one of us. Sometime in the past 100 years, we were all born on the third planet from the sun in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, in a universe that is incomprehensibly vast. We had no idea how we got here, all we know is that we were born into the middle of a story that started long before we arrived and will continue long after we are gone.
It’s our own mystery story -- one that began millions of years ago and one that will continue into the future.
God wasn't the first thing on my mind on Monday, the Fourth of July. Truthfully, the only credit I can give myself is that I was thanking God for the three-day weekend.
It's not far-fetched to say that most Americans likely think of Independence Day as more of an outdoor show than an obvious reason to thank and honor God.
That's why articles like Rich Stearns' in the Huffington Post are kind of a divine challenge for me -- a reminder that peace and freedom are reasons to thank God, and that with Independence there is struggle, but also hope.
May South Sudan's first Independence Day be that of the latter. And may Rich's article challenge you as it has me.
The following is an excerpt from Rich Stearns' "Celebrating Independence and Honoring God -- Half a World Away" in the Huffington Post:
Last Monday, July 4, I was holding David, my 5-month-old grandson, and savoring his facial expressions as we watched his father grilling hamburgers, celebrating his first Independence Day.
In a few years, he will begin learning about courageous individuals who fought an oppressive government whose armies incited unspeakable violence for more than a decade. But the death and destruction that resulted could not suppress the freedom fighters' undying faith in democracy over tyranny, freedom over injustice. Their perseverance and faith demonstrated why ballots are stronger than bullets.
Special thanks to Steve Hummer, Sunday sports feature writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for guest-blogging this post for us. Following the UGA sports blog's May 25 post and our May 31 post, Steve joined University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn, in Honduras to witness World Vision's work there.
World Vision? What’s that? An optician with delusions of grandeur? A new psychic helpline? A few months ago, I had no idea.
Then there came a curious off-season story from the most watched sports beat here at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: University of Georgia football. Bulldogs fans were all atwitter over a report that head coach Mark Richt had put his vacation lake home up for sale. That prompted wide speculation that after two disappointing seasons he was selling off as a hedge against the possibility of being fired this year.
It’s a long journey from the backyard barbecues and fireworks of our own Fourth of July festivities to the Republic of South Sudan, a new country that will be born in just days from today on July 9. I’m willing to bet, though, that our traditional summer celebration will seem downright routine compared to the life-changing nature of South Sudan’s first birthday.
At first glance, it may seem as though future citizens of South Sudan don't have much to be grateful for or much to celebrate. They will be receiving the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth -- a place beset by hunger, disease, and war. According to a 2007 government study (pdf), mothers in Southern Sudan are more likely to die in childbirth than anywhere else on earth. Another report indicated that more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.
So why do the Sudanese celebrate? Maybe they’re celebrating a fresh start. Maybe it’s that most South Sudanese long to write a new, unbloodied page in their history, to cultivate a renewed community and land for themselves and their children. Maybe it's the hope that, on this day, all the problems facing South Sudan will be put aside so that everyone can celebrate this moment to start a new future together. Frankly, that kind of hope leaves most of our Fourth of July celebrations in the shade.
Close your eyes and imagine this...
Imagine if our culture was taken to the -nth degree, to its logical end.
Maybe Lady Gaga is president. Maybe digital devices hang in front of our faces, precluding any unmediated communication. Maybe our nations war over water. Maybe norms about intimacy and privacy have melted. And maybe our speech has deteriorated into grunts, slang, and chuckles.
If North American culture keeps it up, we could be in big trouble.
Our culture is infatuated with stars like Justin Bieber, and our top TV show is even called "American Idol." We revel in Charlie Sheen “winning.” Our king is LeBron. Chatroulette and PostSecret spotlight our basest tendencies and hidden shames. College grades are inflated. Polar ice caps are melting. Our states are broke, and our nation is $14,421,378,214,947 in the red.
As consumers, we spend more than we make. Kids kill other kids. Yesterday, I heard the phrase “economic collapse” on the radio a few times. A friend of mine jokes that she’ll put her tent in our yard when it really hits the fan.
Three months ago on Saturday, a deadly earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan killed more than 14,700 people, leaving the country's northeastern coastline devastated. Our colleagues in Japan have spent the weeks and months following the disaster organizing and implementing a full response plan, supported by the World Vision global partnership.
