Small Things

August 30, 2013

Peace Walk in Rwanda

August 28, 2013

Song of Solomon 4:7

August 23, 2013

Spiritual Dominos

by Rich Stearns  |  August 22, 2013

How to live as a domino
​It’s easy to think our lives are too messed up to have a greater purpose. Here’s why that’s wrong.
Last year an unlikely character from Minnesota who called himself the Kinetic King caught America’s imagination for a few weeks with his astonishing chain-reaction gadgets. The Kinetic King used the old falling-dominoes paradigm, but his creations were dominoes on steroids that wowed the audience with collapsing towers, “stick bombs,” and flying Ping-Pong balls. As I watched these incredible chain reactions unfold, I realized the Kinetic King’s creations illustrate an important spiritual truth: A sweeping and profound series of events can begin with the fall of a single domino.

Most of the stories in the Bible illustrate the incredible impact of ordinary people willing to be used by God, setting off a chain reaction that would later have profound significance.

When Joshua was preparing to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, he sent spies into Jericho to bring back a report; the spies were protected by a prostitute named Rahab. This seemingly unsavory woman was willing to risk her life for the Israelites because she sensed that God was with them and doing a powerful thing.

One domino fell.

When Joshua conquered Jericho, he saved Rahab and her entire family out of gratitude. They were allowed to live among the Israelites from then on. A lowly prostitute had been used by God to conquer the Promised Land for the Israelites. Pretty amazing, but that was not the end of the chain reaction that Rahab set off. In fact, she would become part of the lineage of David, Israel’s greatest king. And one thousand years after David’s reign, his line—the line of Rahab and Ruth and Boaz—produced a man named Joseph, “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:16). Wow!

The spiritual truth here is significant. I doubt Rahab considered herself a significant or successful person. She was likely driven to prostitution because she was poor and had no other means of support.

In the eyes of most, maybe even herself, she was a nobody. But God saw her differently. He chose to use her in the unfolding of his great story of rescue and redemption. The Author of the big story had written Rahab into the plot, and she had been willing to play the role.

Most of us today are a lot like Rahab. We are ordinary people struggling to live what may feel to us like ordinary lives. It is hard for us to see how our lives can make any difference at all in God’s great kingdom vision to restore and redeem his creation and rescue his children. And because we doubt that anything we might do could be significant, we can easily miss our appointments with destiny in the story of God.

Paul touches on this in I Corinthians 12, where he uses the metaphor of a body to describe the roles of church members. All are indispensable, and each has a role to play. Paul’s body metaphor also reminds us of an important truth: God has placed us just where we should be and given each of us the role he wants us to fill.

In this sense, there is no such thing as a loser who has been dealt a bad hand of cards—someone whose life is just too messed up for God to use.

Hear this: God doesn’t make any losers. Jesus came to turn losers into winners. He can and does breathe life into hopeless situations. You are a child of the King, a unique one-of-a-kind miracle, and you were created to play a critical role in the big story of God. And God really intends to use us to change the world. We need only to lay down our lives in his service.

Bailey UMC

by Kari Costanza   |  August 21, 2013

“It’s been hard since he’s been gone,” says Virginia, who is working part-time. “Just getting the bills paid and just making ends meet. Making sure that the kids have what they need.”

Eight-year-old Becky Williams worries about the future. She asks her mother: “Who’s going to take care of me if something happens to you?” Virginia does her best to comfort her two daughters, but she has her own fears. This little family of three (big sister Kelly is 17) has been devastated by the loss of husband and father, Terry, who died of a recurrence of colon cancer. 
Since Terry’s death, Virginia has sometimes gone hungry to make sure that her daughters never have to know that feeling. 
“It’s been hard since he’s been gone,” says Virginia, who is working part-time. “Just getting the bills paid and just making ends meet. Making sure that the kids have what they need.” She says the girls’ biggest needs right now are for clothes especially warm, winter clothing. 
Sue Moore is one of three members of Bailey United Methodist Church who spearhead an outreach program through the local elementary school. The church realized that many children at this school, like Virginia’s kids, who were on the free or reduced lunch program, often had to go hungry or eat very little food over the weekend. They decided they would fill that gap. But they needed something in which to pack the weekend supplies. That’s when Sue called World Vision for help getting backpacks to help serve the school. Becky is one of the recipients of the backpack food program supported by Bethany United Methodist Church. 
“It’s been a tremendous load off my shoulders,” says Virginia. “It’s been a blessing.”

