In honor of Valentine's Day, World Vision's Jonathan Lo reflects on our mandate as Christians to love others the way God loves us.
In honor of Valentine's Day, World Vision's Jonathan Lo reflects on our mandate as Christians to love others the way God loves us.
Love is in the air this week as millions prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day. There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to spoil your loved ones; we all do it occasionally.
At the same time, we wanted to ask the question: How much money do Americans spend each year on Valentine's Day -- and what impact could that amount make in fighting global poverty?
This isn't meant to induce guilt; instead, consider it a source of encouragement as to how effectively you can make a difference with the resources you have!
I am continually astounded by the power of individual people to make a difference.
After The Hole in Our Gospel was published, readers started sending me letters, telling me how God has used them to do remarkable things. Sometimes they took in foster children or became adoptive parents. Others changed careers or sold vacation property so they could be more useful to the kingdom of God. All of them are changing lives, spreading hope, and making the Gospel tangible to people in need.
The power of individuals to change the world has been a theme in our culture over the last year. It was a single person who launched what became the Arab Spring. Protesting corruption and inequality, a street vendor set himself on fire, galvanizing demonstrations that toppled the Tunisian regime, and setting off a protest movement across North Africa that continues even now.
What do Christmas celebrations look like in other parts of the world? In some places, World Vision throws big Christmas parties where disadvantaged children can enjoy the festivities and even receive presents. In other places, children participate in traditional celebrations that might look quite different than our American Christmas.
The follow post was written by Narine Ohanyan, World Vision field communicator in Armenia.
* * *
Do you believe in miracles?
For a mother in Armenia, something miraculous is happening at Christmas.
“I love the ornaments and the lights. I love to stare at them,” says 4-year-old Narek Qotanjyan.
Coming from a child in the United States, this statement wouldn’t be so surprising. However, Narek lives in Armenia with a disability.
Although I wrote this last year, I feel it deserves a repeat-performance. I visited this family again recently and brought their daughter Lilly an actual malaria net, like those World Vision uses in Africa because I know the compassion she feels for those affected by malaria, an experience from a previous visit with her folks. She's a busy 7-year-old now and couldn't remember the entire incident, so I promised to find what I'd written last year and send it to her. Re-reading it blessed me and I hope it blesses you, too.
* * *
This year, we all agreed to forgo the typical presents for our adult extended family members and instead choose gifts from the World Vision Gift Catalog. We'd given some similar "gifts" previously, but this year there was a special abandon to it -- a desire to really make these "thoughtful" gifts for each receiver, a criteria very close to my wife Janet's heart.
I love to give gifts.
Love. LOve. LOVe. LOVE to give gifts.
It started as a little girl when I would go shopping at the Dollar Store for my family for Christmas.
Then, when I got my first job, I began shopping year-round, seeking the best deals and the perfect gifts for everyone on my list.
15 years later, I still shop year-round. I usually finish shopping in early November and want to start wrapping right away.
I am THAT excited to give the gifts I have purchased.
My favorite part of the classic holiday storybook "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is near the very end when the Grinch is baffled by the Who's singing after he has stolen their presents and roast beast.
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!"
Every year at Christmas I wrestle with a more mentality. As a naturally selfish human being I always want more.
I’m always a little bit hesitant to talk love languages, because I have the most selfish-sounding of them all. Because my primary love language is gifts. Which basically boils down to, “If you want to show me that you love me, give me stuff.” It’s kind of embarrassing.
Of course, it means that Christmas has a special place in my heart. Sure, there’s the peppermint mocha coffee goo that I put in my morning joe, the plates of Christmas cookies that are passed around at family gatherings, the unending stream of Christmas music in my car, the rehearsals for church services. These are all wonderful parts of the Christmas experience, and I look forward to them every year.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and the holiday season gift-buying is in full swing. Black Friday specials have the shoppers out in droves. Downtown Portland is a sea of moving people with packages, shopping lists, and agendas. Me, I’m armed with my Nikon camera, hoping to capture some artistic street photos.
I stand on a street corner for a half hour or so, just getting a feel for the people walking from store to store. I notice that some of the downtown citizens remain outside the retail giants’ doors. There is an older gentleman attempting to hand out copies of his religion’s periodical. There are street performers and musicians demonstrating their talents in hopes that the holiday revelers would donate a bill or two in the spirit of the season. The young man standing next to me has a stack of pirated CD’s and is trying to get a passerby to listen to his iPod long enough to decide to buy a track or two.
Then, there are the homeless. Like in every city, they have cardboard signs about their most immediate needs. When I spotted Cecil, I immediately liked his face. I semi-hid behind one of the large pillars in front of a department store so I could raise my camera without drawing too much attention. It didn’t work. Cecil looked directly at me as I released the shutter.
Back before the days of flip cameras and high-definition video cameras, my parents recorded some of our early Christmases on tape. Well, I don’t even know what they used to record it, but they made a cassette tape for me with the recorded memories. Yes. I am old.
Anyway, on one particular Christmas, my parents had gotten 2-year-old me what they assumed would be the hit of the year -- my very own play kitchen. The tape documents me coming down the stairs Christmas morning and discovering all the gifts Santa had left behind.
I grew up in a Christian family, where I understood the true meaning of Christmas from a very young age. I heard the Christmas story so many times, I became almost numb to it. The Wisemen, shepherds, angels, and stable animals were all supporting actors in a play that I had seen too many times, and, at times, felt I couldn't sit through again. After all, there were presents waiting to be unwrapped and hot cocoa waiting to be sipped.
