Ten thousand kids.

A lot has been said about the aftermath of the World Vision fiasco of last week. A LOT. Too much, I'd argue. Everyone has a stance, everyone has an opinion, everyone is going to wax theological about the whole thing for at least another week or two. That's all fine and good. Be my guest. 

Here's what I want you to know from my little corner of the internet. 

I just got off the phone with a few other folks, including Rich Stearns, CEO of World Vision. I had the chance to ask him questions, we heard a bit about the decisions made last week and where things stand now. 

You need to know that 10,000 kids have lost their sponsorships because of the events of last week. TEN THOUSAND CHILDREN. 

Ten thousand kids lost their sponsorships because Christians didn't like it that World Vision wanted to allow legally-married gay people a place of employment. 


Ten thousand kids over the war on gay marriage. 


I'll just leave it at that & let it sink in. 



World Vision: An Update

My dear friends, thank you so much for your support over the last 24 hours. Thank you for sharing my post about keeping kids sponsored and not making them a pawn in some Evangelical culture war. The courage that you've shown and the love you've given has moved me deeply. I'm so grateful that you would stand with me to continue to support kids trapped under the weight of poverty. Thank you. 

For those of you just stepping in, I'll offer a recap: 

Less than 48 hours ago, World Vision's CEO, Rich Stearns announced that World Vision would no longer discriminate against gay folks who are in legally-recognized marriages, thus making them eligible for employment. It was a huge step in what I believe to be the right direction. 

After the announcement, conservative Evangelical leaders went batshit crazy and actually called on believers to pull support from World Vision. Thousands did. Kids were losing sponsorships left and right. 

This is where I stepped in with my post, as a call to Christians to stand with their kids, even if they don't agree with World Vision's new employment standards. Because like HELL I was going to let children lose aid over American Christians' inability to see eye to eye on gay marriage. Not on my damn watch. Hell no. 

Now, less than an hour ago, World Vision has reversed their decision to allow legally-married gay people employment. 

I want to make sure I'm very clear about this: My post yesterday STILL STANDS TRUE. I stand by every word.

Even if I'm now the one who feels betrayed, hurt, and stabbed in the back. My disappointment with World Vision's reversal runs deep. I am devastated for my gay brothers and sisters, my friends, who have been told that they can't serve the needs of kids at World Vision because of their sexual orientation. I'm angry. I'm really fucking angry.

So many of you reached out and sponsored kids because of World Vision's original decision, and I feel the need to say I'm sorry. I feel like you did so under a false pretense of some kind. I'm not sure if it's my responsibility to apologize, but I feel complicit in some way. And to my LGBTQ friends and readers who stepped in and sponsored kids because of this whole fiasco, and now face the horrible reality of the reversal, I'm especially sorry. I'm beyond sorry. I don't really have any other words. Just know that I am with you - I stand with you, I love you and you need to know that YOU ARE VALUED BEYOND MEASURE. 

But, like I said, as pissed, hurt and sad as I am, I'm not going to drop my sponsorship. I'm not going to abandon her. I will continue to support Maria, my sweet girl in Bolivia. And for those of you hurt by the reversal, like I am, I still stand here, encouraging, begging, pleading with you to do the same. Because by withdrawing a sponsorship, we're not punishing the organization, we're punishing a kid.

Let's continue to be a people who prophetically and powerfully choose to love, even in the face of those who choose to discriminate. Let's continue to be a people who point to Christ, Who loved in a way that the world didn't understand. Let's continue to love. Period. Because I have hope that in the end, love always wins. 

These are real kids, you know.

In August of 2011, I traveled to Bolivia with World Vision

I was a part of a group of bloggers. We visited several remote areas of the country, meeting families and children, visiting Area Development Programs, and even getting the chance to visit with our own sponsored children. It was an incredible trip, eye-opening in all the best and painful ways. We were educated on all the ways World Vision helped those children trapped in extreme poverty. 

