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Speaker, Writer, and Author of GodSpace

A call to loving action re: World Vision’s decisions

OR: Why I didn’t, and still won’t, drop my sponsored child

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When I heard about World Vision’s recent decision to allow hiring of employees in same-sex marriages, it never even occurred to me to drop my sponsored child. Why? Because of love. Because the Bible says we should not withhold good when we have the power to help, or  “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person” (Proverbs 3:27, MSG).

World Vision’s board took a brave step, which they genuinely believed would move toward unity, and they immediately took some heat for it from conservative evangelical leaders. World Vission had not taken a position on homosexuality or gay marriage, and did not endorse it, they just said they would be wiling to hire people who were in same-sex marriages. But immediately, people began calling to cancel their sponsorship of children. Two thousand children were abandoned the first day the news became public.

When, two days later, World Vision reversed it’s decision, calling it a mistake, I still didn’t drop my sponsored child, even though I disagreed with the reversal.

I think Rev. Dave Thompson did an excellent job of articulating a loving and thoughtful response to the situation, be sure to click through and read what he wrote.

These are, indeed, as Dave wrote, “matters that cut to the heart of our foundations and are difficult at best to weigh.” 

But even when things get messy, I wouldn’t drop my sponsored child.

Why? Because of love. Jesus said what we do for the least of these, we do for him. Because he said we should be known for our love, not our hate.

When Christians do things I don’t agree with, I don’t drop Jesus. So I didn’t drop my sponsored child.

Her name is  Zoila Esperanza, she lives in Honduras. My support helps her, and her single mom, Dinora, and the community they live in, to have a better life. I’ve sponsored her for many years. Her middle name, Esperanza, means hope.

zoilaWorld Vision’s gyrations are not her fault. The evangelical culture wars are not her fault.

When I heard that 10,000 sponsors, many of whom profess to love Jesus, had called to drop their support of World Vision and in effect, “give back” their sponsored children, I felt frustrated and angry. Really?

Wherever you stand on the issue of gay marriage, tossing your sponsored child into the crossfire of a culture war is not cool.

But I didn’t write about it, because frankly, I didn’t want to have to argue with people who make comments with the Internet equivalent of SHOUTING, who see things in black and white when they’re not, who choose to read certain verses and ignore others, who engage in name calling or proof-texting that simply is unbecoming of someone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. I didn’t want to deal with it.

(Although if I did want to deal with it, I might ask: Who is more of a sexual sinner: a celibate gay Christian, or megachurch pastor Bob Coy, (who recently was fired among accusations of adultery) or Bill Gothard, or me? Answer: none of the above. We’re all sexual sinners, because according to Jesus, anyone who looks at someone with lust has already committed sexual sin. So lust and acting on that lust are the same in God’s eyes. None of us is without sin, and no sin is worse than another. We’ve all fallen short. If World Vision should not hire people in gay marriages, they should not hire people who lust, because to Jesus, it’s all the same.)

So I was not writing about it, but thinking about it, talking with writer friends, reading about it on  Rachel Held Evans‘ blog and a lot of others. Reading comments on various news sites and blogs that made me cringe. And thinking—how do you even begin to sort through this issue, and what can you do?

I’d forgotten, that in a moment of largesse back in January, I’d sent an extra financial gift to Zoila, in response to one of World Vision’s marketing pieces, which I probably get too many of.

Because of the slow rate of speed for international mail (I think World Vision delivers sponsor mail via carrier pigeon) I got a letter on April 5 or so, dated Feb. 25, thanking me for my gift. Dinora (Zoila’s mom) had hand-printed a page and a half letter, thanking me and listing everything she’d been able to buy for her daughter and herself with the bit of money I’d sent. Coffee and rice, shoes and a new school uniform for Zoila, and then some. On a separate page, there were two photos of Zoila and her mom with their new stuff, her mom appearing to hold back happy tears.

