Sri Lanka: A Tale of Two Fathers

I worry. In fact I worry almost all the time. Of course I don’t call it “worry” that because it sound weak and needy so I call it “concern” or “caution” or “just thinking ahead” but the truth is that over the last few years I’ve let a lot of worry consume my soul. I worry about my job and the uncertainty of my future with pay cuts and layoffs as an ever-present threat in my industry. I worry about my children and how to raise them into healthy and happy and educated adults. I worry about where we will live, how we’ll pay our bills, and a thousand other unknowns that the future hold.

Today I traveled to the brand new work being founded in the village of Mundalkaduwa and I met another man who worries about most of the same things I do. Amila is only four years older than I am and like me he has a wife and two children. He works when he can find work but sometimes there isn’t any to find. He and his wife plan and fret over how to come up with enough money for their children’s education. He wonders what his future holds and whether his life will ever improve.

There is one major difference between Amila and myself. While I make about the median income for an American household, he worries about these things on an average wage of less than five dollars a day when he’s lucky enough to find work at all. To put that in some perspective, that means that it takes him almost six weeks to make as much money as I make on a normal day. Or put another way, I look to him like what a person who makes over two millions US dollars a year looks like to me. The disparity is staggering

Someone asks him through our interpreter what kind of work he does. He says he climbs the palm trees to pick coconuts. A glance as his feet shows the callouses and shaping of long hours spent clinging to the tops of swaying trees as they tower above the ground. We tell him he must be very strong to do this work and he smiles but when we ask him what other work he does when there are no coconuts he raises his hands wide. “Anything” the interpreter tells us. “He’ll do anything because he needs to feed his family.”

In the world of this kind of subsistence living there are no easy answers or quick fixes because Amila’s story can be repeated throughout this entire village and likely through surrounding villages as well. The issue is food security. Because the biggest worry of all whether or not you’ll have enough food to eat or if your family will starve. When your main focus is just getting enough rice to make it through a day there is no money to get an education or start a business or improve your life in any visible way. Until the food and clean water issues are settled, there is nothing else that matters more.

So how does child sponsorship help an family like this one? Here’s how it works:

When you give money to a sponsored child in the area we visited yesterday, those dollars are funneled into projects within the community that are selected by the community itself, and managed by community-based organizations. World Vision provides support, resources, and experience in advising these groups but they do the work themselves. This creates long-term sustainability in these projects since even after World Vision reaches the end of its project and leaves the area, the benefits continue to serve everyone.

So then the question becomes, if the money is going into community projects, then why are we talking about sponsoring individual children. The answer is quite simply that World Vision has found that connecting donors with individual children helps them see the benefits that their dollars are reaping. If you sponsored one of Amila’s children, for example, you’d receive regular updates on their schooling, their health, and what’s going on in their lives. This helps you realize the personal benefits of a broader program in a way that just wouldn’t be possible if you simply wrote a check to World Vision every month.

In the brand new Mundalama Area Development Program there is much work to be done so that parents and older siblings don’t go hungry at night so that the smallest children can eat. So that clean water is a universal expectation and not a luxury paid for with hard earned money. So that every child can go to school and dream that same kinds of great big beautiful dreams that we wish for our own children to dream.

So once again I’ll make my plea. Don’t be afraid to let you heart be open to the opportunities to help children through the child sponsorship program. At this writing I’m sitting here with tears in my own eyes as I think of the needs I have seen over the last few days and the potential to turn such profound sorrow into unimaginable rejoicing. Don’t fear to weep with me. Don’t shrink back from writing yourself into the story of a child’s life. There is such joy just ahead and I want you and I and the people of Sri Lanka to share in it together.

Share Joy - Sponsor a Child in Sri Lanka

29 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: A Tale of Two Fathers”

    1. My second first within a few days.

      On a more serious note, I worry as well, Darrell. I love this story…but I also struggle with what Don was talking about recently–charity. And I still find myself afraid to feel or give way to feelings, mostly because I was taught that being emotional was bad (still can’t lift my hands in a worship service, but I do clap along now). This is definitely an area that is a work in progress; some deep-set roots that I have to work through.

      1. I too think that I was conditioned not to feel — except for guilt. We could always feel guilt. But joy or love or compassion – those we were taught to be leery of.

        It’s hard to show compassion when you’re always keeping yourself separate from your community, even from relatives, and it’s hard to be loving when you’re judging.

        So now I feel like I have to start all over again like a little child to find the kingdom of heaven.

        1. @PW.

          I know you love Third Day as do I.
          Mac Powell (Third Day),Michael W. Smith and Toby Mac are all big time World Vision supporters! Oh, and Alex Trebek too! 😀

        2. You’re right, some feelings were allowed–for us it was anger and guilt. The toughest process for me has been UN-learning everything. Isolation from other churches and even other family members definitely does not help to teach you to care.

          So while I would love to throw all inhibitions to the wind and say, “Sign me up for a food drive! Yes, I’ll go on a missions trip. Sure, I’ll donate money to your cause,” I find that I can’t just release and let go. For me it’s those baby steps to really experiencing the freedom in Christ.

          So thanks Darrell for the thought-provoking posts as of late. Good to think on.

  1. Dang, now I don’t know whether I am the Levite or the Priest. Makes me feel guilty I am not from Samaria. 🙁

  2. It sure does make you think about what is most important in life and your current “crisis” that you may face as a citizen of a first world nation doesn’t seem so bad after all. I’m sure any one of those folks there would LOVE to have your first world “problems” in trade for theirs.

