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Community: Born in an Airport ~ Five Minute Friday

I scanned the faces in the terminal nervously, looking for a glimpse of the tiny little avatars that streamed by in my Twitter feed. We were about to spend a week with each other, and here was the moment of truth. So many were “well-known” online and I was no-one, and I wondered if I would be accepted.

I spotted them, a trio of smiles making a beeline for me. Elizabeth’s smile was like sunshine and everyone laughed and hugged and we all talked at once and my heart exploded. Writers. Christians. My people.

We sat around a long table in the airport restaurant, eating our last American meal for a week and waiting for the rest of the team to trickle in from cities across the country. Very few had traveled overseas, let alone to a poor country like Bolivia. All of us left family behind. But we were a new family, an internet family finally together in person. I knew we’d be friends for life.


©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

 

Five minutes is barely enough time to share even this small snippet of what swirled through my head when I read The Gypsy Mama’s writing prompt for Five Minute Friday this week, “Community.”  What do you think of when you hear the word “Community”?

 

The Myth of Animosity: Join Our Peaceful Revolution

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I was invited to visit the country of Bolivia with World Vision this past July. We went to see and write about the work they do among the most needy. Everyone on our team fell in love with the people, work, and mission of World Vision.

But, with the exception of our 8 days in Bolivia, we also picked up on a disconcerting tension in the air. It was unspoken, but we all felt this odd competition among bloggers for World Vision, Compassion, and Samaritan’s Purse.

samaritans purse

The tension dissolved when we were in Bolivia, where we saw exactly the kind of cooperation I hoped to see between humanitarian organizations. Each has their own wheelhouse, but no single organization can do everything. They rely on one another to fill in those gaps.

But here in the States, we sensed that different organizations don’t respect one another’s different approaches to foreign (and domestic) aid.

I don’t know all the reasons, but I suspect some of it has to do with some unspoken rules in play in North America. Rules like “don’t appear at the same event” and “don’t work with someone who is working or has worked with a different organization” may keep things less messy, but they have damaging unintended consequences. Among these are the apparent lack of good will between them and the competitive dynamic between people who choose to work with one or the other (who probably don’t know that unspoken rule that once you pick one, you can’t be asked to help the other – I know I didn’t know that!).

I had the chance to speak with Shaun Groves, the leader of Compassion’s blogging teams, at a recent blogging conference. We talked about Compassion’s approach to helping the poor in the developing world because I wanted to understand how Compassion and World Vision are alike, where they are different (and why), and how they work together.  Shaun explained that Compassion means something different than World Vision does when they use the term “child sponsorship.” Not right or wrong; just different.

Compassion partners with local churches for the long haul. They serve areas that have sufficient infrastructure and a church capable of serving as the hub for all Compassion services. Compassion focuses on individual children (and their families, by extension) so child sponsorship dollars go directly to each child, funding their education, health care, nutrition needs, and opportunities to learn about Jesus. If a community needs infrastructure or development, Compassion calls in World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, or another organization to help because child sponsorship is all they do – they do not have the capacity to respond to disasters the way that Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision can.  Jessica is writing more about Compassion today – click here to learn more.

Give the gift of sponsorship this Christmas.

World Vision develops communities in desperate poverty who have no other aid available. They spend fifteen years in each area helping the people improve their quality of life through nutrition, clean water, personal hygiene, education, infrastructure, and faith in Jesus. Child sponsorship money helps to fund these community projects in addition to helping the individual child and their family. By the end of fifteen years, World Vision has empowered a community to lead these programs themselves, and they go to another area and start over. World Vision also has tremendous capacity in disaster and famine relief. Deb is writing more about World Vision today – click here to learn more.

When I asked Shaun about the weirdness between organizations, I learned two things. First, the tension is unique to North America – these organizations work together and respect one another well on the ground all over the world. So perception is not reality in this case. Second, politics ties the hands of those inside these organizations to do anything about the false perception. I will be honest — I found this both frustrating and disappointing.

But then I realized that I’m a free agent and immune to such politics. I’ve know the truth; I know the respective strengths of these organizations and how they work together. And I’m not alone – many of us know this same truth. That makes us the best ones to change this dynamic.

That’s why we’re doing 12 Causes for Christmas. It’s our way of showcasing the many incredible organizations doing great work in various causes, like clean water, child sponsorship, famine relief, homelessness, and more. We’re engaging in a peaceful revolution to blow the myth of competition to smithereens.

Join the peaceful revolution! Click here to learn more about the 12 Causes of Christmas and how you can get involved.

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Share some of your extra and sponsor a child through World Vision

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Unexpected

The email from Lindsey asking if I’d go to Bolivia.

The speed and ease with which my husband would say yes.

Bolivian mothers

©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

The joy it would bring me to go to extremes to get my passport in time (including driving four hours to a passport agency to have it processed in 24 hours).

The willingness of family and friends to help with the kids while I was gone.

The camaraderie of our group from the moment we laid eyes on each other in the Miami airport.

The beauty of La Paz from the air at 1am, lights twinkling all gold and blue like jewels in a crown.

The clearness of the air at 13,000 feet.

Raising the Bolivian and indigenous flags at a playground ribbon-cutting ceremony. ©2011 Matthew Paul Turner for World Vision

How quickly I’d fall in love with this country, so poor that only Haiti is poorer.

How beautiful the people who work with the defenseless.

That I think about the people I met (Lizet – pictured with me below, Reyna, Andrea, Gunther, Mariella, and so many more) every single day now that I’m back.

Lizeth exploring my Flip camera

©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision

That finally I would see my life for the overabundant gift that it is, and finally see all the hype and marketing in the States as greedy clamoring for more of my money. Now I know what God wants me to do with that money, and it isn’t to line the pockets of some corporation.

Unexpected.

 

Written for and linked to The Gypsy Momma’s Five-Minute Friday. She gives a word, we just write for five minutes, and then we post without editing.

Want to join in? It’s fun!

 

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Share some of your extra and sponsor a child through World Vision

Did you know you can get Joy in This Journey posts in your email for free?