Tag Archives: True Spirit of Christmas Trip 2011

An open letter to our generous donors

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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Goats, scones, and life-changing gifts

On day 11 of the 2011 True Spirit of Christmas Trip, our team introduced you to Joyce, who's life has been changed thanks to the gift of goats from the World Vision Gift Catalog. The goats provide Joyce with milk and a means for extra income that she sometimes uses to purchase ingredients to make scones from her own recipe.

We shared Joyce's special scone recipe straight from her kitchen with World Vision supporters on Facebook after our trip host, Kirsten Stearns, did some midday baking with Joyce calling her scones "among the best she has ever tasted." Back in the United States, a long way from Joyce's kitchen in Zambia, Kirsten's sister-in-law Sarah and her church group agree the scones are quite delicious.

The real Christmas story | Blog 7 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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?

Compassion | Blog 6 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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.

Everything you want?

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?

The gift of subversion | Blog 5 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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.

Giving back | Blog 4 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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.

What I don't want for Christmas | Blog 3 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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

What only God can do | Blog 2 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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."]What only God can do | World Vision Blog[/caption]

True Christmas spirit | Blog 1 of the 12 blogs of Christmas

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.

DAY 4: How to milk a cow [VIDEO]

You voted to have Kirsten milk Chooti the cow... and so today, she did! And it went a little something like this....

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“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.

Wars, floods and the gift of chickens (2011 True Spirit of Christmas)

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].”

A different kind of Cyber Monday

I dread holiday shopping.

It’s difficult enough to figure out just the perfect gift for each and every loved one on your holiday list. But if you add in the hassle of navigating crowded shopping malls, long lines, and busy parking lots, I know I’m destined for an instant stress headache before I even walk through the store’s doors.

No wonder so many of us have resorted to ditching traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and have opted for virtual shopping. And it’s no wonder this Cyber Monday could exceed $1 billion for the second year in a row.

I’ll admit -- I’ve given and received my fair share of Christmas sweaters. There is a stack in my closet, and I have no clue who gave them to me. Although they keep me warm, is it too idealistic to think I can actually give a gift that’s just a bit more impactful, or even potentially life-changing?