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 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.