When Rich and I began this journey with World Vision some 20 years ago, we had no idea what was in store.
We only knew that as a family, we were about to embark on a great adventure as we sought to follow God. Since then, he has taken us into a feeding center in Niger, an AIDS clinic in India, a refugee camp in Lebanon, and a shelter for war victims in the Congo. What we lacked in skill and courage, we more than made up for in the assurance that as God’s children, we had been called by him to serve, and that as we stepped out in faith, he promised to go with us.
After his 20 years of service as World Vision U.S. president, the topic of Rich’s retirement is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Several have asked me about our plans for the future, but as I think about what lies ahead, it’s also helpful to reflect back on our journey and some of the lessons I’ve learned over these past two decades.
The first thing that comes to mind is that the world is a much bigger place than I ever imagined. I must say that for most of my life, I lived in a very small world, limited understandably by my own personal experiences of family, home, and community. But in the last 20 years, I have come to love and appreciate the richness and diversity of cultures and people I had never known existed. I have had the opportunity to visit almost 30 countries and meet extraordinary men and women, boys and girls who, with World Vision’s help, are hard at work making life better for themselves and their families.
And everywhere I travel, I’m reminded that no matter what our circumstances or where we live, we share many of the same hopes and dreams — women who scavenge for food in the local landfill, mothers suffering from AIDS, moms who have lost everything in an earthquake, tsunami, or civil war all long for a brighter future for their children.
The second thing I’ve learned is that we should never give in to the attitude that if we can’t do something big, we shouldn’t do anything at all. I know that I can’t solve all the problems I see around me in the world today, but that doesn’t mean I should sit back and do nothing.
I know that not everyone can travel to the far corners of the world, but in many ways, God has brought the world and its challenges to our doorsteps, and I believe he is calling us all to get involved. It doesn’t require that we travel 10,000 miles around the globe to help meet the needs of the people God loves. But it does require a willingness to allow the needs of others to lay a claim upon our lives.
With what skills I have, I can communicate a message of love and concern for the people God places in my path. Mother Teresa is credited with saying, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Sometimes the small thing we can do is be present, to show up for a woman alone in a refugee camp or for a neighbor down the street in need of a friend.
Finally, I’ve learned that God doesn’t need my help to fix the brokenness in our world, but that he has invited me to participate with him in this great endeavor. God has a plan for the world, and remarkably, he has invited each of us to play a part. The Creator of the universe, who numbers the stars and calls them all by name, has called our names too, asking us to be his co-laborers. What a privilege!
Time and again, we have seen that in response to our one small act of faith in heeding God’s call to join World Vision, the Lord has been faithful, and I am confident that as you say “yes” to God’s invitation to be his partner, that will be your experience as well.