The best 11 articles of 2011

With 2012 arriving this weekend, there is much to reflect on from the past 365 days -- lessons learned, feats accomplished, and regrets, if any. And, of course, there are those daunting new year resolutions about getting fit, giving more, and making commitments to everything from the gym to church to relationships.

When you think of it like that, the week of the new year can be somewhat emotionally overwhelming. Goal-setting a year in advance is a difficult and cumbersome process on it's own.

So why not hang out in 2011 just a wee bit longer? The year is not over yet!

These are our 11 best (and by "best," we mean most read and most liked) blog articles from 2011 to help you revisit the year that's almost behind us.

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1. Japan quake and tsunami updates + video: The event that literally rocked Japan, took over the media, and had us all asking "what now." The 8.9-magnitude quake and tsunami resulted in a massive humanitarian response involving about 120,000 emergency service personnel. Read also: Skype interview with World Vision relief worker in Japan

2. The mystery of suffering: A before-and-after photo story: In July, the UN declared the first famine of the 21st century in two regions of southern Somalia in the Horn of Africa. The number of people affected by drought in this region escalated from 7 million in March to over 13 million by mid-2011. Photojournalist Jon Warren traveled to Somalia in September to capture the reality of life there. He returned with several haunting photos and a story of the mystery of God's work.

3. Bringing death in Africa to life in America [LINK UP]: World Vision Bolivia blogger Joy Bennett shares the one thing her family is giving up to help those suffering in the Horn of Africa as part of World Vision's global campaign to tolerate famine no more and raise awareness about the famine and drought. Plus, 40 more bloggers join her by blogging their "one thing."

4. But then came Sunday…: An Easter reflection from Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., including his visit to the Holy Land. "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..."

5. Anatomy of a 100-mile race: In October, more than 1,000 runners crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon, suited up in orange with Team World Vision jerseys -- all to bring clean water to children in Africa. Four fanatic Team World Vision runners started their own race at 4:35 p.m. the day before to run 74 miles before the start of the official race for a total of 100 miles, raising awareness for the the issues close to World Vision's heart.

6. True Christmas spirit | Blog 1 of the 12 blogs of Christmas: Over 60 bloggers link up to celebrate the holiday season by inspiring their readers and ours to remember the "true spirit of Christmas." Bloggers include Matthew Paul Turner, Jeff Goins, Alise Wright, Christian Piatt, Chad Estes, and Jessica Turner.

7. Confessions of a sponsorship skeptic: Rachel Held Evans was one of seven bloggers who traveled to Bolivia to witness the impact of child sponsorship firsthand. Once skeptical of the child sponsorship model, she blogs about what she saw, how World Vision sponsorship works, and why the most radical change she experienced on the trip was that her view of child sponsorship was turned on its head.

8. [Photo blog] The other side of being a child — through the lens of sponsored children: When 70 sponsored children from three World Vision area development programs in Mexico were given some basic photography training and a camera, they seized the chance to tell their community’s story through their own lens. Their assignment: show the other side of being a child: not poor, not indigenous, but a happy child.

9. An aid worker’s answers about the Horn of Africa: How do you ensure that what is written on paper is what happens on the ground? How far does the money go when I contribute to the Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund? What does $100 buy, and how many people are helped? Asking the tough questions about international development work is a key first step in better understanding the world of humanitarian and emergency aid. That's why we sought your questions -- and why our subject matter experts shared their knowledge with us, in an effort to help everyone better understand the complexities of aid work.

10. When disaster strikes home: When World Vision's Nathan Looney was visiting his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, tornadoes spun through the U.S. South. Towns just 30 minutes from Birmingham were completely devastated. Nathan reflects on rewriting someone else's story. (Read also "Still in the blessing business" by World Vision communicator Laura Reinhardt, on the aftermath of tornado devastation.)

11. 11 memorable photos from 2011: Thousands of photos are taken each year around the globe where World Vision programs help reach the most vulnerable. These 11 photos reflect the stories, the struggles, and the events that have changed people’s lives forever this year -- from earthquakes to famine, from hardship to triumph, from despair to hope.

Also, check out the top 10 articles of 2011 from ACT:S, World Vision's college activism network.

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