Again and again the experience of a lifetime
Traveling with World Vision is always special for me with intense experiences that stay with you for a long time. We travel to people and projects to experience their life first-hand. This is sometimes wonderful and inspiring. Sometimes it’s very hard. Both aspects are important. At the same time we try to give the people we meet a bit of courage by listening, but again and again we also make music together. Music is simply a language of the heart. Sometimes, when I read the notes and diaries of these trips, I’m right back there for a while … So come to Africa. To the Congo, to Tanzania, to Senegal and Burundi …
CONGO: WATER IS LIFE
“In Oicha, a refugee camp in eastern Congo, I had the honorable task of inaugurating a well. I will never forget that moment. Hundreds of people cheered, danced, threw flowers, celebrated, sang and shouted “Merci, Merci, World Vision, Merci!” to thank us for the clean water on the outskirts of their camp. They proudly showed us their first water source, a small water pipe with clean, flowing water, just 500 meters away as opposed their former water source some three to four hours walk away. They gave a short thank-you speech and then gave us the best they had to give: six chicken eggs wrapped in dried banana leaves, in a great, self-woven basket, and two live doves (alive means “you can’t get anything fresher than this”; the idea was that we should have these for our dinner). There were those wonderful people who overflowed with gratitude and celebrated like mad – and all because of something that is such a basic human need, one that we so often take for granted. We were moved to shame.“
TANZANIA: OUR FIRST PATENKIND – ASHA
“A personal highlight of our first World Vision trip was the encounter with our sponsored child Asha in Tanzania. She lived with her parents and three siblings, and like many children in the area, lived in a small mud hut without electricity and running water. It was very special for us to spend a few hours with this family and their neighbours, to talk, to eat, to laugh and to sing – just to spend a wonderful day together and share a bit of our lives. And it was impressive to see how the positive effects of a sponsorship extend to much more than this one child. In total, this sponsorship program will benefit 26 villages and more than 1,700 children in a population of over 50,000. The sponsored child is like the window into the project. A council of village men and women democratically decides where help is needed next. As a result, local people are increasingly taking responsibility for themselves and their children into their own hands, so that after a few years, the relief organization can say goodbye to a region and people then know how to help themselves.”
SENEGAL: YOUR CHILD, MY CHILD?
“We visit an health center, run by Spanish nuns and Senegalese sisters; World Vision is their main sponsor. The special feature of the center: It is not located in the nearest larger city, but in the immediate vicinity of the villages.
I sit down with the people waiting for their treatment to talk with them. Many mothers with their sick babies are here. Four different mothers want me to take their child with me. Renée, a Senegalese woman working for World Vision, reminds us of the story of Solomon: When it came down to it, the true mother would rather have her child raised with another woman than let it perish. An old woman in a purple dress asks me to take her myself. When I say that this is not possible, but that I will pray for her, she insists on a photo so that I will really remember.
As the day comes to an end, I think and pray for those I met today: the sick, the mothers, the children, the sisters, the laughing, the cheering, the weeping. God be close to these people…
The following morning, we head to the Mabo area and receive a wonderfully lively welcome that takes us to the center of the village. We meet an old midwife (who doesn’t leave our side for the rest of the day) and are allowed to hand over mosquito nets to the pregnant women in the village. This is the best protection against Africa’s big killer malaria. Last year, 25,000 nets were already distributed here. The need – especially for pregnant women and children who are at particular risk – is still great.
The health center in Mabo is currently under construction. We visit the neonatal ward (which looks more like a garage); four mothers are here with their newborns. The youngest child, a girl, was born just two hours ago, and because the parents consider our visit an honor, they simply give her the name, Judy ‘. We cannot believe it. But the parents are serious. Another beautiful event that testifies to the incredible friendliness of the people here… “
BURUNDI: MOISE AND ITS FAMILY
WHAT CAN YOU DO HELP?
“After these experiences, I can only encourage everyone to get on board and do something. A great way to help is by taking up a sponsorship for 30 Euros a month. You can either do it as an individual or as a family, but also along with friends or your youth group in the form of a group sponsorship. So you can help a particular child (to whom you can also write letters and even visit) as well as the family, the village and the whole region. We certainly firmly believe that this is God’s world and we all have a part to play in caring for His children …”
A special way of personal support:
To help give the youngest children a great start:
Immediate Emergency Aid:
There are always ways to give special gifts:
The rich man in the story
Thoughts on Luke 16:19-29
I did not grow up in wealth. Our house was small and it had cracks and I was sometimes ashamed to invite friends there. But I always had enough to eat. I had the chance to attend a good school. And even if we had no washing machine and certainly no dishwasher – the bare necessities were always taken care of. There was not only bread, there was also cake. Already as a child I had a bicycle. I never felt rich, because there were always others in my little world who had more than we had. The anonymous rich man, in the story Jesus tells, was never me…
But I have learned – especially since I have visited places like the Congo or Burundi with World Vision. I have experienced secondhand, but up close: In truth, I am incredibly rich. Because for most of us, real poverty is simply unimaginable. We are the ones who even have clean water in our toilet and three meals a day. We have a bank account and a car and it goes without saying that our children can go to school or to the doctor. Pots or beds, radios or shoes … we have everything in abundance. Our average, our “normal life” is “crème de la crème” when seen from the perspective of the majority of people in the world. The rich man who dresses well, who affords luxury and has so much food to eat, that there is so much leftover – if we consider lifestyle and belongings, this rich man is much closer to who we are than we would like to to admit.
But things don’t make you happy. You can see that when you look into the faces of people in our shopping malls. And the Bible holds up a mirror in front of us in many passages: What are you worried about? What do you have your heart set upon? What makes you rich, really rich? – What if we started to rethink our wealth? If we define it by how much we can give? What options do we have to help others? How much do we not need of all those things that fill up our cellars and paralyze our lives…
At Christmas we have a little family tradition. We look for a gift together. Chickens or school supplies, for example, which we find on the World Vision homepage. This gift is for a family living somewhere at the other end of the world – and yet our neighbour. We want our children to realize that they have more than the vast majority. They also learn this with our “sponsored children” in Senegal and Burundi or in everyday life with refugees in our village. And with that we want to remind ourselves again and again: If we have the double-edged luck to live so that we have everything necessary and far beyond, we should also use it, regularly and generously, to alleviate the everyday distress in other places. That makes us truly richer and others, a little less poor…
From „Gott und die Welt. 7 große Themen für kleine Gruppen.“
(“God and the world. 7 big topics for small groups.”)
The small group booklet is available in German for free download at World Vision or at Judy Bailey concerts.