    I’m sure that when Darrell returns, he will have an enhanced perspective on so many things in life (That’s always what happens to me when I visit another country that is impoverished).

  3. Well, Darrell grew up in an impoverished country. SO It isn’t new to him. Just different faces in a different place. But I am sure the reminder will stick with him.

    1. Lol I figured that might be the case. :mrgreen:
      Welcome to the blog…I don’t see you posting here much. Are you Darrell’s wife by chance?

  4. It is so hard to comprehend how we can make a real difference in someone else’s life when the lives we lead are so full of worry. So thankful that Darrell is able to give others who may be able to financially help, a look into a situation that could use their generosity.

    It makes me wonder if there are real ways to simplify our own lives to a point where at the very least we can donate some time an effort t help those with more basic needs than ourselves.

    My dream is to settle down into a literal (location-wise) supportive community (Whether it be family or a like minded network of friends)So we can help each other in a way that simplifies our lives so we can collectively work toward helping others in need.

  5. ok…that sounded a little like “It Takes a Village.” I didn’t mean it like that. More like, I long for a “church family” that works together. Preferably without the church. 🙂 Not sure if that explains it more or not.

  6. Great post, Awesome experience for you Darrell, thanks for sharing it with us.

    I remember trying to explain to a group of young national pastors why I couldn’t just come back in a few months, because the thousands of dollars it cost for me to make it to their village had been pretty singificant in my budget. They naturally assumed I was wealthy, and how could I explain otherwise? It sounded silly when I considered that they probably had to make a greater sacrifice personally to travel a couple hundred miles to meet with me. There really is no comparison, and my perspective on “need” in America has never been the same, it exists, and I have sought to be more aware of it, but its not even close.

    If you want a challenge, try explaining to someone how you have a room in your house where you park your car.

  7. I am really excited to read about Darrell’s trip. I am sorry to see that comments have dropped off for the Sri Lanka posts! (Honestly I’ve just been crazy busy at work, but I have been following along and enjoying Darrell’s posts!)

    Anyway, one thing that has come up a few times is the whole sponsorship of the individual child issue. My two cents is this: the actual dollars sent may not go directly to the child but that is not really the point. By connecting a donor with an individual in another country, WV provides us with a unique opportunity to build a relationship and forge connections with a fellow human being in need. And how often do we have the chance to do that on an international scale? In a lot of ways, WV functions like the Samaritan and donors/sponsors function like the innkeeper: the sponsored child is brought to us for love and care. I think that is why going above and beyond the sponsorship dollars is such an integral part of working with WV. Children should receive communications from donors, along with gifts and other personalized assistance, where appropriate. Again, just my two cents, but I think it would be sad not to take full advantage of the unique opportunity that WV gives child sponsors just because of the money-to-community versus money-to-individual issue.

  8. We have supported Fundy missionaries in the past, but several years ago ceased doing so.

    In place of that, we began supporting individual children through Compassion International. The concept there is much like World Vision. Each of our own children have a child of similar age/gender in another country, and they have an ongoing pen pal relationship with them. It has been a great experience and very meaningful in a real way – and not once do we get the number of thousands of tracts handed out (like with our former missionary supports).

    I strongly recommend jumping in to a giving ministry through WV or CI or some other similar organization.

  9. How lucky you are to be able to meet people in a place where World Vision is going, in addition to those where World Vision has been. I hope that you will be able someday to go back and see the good brought about by more stable food supplies, clean water, and schooling, or whatever projects people choose to improve their lives. I wish them all possible success. Thank you, Darrell, for making us part of your journey.

  10. Dear Darrell:

    Thank you, thank you for this.

    Many things ‘jumped out at me,’ but I’ll mention only one at this time.

    ‘…no easy answers or quick fixes…’

    This may speak to our Ps 69:20/Mk 3:5 calloused indifference toward others. That’s the thing about ministry; it is neither easy nor quick, and requires more than ‘answers’ to fix anything. Ministry is hard and costly. Jesus knew that.

    Speaking of Jesus, I suspect that we might find ourselves walking beside him as we come alongside those that the world conveniently overlooks.

    Christian Socialist

  11. Darrell, Thanks for the eye-opener. We have received World Vision requests through the years, but never acted on them. I considered looking into them, but never did. Some of it was some of the tendrils of my fundy days still clinging. I’m a lot like how Don described himself a couple of days ago: Now, intellectually I know that programming to be false and unchristian at the core, but it has mutated much like a deadly virus and now I hold a very cynical outlook regarding anyone or anything that has to do with money.

    Having been jobless for a while and with our last few years things having been more “by faith” than the previous years, I think I see this story a little differently than I would have before. I start an actual job on Sept. 10, and will view the next World Vision request to buy a goat or a few chickens with a new perspective. Thank you for being willing to share your heart with us. As I have read the comments from you and your travel-mates, God has used you all to help me more on my road toward true spiritual maturity, and further from Pharisaical legalism.

    God Bless

    1. Congratulations on the Job! I know exactly how that feels, to be out of work and wonder where the next pay-check is coming from and how you will take care of this bill or that. “Living by Faith” is easily said, but hard to live. Praise the Lord for the new Job.

  12. I really like how they are focused on using local people for labor and using them to find solutions for their community. Too many NGO’s try to import solutions. I’m actually thinking of sponsoring a child through them and I’m not even a Christian

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