Today our family learned we will say goodbye to someone we love. For the past two-and-a-half years we have sponsored Dayana, a fatherless little girl living in Haiti who came to our attention through the Christian relief organization Vision Trust. We have become attached to Dayana as we have given monthly to support her needs and the needs of her impoverished family. We have exchanged letters and sent pictures of our family, stickers, and small tokens of affection. Every night as I have put our daughter Abby to bed we have prayed that Dayana would have good food and clean water, that God would keep her safe and that she would do well in school. We have also prayed that she would grow up to love Jesus with her whole heart and lead others to do so.
The news today came as a surprise, but thankfully a very happy one. You see, because of the sponsorship of over 50 families in our church, the community where Dayana lives has now become self-sustainable. That’s right, they no longer need us! …and while that’s sad for us, because we won’t have further communication with Dayana, its wonderful for Dayana’s community, and its exactly what we have been praying for over the past 2 1/2 years!
I got all choked up a year ago when members of our church body went to visit the project in Haiti where many of us had been sponsoring children. This is our friend Tori delivering the gift we sent for Dayana.
Now we will sponsor a new little girl in a different community in Haiti. Her name is Lousia, and she needs our love too. She is basically an indentured servant at the age of 6, but because of the work of Vision Trust she will be able to attend school, receive loving care from the staff, and have many of her basic needs met.
Louisa will be the 4th child our family has sponsored through child relief organizations. Our first was a boy named Murugan in southern India. Murugan grew from a timid 6-year-old into a tall, skinny man with whiskers during our sponsorship. He aged out of our sponsorship through Compassion International, but not before we were able to send him to trade school. We’ve had no information about Murugan in the past 10 years, but we pray he is well, and we know that he has had the training and support he needs for a life outside of poverty.
The reason I am sharing a couple of our stories is because of another story. It became a sensation on social media and it’s been mulling around in my mind for a couple of months. The story is from a blog by a pastor named John Pavlovitz hailing Ellen (Degeneres) because of her giving spirit, and because, according to John, “From where I’m standing, (Ellen) radiates the kind of inherent goodness that I grew up believing was supposed to mark people of faith, and whether Ellen claims faith or she makes me more hopeful, more joyful, and more committed to following her example. Watching how she treats people inspires me to be a better version of myself and that’s about as holy and sacred a thing as we can have here: a life worth multiplying.”
Please don’t write to me about Ellen. My thoughts here are not about her or the humanitarian work she does. Her work is similar to that of fellow-celebrity humanitarian Oprah Winfrey, who sponsors her own leadership academy for Girls in South Africa. I hope they both continue to give away money and to make people laugh and cry. I would love to have that job. However my thoughts here are about John Pavlovitz and his perspective that Ellen’s life portrays Jesus better than professing Christians.
John is uninformed. Or he is short-sighted. I wish John could spend a week with Christian relief organizations like World Vision, which provides relief from poverty in over 100 countries and is one of the largest forces on the ground in the middle east serving the refugees of the ISIS crisis. Maybe he could spend a day with the leaders at Compassion International, which provides sponsorship to impoverished children in over 50 countries. Samaritan’s Purse, led by Billy Graham’s son Franklin, has been aiding the war-torn, the poor, diseased, and the disadvantaged for over 40 years around the world. These organizations, together with our Vison Trust, and many others like them, have supported hundreds of thousands of children (dare I say millions? I’ll work getting statistics) in the throes of poverty, providing them with clean water, food, and an education in the name of Jesus Christ.
These relief organizations support individuals and communities mainly through the financial partnership of hundreds of thousands of Christian individuals and families committed to help the poor. Nope, they don’t get any press. Nope, we don’t often get to see the results of the love, the compassion, and the international renewal in the name of Jesus. Nope, we don’t get to observe the prayers prayed or the letters written to and received from children all over the world. Yes, more could be done. There will always be more to do (Jesus told us that in Mark 14:7), but people, Christians, are living lives of giving, of sacrifice, and of loving “the least of these” in carrying out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I wish John had chosen to highlight the work that goes on around the world 24/7/365 when touting someone for living the gospel. I wish he could follow the leaders of these organizations, Rich Stearns of World Vision, Cassandra Shepard of Compassion International, and others to see all that is being done. I wish he’d focused on unsung heroes who don’t already have the spotlight. I wish he’d exposed the gospel as lived by leaders and lay people alike every day. I wish he’d known how lovingly the gospel is being lived and spread in hope, in joy, and in commitment to the most vulnerable among us.