I am thankful my parents didn't indulge my childish impatience, and that they consistently took time to explore the spirit behind Christmas with my siblings and me. It's more than just a season that happens every year and brings sweets and gifts. The first Christmas was an earth-altering, destiny-changing day. Those there to witness it must have been in awe of what was happening.
This year, my family is looking more closely at the Nativity story (found in Luke 2 and Matthew 2). We want to explore what it must have been like to be the various people inside that story. What did each of them think and feel? Did they know that they were witnessing the most important historical event that would ever take place?
For years, I never understood Christmas. Admittedly, I was a bit of a Scrooge. It just seemed like the whole thing was a farce.
Every made-for-TV movie I watched between Thanksgiving and New Year’s preached the same gospel: “It’s not about presents.” But then, every Christmas morning, I was inundated with presents. It didn’t make sense. Someone was lying.
My parents, and probably yours, would conclude every December 25th with the same nervous question: “So… did you get everything you wanted?”
Are you kidding me? Everything I wanted? Is this what we want to teach our children about life? That you can get everything you want?
I have a friend who likes Thursdays more than Fridays. He also is a bigger fan of Christmas Eve than he is Christmas Day. Kinda weird, right? But his reasoning is that the anticipation of good things is usually better than the realization of that goodness. But it actually makes strange sense when you think about it.
I remember more than one birthday or Christmas morning when I’d get this lingering sense of depression when I realized that all of the excitement of waiting was over. While my cousins and friends tended to be package rippers, I drew it out as long as possible, hoping in a way that the good feelings would go on indefinitely.
For me, the true spirit of Christmas is about taking the time and space to reflect on God’s love for us – a love so great that He would come to live among us. Emmanuel . . . GOD WITH US. It’s a profound and comforting notion.
This Christmas, we will be reflecting on the blessings God has given us. It’s impossible not to consider our journey, as Christmases past were such difficult markers of the long wait to complete our son’s adoption. And yet, in those times, God was still with us.
We anticipate a joyous Christmas this year. Our family is complete, our lives are full of blessings. Still, the memory of difficult holidays is fresh.
In today's world, Twitter, Skype, and email have become the most common means of communication. So an old-fashioned handwritten note is particularly endearing. When I received Joy's submission for our 12 blogs of Christmas project, I was pleasantly surprised that it was crafted on a yellow note pad, in neat cursive, purposefully handwritten. And, as I would expect from Joy, straight from her heart. -Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor for the WV blog
Years of being blessed with a low checking account balance forced me to rethink my approach to Christmas. Those were not easy years as I tried to tell myself that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, while fearing that my family would consider me cheap or inconsiderate.
A budget gift is a budget gift.
In a happy case of irony, my focus on gift-giving led me back to a better conception of Christmas.
If art thrives on limitation, gift-giving followed suit. If I only had $10 to spend on each person, I had to ask very different questions for gift-giving, the most important being: “What would this person never buy for himself/herself?”
This led to a series of time-consuming projects, such as homemade applesauce, unique jams, hot sauce, and framed photographs. Everything was tailored to the specific needs of each person, and in most cases, kept us within our budget.
[caption id="attachment_10609" align="alignright" width="270" caption="Ed's homemade applesauce."][/caption]
Starting today, World Vision bloggers are linking up to spread the true spirit of Christmas. Our 12 blogs of Christmas represent the creativity, love, joy, hope, memories, and family holiday traditions that keep us connected to the true reason for the season.
You voted to have Kirsten milk Chooti the cow... and so today, she did! And it went a little something like this....
* * *
“Our journey began…”
This is how the DD Karunaratne, the father, described the impact of Chooti the cow on his family. When they received the cow, their journey began.
For the first time, they did not worry about their future. They had money to focus on health and education, and they had nutritious milk for their children. As he and his wife, Irangani, spoke with me, it was almost like the cow brought with her an entirely new life for the family.
DD Karunaratne is frequently ill. Before World Vision assisted them, they could not afford visits to the doctor, and so Irangani had to work because her husband couldn’t. The work available in their region is intense day labor, for which women are not first chosen.
Not only was it hard for a woman to find a job, but it was hard work and long hours. Despite her work, money was scarce.
Yesterday, November 28, marked the start of World Vision's 2011 True Spirit of Christmas trip -- a three-week quest to discover the true meaning of the season and to witness just how Gift Catalog donations impact children and families around the world. This post was written by Kirsten Stearns, host for this year's trip, on day 1 from the community of Horowpothana in Sri Lanka. Stay up to date with our team on the World Vision Facebook page and website.
Although my time in Sri Lanka has been brief so far, I have learned a lot and am excited to spend more time with the community in the coming days.
Our Sri Lanka trip is based in the community of Horowpothana in the northern part of the country. This community is just coming out of 30 years of war, which ended in 2009 but was followed by one of the worst floods in the area on record. Despite all of this hardship, World Vision staff are working to help local community members lift themselves out of this terrible poverty cycle, fueled by years of war and natural disaster.
As the World Vision director in Horowpothana said, “Now people are looking forward and thinking about the future [not just about safety].”
World Vision Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
All donations are tax deductible in full or in part.
© 2014 World Vision, Inc. All rights reserved.
In 2014, 85 percent of World Vision's total operating expenses were used for programs that benefit children, families, and communities in need. Learn more >
Every dollar donated becomes $1.28 in impact to children and communities worldwide. How?