From heartbreak to joy

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

As a World Vision employee, I’ve grown quite familiar with the poignant prayer that our founder, Dr. Bob Pierce, scrawled in the margins of his Bible many years ago.

But on a busy afternoon last fall, as I sat at my desk in the World Vision U.S. headquarters, my heart was far from broken.

It was elated.

Surrounded by my coworkers, a giant bouquet of balloons, and even a photographer, I had received the surprise of a lifetime: My name had been selected in a drawing for a trip to see sponsorship in action! I had earned entries by recruiting friends and family members to become sponsors, and would soon be traveling to the nation of Ecuador to get an up-close look at World Vision’s work in the field.

After months of preparation, I set out for my big adventure just two weeks ago. Sitting aboard my flight to Ecuador's capital city of Quito, my mind couldn’t help but return to that moment of excitement at my desk.

That’s when the guilt hit me like a ton of bricks.

As a World Vision employee and sponsor, I’m no stranger to the heartbreaking poverty that so much of the world faces on a daily basis. I was preparing myself to come face-to-face with this despondence and suffering that I just knew would be present in the communities we were scheduled to visit.

Don’t get me wrong -- I was certainly grateful for such a meaningful opportunity. But the fact that I had felt so thrilled about the trip…well, it just didn’t seem right. Surely, these places would be somber and troubled. Places where I should feel pensive and solemn -- certainly not excited.

Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Katrina visits a group of students at a primary school in Ecuador.

Each project we visited was full of energy and vibrancy -- a pure joy that was completely intoxicating and contagious.

I spent time with families who had been given the tools necessary to start their own businesses. I played with children who were healthy, happy, and loved. I visited with young people who had used their free time to start a savings program that provides loans for fellow community members. I toured schools where students were learning, thriving, and growing.

Again, my thoughts returned to that day at my desk, and the adrenaline rush I experienced upon learning I would be coming to such a special place. It was a moment of pure happiness.

But that happiness couldn’t even hold a candle to the joy I witnessed and took part in during my trip to Ecuador.

Joy and happiness -- what’s the difference, you ask? In my own life, I’ve found that all too often, happiness is dependent on my circumstances. It hinges on external factors -- and, more often than not, can be fleeting.

But joy? Joy is a force to be reckoned with. Joy is powerful. Joy is not easily shaken.

Joy comes from within.

Community after community, family after family, child after child -- one scripture verse was so clearly demonstrated through the people of Ecuador.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Truly, nothing is better than witnessing the sheer joy that comes from people who have been empowered to follow their dreams and reach their full potential.

Sponsorship works. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and am forever changed because of it. I cannot begin to express how fortunate I feel, not only to work for World Vision, but to partner with them as I sponsor two children.

Two children I decided to sponsor out of heartbreak.

Two children I will continue to sponsor out of joy -- a joy that multiplies the more it is shared. A joy that empowers those who once felt forgotten and invisible. A joy that transforms hearts, lives, and communities around the world. A joy that comes from the Lord.

I traveled to Ecuador, expecting my heart to be broken -- yet I left with a heart that was rejoicing.

Rejoicing in the things that please the heart of God.

Read "Confessions of a Child Sponsorship Skeptic," a World Vision magazine article by Rachel Held Evans, who traveled to Bolivia with World Vision on our blogger trip last August and witnessed firsthand the impacts of our sponsorship programs.

Sponsor a child in Ecuador or another country of your choice. Your love and support will help provide a child in need with tangible benefits -- such as nutritious food, clean water, education, and healthcare -- as well as the intangible blessings of joy and hope, which the sponsor can experience just as profoundly as the child does.


    Mr. Sterns,

    You continue to inspire anyone lucky enough to follow your work. Your book, "The Hole in the Gosple" changed my life forever. I run a non-profit, and embarassingly thought I was doing a pretty good job with serving in my life. But your book helped me realize I hadn't scratched the surface. Thank you for sharing and for all you do. Heaven is smiling at you!
    Dee Dee Neil

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