What Love Can Do

by Kari Costanza   |  August 20, 2013

The greatest thing about my job as a reporter for World Vision is knowing that when I find a story of need, something good is bound to happen. That’s because World Vision donors are among the most compassionate people I’ve ever known. When they read stories in the magazine, they respond with giving and prayer. When they read stories on the website, they write in, asking how they can help. When I see those notes of encouragement or hear about donations, often made sacrificially, I am heartened. 
So, imagine how I felt when I took a group of World Vision partners on a vision trip to Ethiopia to learn about the critical need for clean water in that country—and watched donor compassion in action.
I traveled with a wonderful group of donors, including Mark and Tricia Ratley. The couple began as Child Ambassadors for World Vision, and they are now helping to raise awareness through World Vision’s Campaign For Every Child (FEC). 
Mark and Tricia sponsor 163 children and co-chair the sector on water, hygiene, and sanitation (WASH) for the FEC campaign. They are passionate about sponsorship and clean water for all.
We sat together in Kuma’s hut with his wife and family. Kuma had lined the ground with eucalyptus, creating a beautiful scent. He told Mark, Tricia, and the rest of the donors his story—how he was going blind from trachoma and how he missed Chaltu, the daughter he’d lost to waterborne disease.
Kuma poured out his heart—from one father to a group of caring parents. It was too much for Mark Ratley. On the spot, he asked if he could sponsor Kuma’s oldest son, Teddy. And he implored World Vision to buy a water filter for the family. He couldn’t bear the idea that Kuma, with so much responsibility on his thin shoulders, might go blind.
Two days later, the water filter arrived. Mark and Tricia had left, but photographer Jon Warren and our translator and friend Tamiru Cheweka put it together. You can watch their efforts here. It’s a long video with lots of fits and starts as non-water engineers attempt to assemble a filter, but at the end Kuma shows how grateful he is to Mark and Tricia.
Another Mark on the trip, Mark Smith, who traveled with his wife Jennifer, began to raise funds to provide a water system for the entire village. Mark carried water to Kuma’s home, and the experience was life-changing for him. You can watch him carry the water here.

World Vision in Ethiopia had the plans—they just needed funding. Soon, Kuma and his neighbors will have clean water.
The trip to Ethiopia with the two Marks and their wives was extremely gratifying for me. I got to see what love can do. And I can only imagine the results of their love—a village free from waterborne diseases, children who are able to play and study instead of fetching water, and fathers like Kuma who can live free from fear now that clean water has arrived.
There are so many men like Kuma around the world, worrying daily for their children’s survival and waiting on a miracle. Churches and donors bring these miracles to bear. There is still much to be done in every corner of the world. But positive change is happening — one miracle at a time.
Bring hope to a community in need by providing a well.

WASH Infographic

August 19, 2013

Hurricane Shelters, Unity and Hope: A Visit to Santo Domingo

by Kara K. - counseling student at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology  |  August 17, 2013

​It was the final day of our quick, but meaningful visit to the Dominican Republic.  Every person we met and project we experienced up until this point had been welcoming and impressive, but nothing could have prepared me for the infusion of hope I was about to receive. 

Arriving at the Palmera World Vision Area Development Project in the capital city of Santo Domingo, we were privileged to meet a group of local pastors, youth leaders, staff and community members over an informal lunch.  They hurried us directly from our three hour bus ride into a dark room, which I finally understood served as both a meeting room and a hurricane shelter.  As rain drizzled down outside, the local director indicated that she simply wanted to offer a space for us to get to know each other and for the local leaders to share their work with us.    

And share they did.  Half-way through the introductions, I recognized both the hardness of my own heart and also that something unique and powerful was happening in this urban community in Santo Domingo.  As pastors and youth leaders from different Christian traditions introduced themselves, I began to notice common themes: “We work together…We worship together…We visit each other’s places of worship and celebrate together…We learn from each other…We care for our neighbors.  Those who share our faith and those who don’t…We are one community.”

Instinctively I knew this is what God calls us to, what Jesus modeled for us.  And yet, we continue to struggle deeply with it.  Rather than see others as made in the image of God; too often we divide, cast blame, make rules, and exclude those who don’t believe exactly as we do.  Rather than reach out for the help a community can offer, we aim to be self-sufficient.  It is both tragic and a heavy and unnecessary burden we place upon ourselves and each other. 

And so, as we walked into this room with the local pastoral network, I will admit that I wasn’t expecting much.  I even managed to explain away the first few remarks as “words that sound good” but surely couldn’t be lived out in such a divisive world.  And yet, something in my heart stirred.  Was it possible this was more than talk?  Were the people around this table living in a truly inclusive, loving way? 