The letter broke the dam. I cried, because who knew so little could bring such joy for me? Nothing I could have bought for myself with that money would have made me happier than that letter. (and yes, I realize the imperfections in the sponsorship system and all that. That’s a post for another day)

I cried for the kids who won’t get special gifts because they don’t have sponsors. And mostly, I cried for people who, because they let their focus on one issue blind them to the greater truth of Scripture, of love, won’t get to experience the joy of seeing a photo of a little girl in her new school uniform, sitting with her grateful mama with a pile of new shoes and notebooks and food between them. And who won’t get little reminders in the mail now and then that real people live lives that look very different from their own.

Many of us who care about these kids and this organization and the LGBT community are asking, what now?

It’s a complicated situation in so many ways. I wish World Vision hadn’t caved to financial pressure. I’m sure that those (including many gay Christians) who stepped up to sponsor children after the initial decision felt betrayed when it was reversed. I hope they won’t turn around and drop their sponsorships, too.

The bottom line is, there are, at last count, 10,000 kids who lost sponsorship because of this, and I think many who chose to drop their support of World Vision are not coming back because of what they perceive as indecision (although World Vision President Richard Sterns reported that some people called to ask if they could have their kid back, as if the children were an item they’d returned to the store and then decided to buy again). Ten. Thousand. Children. Really???

I don’t know what to do, but I know there are children who’ve been the victims of this complex, messy situation. So here’s what I am doing. Even though I wish the church had heeded World Vision’s call for unity, and that there had been dialog instead of angry reflexive responses, I want to rescue the kids who have no idea this is even going on.

I want to try to start a chain reaction. I’m going to sponsor a second child (in addition to Zoila), and want to challenge you to do the same. Sponsorship costs $35 per month. That’s $420 per year. A significant investment, sure. And I’ll sweeten the deal. If you sponsor a child, and leave me a comment with telling me the name of the child, I’ll send you a free copy of my book Simple Compassion. (I’m willing to give away up to 20 books).

But don’t just sponsor a child. Use your blog or Facebook page or Twitter to ask others to sponsor a child. Invite your friends/followers/readers to join you in sponsoring children, just as I’m inviting you. If everyone who reads this sponsors a child, and asks their friends to sponsor kids, and they get their friends to sponsor kids–well, we might help a few kids. If you can’t afford to sponsor a child, you could perhaps split the cost with someone, or just make a one-time donation.

I know this is a complex issue and it’s hard to know how to respond or what to even think. But that is not the fault of those kids whose Christian sponsors dropped them.

Click here to sponsor a child through World Vision.

13 Comments

  1. “When Christians do things I don’t agree with, I don’t drop Jesus.” This is awesome, Keri, and you made me think of the even stronger corollary to that statement: When I do things Jesus disagrees with, he doesn’t drop me.

    • Excellent point, Tim. Jesus never drops us–even when he actually has reasonable grounds to do so. Thanks!

  2. I said “yes” out loud several times while reading this. Resonate strongly with your sentiment; sponsored a WV child within a day or so of the initial controversy, and didn’t even think of dropping Stella (the child, from Malawi) when the change occurred, and information, blogs and other opinions continued to swirl about this situation.

    Then posted something on FB yesterday about my experience going through Stella’s packet – and invited others to join. So agree with you – we have an opportunity to invite others to join in the effort. While I disagree with those who dropped their kids, I don’t feel it productive to do much more than say “that was wrong” and then move on to solution. And I believe it was wrong regardless of my “position” (understanding, really) on the issue being discussed. When things get messy – don’t drop your child. Couldn’t agree more.

    The whole situation bums me out quite a bit. If someone who didn’t believe in God was watching over the past period of time, it might seems to him/her that to be a faithful follower of Christ means to eat at Chik-fil-a more, drop your sponsored child, and be sure to NOT see the movie “Noah” – which is a big miss, in my opinion.

    Thanks for capturing well what I was thinking and making it more clear!