Let me tell you a little bit about the basics. World Vision incorporates a community-based model of sponsorship. Meaning when you sponsor a child through World Vision, about 85-90% of your sponsorship dollars go towards that specific child. The remainder helps their local community with everything from securing a sustainable food source, access to clean water, and the building of health clinics & schools in the children's community. It's a model that addresses the holistic needs of the child, but also addresses the elemental needs of the community where the child lives. It's a beautiful model. It has its flaws like any strategy, but it's proving to be effective, especially in Bolivia, where I visited. 

While traveling in Bolivia, I met the most incredible people and the most beautiful children. 

I met Victoria. She's 23 years old now, was attending high school herself at the time, taking care of her own daughter, and teaching 20 preschool-aged children three days a week while their mothers learned about adequate child nutrition from the World Vision staff (malnourishment is a huge problem in Bolivia). Victoria is a remarkably gifted and inspirational teacher. And let's get honest: any woman who can command a room of over 20 three-year-olds deserves high praise and affirmation. I can't command the attention of my one preschooler and he lives in my house. 

I met children at a Special Needs center who, because of their generous sponsors, were provided with necessities for their daily living like hearing aids, therapy, ankle braces, a walker and heart surgery. At the time, I didn't know I would one day become a special needs parent. But now, looking back on the faces of the parents I met whose children had autism, and talking to them about the care that sponsorship provides for their children, I can't help but well up with tears of gratitude. 

I met Maria. My own sponsored child. She loves basketball and math. I love basketball... but I hate math. She has several brothers and sisters, her parents work in the fields, harvesting food for the farm owners. When she gets home from school (my sponsorship provides her with her education - tuition, supplies, uniforms, and transportation), she immediately begins caring for her younger siblings. She cooks, cleans, does the laundry, while her mom leaves for the afternoon of work. She visits the doctor on a regular basis and is provided with adequate food and clean water at her home. 

I held her hands. I touched her face and ran my fingers through her dark hair with my very own fingertips. I sat on the floor with her and she told me all about school, her friends, her siblings. I hugged her parents with my own arms, I looked into the eyes of her proud mother. I saw the tears well up in the eyes of her father. I heard them say "Thank you, thank you, thank you," over and over again in Quechua, their native tongue. 

I met high school kids who were getting ready to graduate. They were a part of World Vision's ADP program for years thanks to their sponsors. They were now a part of a community that was thriving, sustainable, running on its own. They were on their way to college - the first generation in their families to attend university, with much of their tuition being offset by World Vision donations. So many of them had plans to go to college, learn about architecture, engineering, medicine, education, with the hopes that they would come back to their home community and teach, serve and help the next generation of young people. 

I met real people. Real families. Real children. Real babies. They aren't just a face on your computer screen, or a face on a printed sheet of paper that comes in your mail a few times a year. Your sponsorship dollars affect, change and SAVE the lives of children around the world. Over 100 million in over 100 countries. 

These are real children.

They're beautiful.

They have stories and families and siblings and friends. 

And they're not just a pawn to be played in a culture war. 

So, before you consider canceling your World Vision sponsorship because of their recent employment policy decision, I want you to think about what it would mean for that child you sponsor.

Let me be clear: Your decision will have a profound effect on the life of that child and the life of that child's family. 

When you withdraw your sponsorship, you affect that child's access to food. 

When you withdraw your sponsorship, you affect that child's access to healthcare. 

When you withdraw your sponsorship, you affect that child's access to education.

When you withdraw your sponsorship, you affect that child's access to clean water. 

When you withdraw your sponsorship, you affect that child's access to safety & protection against kidnapping and trafficking. 

Everyone is free & has the right to make their own choices and donate their money as they see fit. It's one of the beautiful things about America. But just because you have the freedom and the constitutional right to do so doesn't mean withdrawing your sponsorship over World Vision's decision to employ legally-married gay folks, is the right thing to do. 

When you choose to withdraw your sponsorship over an issue like this, please keep in mind that the person who pays the price is not the World Vision executives or HR staff.

When you withdraw your sponsorship, the person who pays the price is an undeserving child. 

So, I implore you, beg you, ask you to please reconsider.

I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There's a lot that we're not all going to agree on. But, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone's baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child. 

Please, I'm begging you, don't make someone's baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving. 

Please, I'm begging you. 

Choose love.