As part of an international initiative to encourage quake survivors and those involved in relief efforts, children around the world who are supported by World Vision sponsors in Japan send their love and prayers. Children and sponsors in Japan's tsunami zone have since received drawings, cards, and origami art messages from sponsored children in El Salvador, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Kenya, China, and Ethiopia.
This post is a collection of those messages, gathered with the help of World Vision field communicators in each of the above countries.
To our colleagues and those affected by the disaster in Japan -- we continue to pray that God's comfort and provision would be with those who need it most, and that survivors will continue to heal physically and emotionally as they rebuild from the rubble.
It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!
The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”
The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.
Editor's note: This month is the five-year anniversary of the World Vision U.S. Caregiver Kits program -- an initiative that equips volunteers with kits containing simple items that assist in caring for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
To honor the outstanding difference this program has made in the lives of caregivers and their clients, we asked Miyon to describe how World Vision volunteer caregivers are an asset to their communities.
The thing I love most about Zambia is the people. Sure, the landscape is beautiful -- big open land dotted with crops and thatched roof huts, blue skies with fluffy clouds. The wildlife is fantastic -- lions, giraffes, leopards, hippos. But it’s the spirit of the people who call this poverty-ridden country home that has truly captured my heart.
This spirit is especially evident in the volunteer community caregivers whom I have the privilege of working with every day as part of a World Vision program. These men and women are living out Christ’s command to love their neighbor in very tangible ways. And they do it willingly and with joy.
They visit those who are HIV-positive and those dying of AIDS, using Caregiver Kits to clean sores. They care for orphaned children by providing parental counseling. They gather firewood and water, and they clean homes. They support grandmothers -- praying with them, helping with house chores and being a listening ear to women who are struggling to care for their grandchildren.
Editor's note: Celebrating Easter, including its preparation, is distinct to religious tradition and cultural custom. Candelaria, a World Vision community volunteer, and her daughters Martha and Mara describe how their family prepares and celebrates Easter according to Catholic tradition in Colombia. The following post was written by World Vision field communicators Ivon Curevo and Astrid Zacipa.
There is a Wednesday ever year in which Candelaria, 29, and her husband Carlos, 46, go with their daughters Marta, 11, and Mara, 7, to the nearest Catholic Church to receive from the priest the imposition of the "Cross of Ashes”.
"You are dust and to dust you shall become," says the priest, while drawing the symbol of the cross on their foreheads with ashes. This day is known as "Ash Wednesday” and marks the beginning of Lent -- forty days of preparation for Easter.
"Lent is the time to get together as a family, to feel at peace with God. It is a time to reflect on the positive as well as the negative aspects of our lives and to repent ourselves," says Candelaria.
Especially at Easter, Candelaria and her family abstain from eating meat, except fish, like many of those of Catholic faith. "From what my mom taught me, we do not eat meat [so as] not to desecrate the suffering of Jesus on the cross," says Candelaria.
Because it is Easter, Carlos saves money from his bricklaying work so Candelaria can prepare a special meal for the family on Thursday or Friday. "Mom prepares fish from the river, beet salad, rice with beans and fresh fruit for dessert," says Mara.
As learned from her grandmother and her mother, Candelaria has taught her daughters the Catholic traditions of the Holy Week. The first Sunday of Easter recalls the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover and was acclaimed by the people. That day the custom is to "take a bunch of palm to the church for the priest to bless it," says Mara.
Just a few weeks ago, I walked in those places where Jesus walked in the Holy Land. It dawned on me yet again that Jesus did almost everything differently than conventional wisdom would have dictated. I visited Capernaum and Galilee, where most of His three-year ministry took place -- a "hick town" ten days' journey from Jerusalem. Not the best location to start a movement that would change the world.
I also walked in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony that night -- and then on to Jerusalem, where He appeared before Caiaphas and Pilate, and where He was beaten and spit upon. Jesus was no conquering hero in the manner of Caesar or Alexander the Great. And then I followed His footsteps along the Via De la Rosa to Calvary, where He was brutally crucified. Not the best strategy to overthrow Rome and declare your new kingdom.
As a marketer, Jesus didn't seem to understand "ratings" and size of audience. As a political figure, Jesus had a penchant for telling people what they didn't want to hear -- take up your cross, lay down your life, the first will be last. And as a leader of the Jewish people itching to be freed from Rome's occupation and oppression, He commanded no army, brandished no weapons, and wielded no force.