My own despair at how Christianity is often (mis)understood clouded my mind, keeping me from letting hope take root – there have been too many disappointments, too many divisions, too many times of getting my hopes up only to have them pounded back into the ground by divisiveness, injustice, harsh words or judgmental looks, and false interpretations of biblical texts.  Sitting there, on an aging plastic chair - tears came to my eyes as I felt the impact that witnessing years of division among God’s people has had on me.

Yet, the stirring in my heart continued.  Hope.  And so I dared to ask a question.  And then another.  Until I was asking the questions I truly wanted to ask including, “how is this possible….how did you do this…please, teach us.”  They understood why I was asking, for in their answers they reminded us that there are still churches that do not join them, that many do not agree with their unity. 

But there they sat, an evangelical pastor telling us how he attends Mass with one of the young people and is friends with the priest.  A Catholic student explaining how he learned so much at the Protestant retreats he attended on leadership development.  How their fight against AIDS in their communities has led to this beautiful partnership and their friendships.  How living through hurricanes together, and working together for a common purpose unites them.  They told us, “when you are working to save lives, it shouldn’t matter if that life is Evangelical or Catholic.”

One of the university students, who volunteers his time with World Vision, told us a story of his first intentional interaction with people from a different denomination than his.  He had been invited to a weekend workshop on community development, and while he was excited to attend and learn, he was also nervous.  He grew up hearing the evils about other churches.  He decided he would go for the first evening and leave if things seemed too strange. 

Looking back on his experiences now, he says he is grateful something made him go because it was that weekend that has “allowed me to leave my fears behind and do this work and live how God really wants us to live, as brothers and sisters.”  The leader of that weekend workshop is now his mentor and good friend, and so this Pentecostal pastor and Catholic university student are forging a beautiful path of ecumenical work in their country.     

World Vision Mission

August 16, 2013

Poverty Is Rocket Science Summary

August 13, 2013

“Poverty, whether here in America or abroad, is one of the oldest and most complex problems plaguing the human race. It is tangled in social, cultural, economic, political, ethnic, geographic, and spiritual factors that challenge even the most skilled experts. Simple solutions just don't work, and well-meaning amateurs can not only waste valuable resources but even cause unintended harm in their efforts.”

These words come from Rich Stearns’ most recent article published on Christianity Today’s website. In the article, Rich talks about treating the symptoms of poverty rather than curing the epidemic, which goes far deeper. As Christians, many of us are guilty of this. We give money to charities that run shelters and soup kitchen, in hopes that just giving people a safe place to sleep or a warm meal will help them get their feet on the ground. While the work of these organizations and establishments is noble, Rich is pointing out that they are not enough to end the poverty that plagues our nation and other nations around the world.

At World Vision, we work to make sustainable, self-supported communities around the globe. As Rich so commonly does, we look to the metaphor of a man and a fish. If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Then the next day he’ll bring a friend, and soon the fishermen will stop fishing and come to you, too. However, if you teach a man to fish, to care for himself and supply for his family, you feed him for his entire life.

To learn more about how World Vision works to ensure this vision comes to fruition in our Area Development Programs, read Rich’s full article here.

Begin activating your church  in a meaningful way with World Vision, today.

John 3:16

August 9, 2013

Small but Fierce

by Emily - Church Team  |  August 8, 2013

…the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

Each Sunday, communities around the world gather at an altar and celebrate in the joy of Jesus Christ. In rural, northeastern Montana, Shepard of the Valley Lutheran Church is no exception. Each Sunday, they welcome a congregation of 75, including their animated Sunday school class of about 25. Pastor David Huskamp and his wife, Karen, are proud of vibrant, community. As William Shakespeare wrote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The Huskamps first learned about World Vision when their children gave them each an item from the World Vision Gift Catalog. “They got me fishing nets, and I think they gave Karen a goat,” Pastor David remembers. From there, the couple read Rich Stearn’s first book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” and recommended it to their congregation. David has been abroad on mission trips several times, reaching places like Haiti, Costa Rica, and Bangladesh. His travels will continue with a World Vision trip to Tanzania next week, and we’re proud to be a part of his journey.

