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.