I'm often seeking beautiful stories of child sponsorship, because I know so many exist out there. When I find one, I eagerly await the author's permission to republish their words on our blog so it can be shared with so many more. Brynn's post -- which came highly recommended from a World Vision sponsor, who I'm blessed to call a friend -- eloquently captures the beauty of child sponsorship and why it's really a gift to every person it touches. Merry Christmas! —Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor, World Vision Blog
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This is my most favorite gift that we are giving this year.
Even more than the tablets we are giving the kids, but that might just be because I'm frustrated with trying to set them up and figure out why they won't connect to our wifi. Seriously, Apple has spoiled me because all of their stuff just works and works easily, but with a 10- and 12-year-old, there was no way that we were going to buy them iPads because they are 10 and 12, which means their gifts have to be indestructible or at least not cause their father to cry if they break them.
...And on that point, can I just say I miss the days when you got the kids presents that you spent four hours putting together instead of electronic gifts that require massive hours and Google to set up?
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 am usually a stickler on no-Christmas-stuff-until-Thanksgiving-is-done rule. I want to experience one holiday at a time -- mixing pilgrims with Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree is just too much for me!
But, this year, I caved.
In November, I opened up my mailbox to find a new VeggieTales DVD -- a Christmas Veggie Tales movie, "The Little Drummer Boy." I couldn't tell my kids to wait several weeks before we watched it, right? Right?! We had to sit down immediately and see what Bob and Larry were up to!
And I'm so glad we did.
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?
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.
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.
Not too long ago, I received the kindest of emails from Marina, the famed Energizer Bunnies' Mommy from the Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports blog. Marina shared with me an idea she and another blogger had about using their social media influence to inspire readers to make Christmas meaningful for more than just their own children this year.
This guest post from Marina (and this week's series on Marina's and Angie's blogs) is a result of their desire to "give" Christmas to those less fortunate in this country and around the world this holiday season. Thank you, Marina and Angie!
—Lindsey, World Vision Blog
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Christmas is less than 50 days away. What’s on your child’s wish list?
A LeapPad Explorer? Let's Rock Elmo? A Fijit Friend? Oh, yes, the hottest toys of the season!
A treat for any child! Or is it?
Do you know what’s on these children’s wish list this Christmas?
In July, Deana Calhoun, a World Vision Child Ambassador, visited her sponsored child in the Dominican Republic, where she saw World Vision Micro at work. She blogged about her experiences, which we're sharing below.
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Today, we journey to the Palmera area development program (ADP). It is located in northern Santo Domingo. In order to get to the ADP office, we drive through what is called “the Misery Belt.” It is an area along the river and outskirts of town, where the poorest of the poor live.
We leave the main office and walk a few blocks away to the technical school. There is an art and music building nearby, which we’ll hopefully visit later, but for now, we will see the place where they teach woodworking, upholstery, sewing, hairstyling, baking, and jewelry-making.
I thread the glass beads between my tired fingers in my left hand. My right hand holds the pen to paper.
I scratch out prayers in the quiet morning over coffee.
God and I meet best in the early hours, my mind needing awakening and my bones still heavy from sleep. I suppose He’d meet me anytime, but I’m most sincere in the morning.
I’ve never done well with prayer. It’s always been a hurdle to jump, my brick wall in the marathon of faith. Putting me in a group of people who speak whispered prayers makes me uneasy, and I clam up tight and choose to be quiet.
If I speak my prayers, my language changes. I don’t sound like me, I feel weird in my skin.
So, I take to paper. Journal upon journal upon journal…lines filled with etched-in ink, aching cries, soaring gratitude, questions and more questions. It’s a history of my hemming-in, Him drawing near, yet letting me run. The journals remind me of His own pen and ink, writing out the grand stories of life and lives.
From now through September 30, you can enter for a chance to win a trip to Peru with World Vision to see our work firsthand. It's as simple as finding new sponsors for just five children.
But we know very well that asking friends, family, or colleagues to sponsor a child isn't easy. In fact, it can be difficult -- even intimidating. That's why we asked Elizabeth Esther, World Vision Bolivia blogger, for her tips as an experienced writer and child sponsorship advocate. Our Facebook fans had lots of tips to offer, too.
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When I first started asking my readers to sponsor a child, I was apprehensive. I wasn't sure how people would respond.
“Can I have a snack?”
“I’m so hungry mom. Is it dinnertime yet?”
“I’m starving – what can I eat? No, I don’t want that. Do you have ____?”
So much of my day revolves around my children ruled by their bellies. They eat three meals and a snack. The youngest, with his medical condition that requires additional calories, eats two snacks and, if given the chance, would graze all day long.