    • Tom,
      Thanks for coming by again. I saw your post about Stella on Facebook after I had written and posted this–and am so glad you shared that experience with your followers. I love your observation about Chik-fil-a etc. Once again, Christians being known for what they are against instead of what they are for. Sigh.
      Glad to have you here in the conversation. By the way, I mailed you book so you should be getting it soon!

  3. Keri,

    Thank you for your thoughts on World Vision and the knee jerk reaction by many. I do agree that dropping your sponsored child is not the answer, but I do not agree with your stance on sin. There is a difference between struggling in the battle and making a provision for sin. If you are looking at someone lustfully knowing it’s something that doesn’t please God and you confess it, with a desire to overcome, you’re struggling in the battle. On the other hand, if you’re having an adulterous relationship or in a gay marriage you are making a provision for sin. Too many Christians today are afraid to stand up for the truth “in the name of love”. Christ stood and still stands for love and justice. We need to stop watering down the message of Christ and stand firm!

    • Donna, thanks for your thoughts. I respect your right to disagree. But how do you know whether a person is “struggling in the battle”? What if you lust and don’t confess it? Like some high profile Christian leaders recently? What if it’s a habit, but no one can see it, so the person who’s doing the lusting has no reason to stop? And how is loving people who are sinners watering down the message of Christ? I think his main message was showing love to sinners. Is not always easy to figure out exactly how we should live that out.

  4. Donna, your response is accurate. This is more than just a culture war. This is about putting your stamp of approval and that which God calls sin. Having said that, my initial reaction was one of uncertainty, I was relieved when World Vision changed their mind (again) and I hope it was out of a sincere understanding of the gospel. My child in Kenya belongs to me and depends on me as surely as any child of mine does. I will not leave her, punish her, because of WV receiving, what I suspect, was financial pressure (and having their offices in the NW United States) to change their mind on sin. By the same token, I sure do hope that WV is aware that people who have entered into remarriage following an unbiblical divorce are guilty of defying God’s plan for marriage.

    • Thanks for your comment, Alison. I’m glad you’re joining the conversation. I’m sure you don’t mean to do this, but when you tell Donna her response is “accurate” rather than just saying you agree with her opinion, it kind of shuts down dialog. If your goal is to try to help people understand truth, as I’m sure it is, I hope you’ll try to at least listen to people who are trying to figure out a complex issue. Also, just curious, how do you definite “unbiblical divorce”? (I know the standard answer to this is only if someone is unfaithful). But what if someone is faithful, but beats his wife? Is she “unbiblical” if she leaves? I know I’m opening a can of worms–and I know that it’s hard to read tone of voice in written comments, but “guilty of defying” sounds pretty harsh.

      • Keri, I tried to address that issue of abandonment and unfaithfulness and abuse in the context of New Testament teaching on divorce, along with how that stacks up with the outcry against same-sex marriage. I see a lot of inconsistencies on blogs.

        One of the other things I got to in <a href="http://timfall.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/gay-marriage-heterosexual-divorce/Gay Marriage and No Fault Divorce is how I, as a state court judge, have to make decisions about this in ways that are very different from the way that churches and pastors performing marriages and dealing with divorced members would face.

        Cheers,
        Tim

        • Oops, I didn’t do the hotmail right. That paragraph should be:

          One of the other things I got to in Gay Marriage and No Fault Divorce is how I, as a state court judge, have to make decisions about this in ways that are very different from the way that churches and pastors performing marriages and dealing with divorced members would face.

  5. Keri I needed to read this today. Thankyou for writing it. Finding Christians like you, who aren’t afraid to love, who aren’t afraid to see people as Jesus sees them, regardless of sin has blessed me. Thank you for continuing your support.

    And Tim, I cannot imagine the pressures of being a judge in the middle of this cultural war. You will be in my prayers.

    • Thanks, Nikki. Glad you’re here to join the conversation.

    • Thanks, Nikki, your prayers are very much appreciated.

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