This year, those 75 children of God in rural Montana embodied what it means to have a global vision with a local context. They put their hearts together and raised money to buy treated bed nets for communities affected by malaria from the World Vision Gift Catalog. They set up poster board visuals, Karen’s idea and creation. “She is the visionary,” David laughs, “I’m just the figurehead.” One display depicted a tractor mowing through a field, the other a row of horses racing to the finish line, both awaiting funds to move forward. Each time a child raised $10, they got to move the pawn a little further towards the goal. It’s amazing what motivation like that does.

By the end of the campaign, the tractor had mowed its way clear off the poster, and the horses were stampeding far beyond the winner’s circle. This small church in rural Montana, little but fierce, raised nearly $4,300 for World Vision this year. That’s nearly 250 bed nets that will protect children from malaria, an entirely preventable disease that kills hundreds of thousands each year.

The heart of Shepard of the Valley Lutheran has shown strong in their giving this season. World Vision is grateful and humbled by the generosity of all its church partners that go the extra mile to meet the needs of suffering children.

An Answer to the Question: Is World Vision 'Christian' Enough?

by Amanda - Church Team  |  August 6, 2013

As part of my job at World Vision, I have the privilege of traveling around the U.S. to meet with churches and prospective partners. One of the primary critiques I consistently hear is that our organization isn’t 'Christian enough.’
I’m not sure where this question has taken root, but I’m here to tell you my day-to-day experience is deeply spiritual. I work with staff who are driven by our common bond in Christ – and it extends into our work. From weekly team devotions to organization-wide chapel services, World Vision is intentional about spiritual growth and development. Our founder, Bob Pierce, was an evangelist, traveling the world to preach the gospel. Our roots of serving Christ are deep and our staff today know and actively live into that foundation – it is the motivation behind our work with children in vulnerable communities.
More than that, my colleagues are friends – sojourners in our walk with Christ. They care for one another and they care about those we serve. We pray often and fervently for our staff around the world – many in harm’s way, making sacrifices our privilege could never comprehend.
I just returned from the Dominican Republic (DR) where I witnessed firsthand this sacrifice and prayerful dedication. And it wasn't just from World Vision staff, it was from community leaders – church pastors and priests, mayors and community advocates who all point to Christ as the inspiration and motivation for serving the least of these.
​Anyone who thinks World Vision isn't ‘Christian enough' should visit the DR. Catholic priests, Pentecostal ministers and Protestant pastors sat with us and described the crucial importance of caring for and serving their community. They talked about the intensive training World Vision has done that's changed their minds about people impacted by HIV and AIDs – how it has transformed their congregations, but more importantly, how it's changed them. They spoke passionately of the youth network of future (and current!) leaders they are investing in – a group that has rallied in front of their government getting them to invest in education, knowing it's crucial to the future of their country.
And when asked, 'how do you work together, cross-denominationally with such conviction and ease?' they nonchalantly said, 'because we're called to something more.' You see, we (the US church) have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in the DR and the rest of the developing world. I suppose vulnerability and a lack of basic necessities will do that to a community. They need one another and depend on one another in a way we don't. They've had to overcome doctrinal issues for a greater – and, in my opinion, more urgent – cause: to serve the least among them, to care for and love their community. All in the name of Jesus Christ.
So yes, World Vision cares for the poor, but it's a calling we answer because we're motivated by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Matthew 25: 34-36 (NLT): 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’”

Education Infographic

August 5, 2013

Making the Good Greater

by Mark Nonkes, Emily - Church Team  |  August 3, 2013

​There’s a unique pride that comes when you build something with your own hands. That moment you step back and admire what you’ve made, whether it’s the swing set you’ve built for your children, or the meal you set before dinner guests, you see the impact. Imagine God, at the end of each day of creation, stepping back and seeing that his work was good.

The people of a small village in Lesotho feel this pride each time they walk past the small school, where nearly 300 children are now attending class. This village, so remote that it requires a four hour walk to reach the nearest highway, worked together for two years to build a school. “We saw the importance that our children should be educated,” 62-year-old Malenjoane Makhobane says.

Stones, carved away from the golden hills of Lesotho, were carried by the grandmothers in the community, balanced strategically on their heads. While women collected materials and water, the men built the four walls. As the structure took form, each side a puzzle of hand carved stones, the town saw that it was good.

Before the project, children were kept home until age 10 or 11, when they were old enough to walk to the nearest primary school. Malenkoane remembers walking 90 minutes each way across the grassy field when she was a girl. “Whether it was winter or summer, I would walk to school without shoes every day,” she says.

