Remember how our family wanted to buy some chickens? World Vision, the featured service organization for the month of May, was the group to make that happen.
Not only does this incredible organization help purchase animals for families who need a hand out of poverty, they help connect children with sponsors, as well. Our family sponsors an eight-year-old girl from Bolivia named Jhovana. A sponsored child with World Vision is provided with things like clean drinking water, nutritious food, and an education. This organization not only helps the sponsored children, but provides for the whole community, as well.
I’m honored to have a guest post today from someone whose life work is changing lives.I met Lindsey Talerico-Hedren last year through a connection at World Vision. I love Lindsey because she shares my heart for missions and love for children.Let me tell you a little more about Lindsey.
Lindsey Talerico-Hedren worked at World Vision’s headquarters in the U.S. for nearly three years as a social media specialist – integrating new media and communications with marketing, media and public relations. Her work there took her to Bolivia in August 2011 as part of a new blogging initiative. She has three sponsored children… Memory in Zambia, Noelia in Bolivia, and Arminda in Bolivia. Lindsey met Noelia and Arminda in person. In February 2012, she moved with her husband to Auckland, New Zealand to take the first ever social media position at World Vision’s headquarters there.
Nine Months Too Long
It’s been nine months since we were in Bolivia. Nine months since we nervously gathered on a last conference call before meeting in person. Nine months since we packed our bags and boarded our planes. Nine months since we made monthly financial commitments to support children we never met.
In August last year, eleven of us set out to write a new story together as bloggers and compassionaries. We were going to Bolivia to witness the work of World Vision first hand and to blog every mile of the way.
We were taking a flight of faith, believing in new experiences and opportunity. Believing in friendship and trust. Believing in the work of World Vision.
It was everything we could’ve imagined and so, so much more.
We met schools of children who gathered weekly to lead one another in a devotional time. Lizbeth is only 13 years old, but as she spoke quietly from Matthew 13 telling the parable of the mustard seed, she captivated her classmate’s attention and ours.
We witnessed hope and happiness at a World Vision center for children with special needs. Weeping parents thanked us, people they never met, for giving them a place where they and their children were accepted and cared for in their community, where they were no longer the focal point of community gossip when their children were considered not “normal.” I sat beside fidgety, excited, smiley Arturo when hearing aids were fitted for his ears for the first time, a gift from the donations of child sponsors.
I cried as I watched Celestina cry for the hardships her family has overcome. I saw pain fall in tears down her face as she told us her neighbors thought her son Wilfram was slow because she must have drank too much while pregnant. I saw love in her tears as she told us nurses discovered Wilfram had a heart defect during his annual health check-up as a sponsored child. I saw fear drip from her eyes as she prayed the prayer she repeated to herself while she waited during his heart surgery. That surgery gave him a new life. When I met Wilfram, he ran long and hard and laughed the entire way. Child sponsorship gave him that surgery.
We met heaps of sponsored children, including our own. My heart melted when I met Noelia, just as it does now every time I think of her. This was the precious eight-year-old girl I sponsored from a webpage on my couch in Puyallup, WA. Weeks later I sat next this petite beauty, sharing a stairwell with her mother and father. She likes basketball and the color pink. I brought her a doll, nail polish, hair ribbons, stickers… but of all the gifts, she liked the crayons the most. An artist, maybe she’ll be one day.
We listened through stories that made our hearts ache. We were on the bus when our trip host, a beautiful young communications officer with World Vision’s office in Bolivia, told us the story of a little girl whose parents were trying to give away. Since no one wanted her, they left her. Later, a woman was walking by. She had no money, three kids, a very sick husband, and living in conditions most of us can’t even fathom. She found the little girl eating noodles from the ground and asked whose daughter she was. But no one knew. She took her home and adopted her. She had next to nothing, but she had the heart of a mother to give this little girl.
The moment I heard that story I recognized who the little girl was. In one of many preparations made before this trip, I scoured our photo library in search of photos from Bolivia we could use to in our announcement blog posts and to create banners should readers be inspired to sponsor a child. There was this photo:
It was taken six months earlier and its caption spoke of a little girl who was adopted by a neighbor family. I remembered she was a sponsored child and her new family has a pig farm started from a small gift of two piglets from World Vision’s Gift Catalog.
It was the little girl from our banners. It was the little girl whose story I was hearing.
Arminda was ten times more angelic and charming than in her photo, if you can imagine that. She has this giggle that makes you wish you saw what she saw in all of us – we must have been awfully silly looking as we awed at her family’s pigs. I knew the photo I had seen before of her was taken awhile back, but on the day we met her she wore the exact same pale pink plaid dress. I asked Andrea, our trip host, why that was, perhaps she had no other clothes. Andrea told me Arminda had other outfits, but this was her best. She knew we were coming and she wore her best for us.
I’ve had this growing suspicion for quite some time that World Vision was going to crawl (not just into my career, but also) into my heart and never leave. And it’s happened… but the World Vision that is forever planted in my heart is not paperwork; it’s not Excel sheets; it’s not campaign headlines; it’s not Facebook updates — even if these things are what help create my daily work.
It’s Lizbeth, Arturo, Celestina, Noelia and Arminda. They are my World Vision, my small contribution, my reminder that no amount is ever too little.
It’s been nine months since our stories collided with the stories of those we met in Bolivia.
Nine months since we looked into their eyes, held their hands, were welcomed into their homes as we listened to their struggles and cheered for their dreams.
Nine months since we embarked on a journey through uncharted blogging territory dragging our nerves behind us and letting go of our naivety along the way.
Nine months since we laughed and played with children whose impoverished circumstances know no bounds for joy.
Nine months since we soaked up the presence of God in Bolivia.
It has been nine months too long.