They fill the air with misery if I dare suggest not eating right that instant. And the days I’m caught empty-handed when they decide they’re hungry? The wailing and gnashing of teeth makes me want to rip my hair out, don sackcloth and ashes, and carry a banner touting “Meanest mom alive.”
When I returned from visiting Bolivia, I could no longer smile indulgently at our obsession with food. After seeing true poverty, and meeting people so poor they could only eat two meals a day (no snacks!), I realized that none of us have any idea what being hungry really means.
(Editor's note: In an international campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, World Vision offices around the world are coming together to tolerate #faminenomore. Will you join us?)
Why help? Why raise awareness? What could I possibly do to make an impact for the 12.4 million affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?
[From the photo above] When the maize crop failed yet again this year, Hadija Hassan Abdi, 28, took her children and hitched rides for 8 days and nights until she reached the safety of Burtinle camp in Somalia. Along the way she begged for food for her children from strangers. She has been in the camp only 4 days, just long enough to construct a tiny stick hut covered in cloth scraps. There is nothing on the floor and no cooking utensils. She and eldest daughter, Nurto, 10 (on right, wearing orange scarf) are able to earn a little by hauling garbage away for families in nearby Burtinle city. But mostly she still survives primarily by begging. I wonder how we'd react if she came to us for help?
This story from Jon Warren, World Vision photographer in Somalia, really struck me. If Hadija and Nurto were begging right outside my door, what would I do? I live in Seattle, where I see people begging a lot -- sometimes I respond by giving and sometimes I don't. Hadija and Nurto aren't outside my door, but I can't ignore their story, their need. They are as real as the people needing help right in front of me.
12.4 million people are affected by hunger, fighting for their lives -- that's a big problem to wrap our minds around. But I know this... together, we can make an impact. So what could you possibly do to help those in crisis in the Horn of Africa? Start here.
LIVE THE LIFE OF A FAMINE-VICTIM FOR 30 HOURS. The millions suffering in the Horn of Africa are part of the some 900 million hungry people worldwide. The 30 Hour Famine gives your group a chance to do something about it. Read about the Famine team's recent experience in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps.
TEXT. Get those texting thumbs ready... Text "FAMINE" to "20222" to text in your $10 donation to fight hunger and famine in the Horn of Africa
I saw this tweet from Rachel Held Evans yesterday morning: “Been back from Bolivia for a week now, and I'm just now unpacking. Anyone else out there an unpacker-slacker?" I'm the worst kind of unpacker... I let the task of unpacking intimidate me in a really silly way.
I also think there's something sort of nostalgic about an unpacked suitcase -- it brings back memories of where you've just returned from. In this case, it brings back bittersweet memories of the seven days I spent in Bolivia with some of the most insightful and endearing people I'll ever know -- Elizabeth, Andrea, Joy, Nish, Matthew, Carla, Rachel, Amy, Michael, Jana and Deb -- and all of the moments we experienced together. Moments that have changed our hearts forever.
Now, each time I look at the photos, read the blog posts, or trip over my unpacked suitcase in the morning, every moment and every child’s face floods back into my memory and fills my heart with more love and joy than I sometimes know how to process. Those are the moments I never, ever want to forget.
Home for one week and still unpacking our bags, these are our unforgettable moments from our time in Bolivia. We hope pieces of our experiences bless you as they've blessed us.
Elizabeth Esther, ElizabethEsther.com
Meeting the special needs kids in Colomi ADP touched my heart in such a deep way. The parents’ unflagging dedication in spite of insurmountable odds truly inspired me to be a better parent myself. It was amazing to see the value World Vision places on each individual child—especially those with special needs. It was a great honor to join this trip. Thank you, World Vision.
Andrea Rodriguez, trip host, communications officer at the World Vision Bolivia National Office
The moment Arturo, a child at the Colomi special needs center, got his hearing device, his eyes became like the Sora Sora lake with the sunset – bright and beautiful – a moment I’ll never forget.
I did 26 hours of travel on two hours of sleep. I don’t recommend this. My body and mind feel sundered–torn apart. This afternoon I started shaking. I’m so tired–physically, emotionally, mentally–that my body started freaking out on me without sending a warning note first. And Mariela’s face haunts my emotions:
[caption id="attachment_7329" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Mariela poured confetti on my head--the traditional Bolivian form of blessing and rejoicing"][/caption]
I met Mariela at the special-needs center in Colomi. Her uncle, in the words of Mariela’s mother, “es muy malo.” Very bad–meaning, his special needs are severe, overwhelming for a family already entrenched in deep poverty. Mariela wouldn’t let go of me. She held my hand, asked me to draw pictures for her, kissed my cheek repeatedly. Mariela has no father. Her mother is a single parent, recently returned from Argentina where she tried to find work. Mariela was too skinny for her age. But she knew how to love. She caressed my hand and stared into my eyes.