Everything He stood for seemed to be lost that Good Friday afternoon as His disciples watched Him suffer and die. Peter denied Him, and the rest scattered. The lofty ideals had been crushed. The movement had failed. End of story.
But then came Easter Sunday...He is risen!
I sometimes feel the work World Vision does around the world is met by human suffering that never ends. Twenty-two thousand kids still die every day, 1 billion go to bed hungry, and more than a third of the planet lives on less than $2 a day.
Editor's note: In lieu of World Malaria Day (Monday, April 25th), the following post was written for us by our friends at RELEVANT Magazine.
Recently, the RELEVANT staff became aware of a problem.
If you watch the news (who does that anymore?), or follow the news feed on Facebook or check in online with the media outlet of your choice, you know the world is in trouble. Our world’s issues have created issues that have created more issues that could lead one to believe the world, in its current state, is not right. How does one respond when the world seems to be on fire?
Apathy is our worldview
Some have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this “world on fire” doesn’t affect their everyday life. They’ve embraced apathy as a worldview—it informs the way they spend their time, money and conversation. Others have chosen to respond by passionately standing up for a cause they feel called to. But how do you go about choosing what evil to war against when there is so much evil in the world?
The problem that caught our attention was the very problem we thought had gone away. Several decades ago our U.S. government decided to wage a war against the threat of malaria. Along with relocating people away from river beds and dangerous bodies of water that hosted deadly mosquitoes, we launched an all-out chemical assault on malaria with DDT. We attacked the disease at its origin. Since the threat has now been all but eliminated in the U.S., most of us have seen malaria as that virus you might get on a mission trip that, at its worst, is similar to a common cold and a few trips to the bathroom.
Truth be told, malaria isn’t on our radar anymore because it’s no longer a deadly threat to our culture. We’ve moved on to “bigger” problems—economic development, child mortality, education, health care, ending poverty, fighting global AIDS, etc. But the fact is, if you care about any of these issues, you have to solve the problem of malaria first
The numbers don’t lie
Nearly 1 million people die every year due to diseases that were caused by malaria—85 percent of them are children under the age of 5. If you care about solving other issues in the world, you have to pay attention to the fact that 30 percent of all school absenteeism on the entire continent of Africa is the result of malaria. It slows the economic and educational development of countries around the world by perpetuating the cycle of poverty and becomes exponentially more deadly when accompanied by AIDS and malnutrition.
How have we lived on this planet without knowing? Ignorance is killing more people right now than all the great wars described in our history books.
I had a fascinating discussion this week in New York. I was with my CEO counterparts from leading humanitarian aid organizations such as Save the Children, Mercy Corps, and Oxfam. We meet twice a year to discuss various issues related to aid. The topic of greatest concern to us this week is the cuts to the State Department and USAID budgets.
This is an important issue because it directly affects the amount of funding available to help children and families in the poorest and, often, most unstable regions of the world. But, as I’ll argue in a moment, this is about more than saving innocent lives—it’s also about preventing political unrest and violence.
First, a summary of what is being cut:
But the truly devastating news is that for 2012, the House is considering 40% cuts to the International Affairs Budget. This would be tragic. I know that times are tough right here in our own country, but these funds build schools, tackle hunger with agricultural programs, prevent AIDS and malaria, provide health services to pregnant women and children, and bring water to the thirsty. These programs demonstrate the compassionate values of the American people to the world.
The average American is confused about what the International Affairs Budget does. A January survey of Americans by the Program for Public Consultation indicates that most Americans believe that foreign aid accounts for 21% of the total U.S. budget. It's actually less than 1% and the humanitarian, poverty-focused money is less than one half of one percent! And it includes all of the State Department, all of our ambassadors and embassies and the lion's share of our programs to assist the poorest of the poor around the world.
I was greatly concerned several weeks ago by the results of a February survey of Americans regarding their budget priorities. Conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, the survey showed that Evangelical Christians listed help for the poor around the world as their number one priority for cutting from the federal budget. I was shocked because I know that these programs save the lives of literally millions of people each year.
Good development assistance has been proven to diminish violence and instability that lead to military action later. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was blunt about this in recent remarks to the United States Global Leadership Coalition, “Economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” Good development assistance also builds friendships and allies with foreign countries.