Mothetho Mokhele, a 74-year-old grandfather also remembers the long walk. As he sits in front of the remote school, he says “I was paying school fees for myself. As a boy, I’d go to South Africa, look for work, and then, once I had enough money, I’d go back and return to school.”
Both of these grandparents dropped out of school when they turned 18. Malenkoane was married, ending her academic career in the fourth grade. Mothetho got a bit farther, making it through sixth grade before getting a job in the South African mines. The grandparents of the village were thrilled when the new school was completed. However, that euphoria did not last long.

Quickly, the demand for education increased and the building couldn’t accommodate the additional students. The roof leaked on rainy days, and students were without proper materials inside. “School enrollment went down because the kids didn’t want to sit on the ground, the school’s principal, Tselane Matela, says.

The women of the community began collecting stones again, just as World Vision began supporting the Malumeng Area Development Program. In 2010, World Vision and the village came together to complete  a large cement building with tall windows facing East and West. World Vision supplied desks, chairs and benches for each classroom, so every child would have a seat.

“The school used to have 105 students and four teachers before the new classrooms” Tselane says. “Now, we have 285 children with eight teachers. Our academic performance has increased a lot and we have added a seventh grade class.”

 “We are very thankful, and we wish that God will give you (the donors) more and more because you helped people that you didn’t even know,” Methetho, grandmother to four students, says. “For us, it shows great love. We want God to bless you.”

Matthew 19:13

August 2, 2013

Looking for Jesus in All the Right Places

by Emily - Church Team  |  August 1, 2013

“It was twelve or fourteen years ago,” Mark Ratley laughs as he tries to remember back to his first interaction with World Vision. He’d brought a small group of teenagers from his congregation to a concert, where he found himself in front of a World Vision child sponsorship table. “The girl sitting behind the table looked at me and said ‘You know you can change a child’s life for just $30 a month,’ and I thought, well no I didn’t know that.” Mark looked down at the picture folder in his hand, and saw a beautiful little girl from Zimbabwe. “I could feel Jesus’ eyes searing into mine at that moment.”

It wasn’t too long after that Mark received a call from World Vision, telling him that the little girl’s family had moved from the community in Zimbabwe, and so his sponsorship had ended. They asked if he’d be interested in sponsoring another child instead. “So here I am in Louisiana,” Mark says, “and this child is all the way in Zimbabwe. I’d have never known the difference if World Vision hadn’t called. It shows the integrity of the organization.” Mark sponsored Cornelius that day, a little boy from the same community in Zimbabwe.

Today, Mark and Tricia Ratley are the proud sponsors of 163 World Vision children around the world. When they aren't working with World Vision, they spend their time raising four children in Louisiana, where Mark works in the oil and gas business. In an effort to really make a difference in various communities, the Ratleys started by sponsoring groups of ten children. From there, the couple held events and worked to get other children sponsored through their friends and family in Louisiana. “Any folders that were left over after events,” Tricia says, “well you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry no one wants to help you,’ once you’ve see their faces.”

Their partnership with World Vision has grown since their days as Child Ambassadors. “Everyone wants to know Tricia,” Mark brags proudly of his wife in a teasing voice, “so when World Vision invited her to go on that first trip, they let me tag along with her.” The couple has now been on four vision trips, most recently to Ethiopia. “We fell in love with Ethiopia,” Tricia says, “we enjoyed seeing the other places we’ve been, but we really fell in love with Ethiopia.” The couple was there during harvest season, and Tricia recalls the sensation of stepping back in time. “I really just felt like I was going to run into Jesus on the street.”

​Among other adventures in Ethiopia, the Ratleys had several life changing experiences. One came in the gift of meeting one of their sponsored children. The young boy named Habtamu, was brought to the national office to meet them. “We were sitting their talking when I asked him about his parents,” Mark says. “His head sunk down, and his tears wet the front of his shirt.” Everyone was confused, but it was just a minute before someone explained that he was an orphan. After Habtamu’s father had died, his mother had gone to find work and never returned. Word was later sent that she had been killed. Habtamu had lost his siblings as well, leaving him truly alone.

Mark took a pen and paper and drew a rough outline of Africa, and another of North America. He put one star on Ethiopia and another on Louisiana. He then wrote their names next to Louisiana, then added the names of their own five children, and finally added “Habtamu” to the end. “This will always be your home, where people love you and your family lives,” Mark said to the boy. “I think we gave him hope, Mark shared, adding, “We made the decision then to pay for his college, someday.”
As we closed our conversation in prayer, Mark and Tricia expressed their continued excitement and appreciation for World Vision. “World Vision doesn’t compromise the name of Jesus Christ,” and it’s as simple as that.