Let’s start today’s story at the end. After all, every story has an ending place and without that goal in mind the beginning doesn’t matter much at all. A pretty smart fellow named Solomon put it this way: Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. Today we got to see the end result of something amazing and rejoicing such as I’ve rarely encountered. Here’s how it happened…
The morning began the same way the day ended with dancing and celebration. After fifteen years and countless lives changed for the better, World Vision is closing up shop in this community because they’ve now worked themselves out of a job. Every function of leadership and change is now worked in a sustainable fashion by local people within those communities. Even today’s events were completely planned and organized by the community not the World Vision staff. To mark the occasion, a convoy of vehicles with World Vision staff, local community leaders, and a few wide-eyed American bloggers took off to visit different groups within this location and to bid them farewell.
I’m not sure I can do justice to what we saw along that trek. The harvest is over this time of year and in this dry season the roads are mostly dry earth with hot breezes moving the palm trees and few remaining bits of greenery. The houses we saw and the livelihoods represented would have made the poorest person I know in America look fabulously rich by comparison. Often nothing but mud walls and a few palm fronds woven into fences marked the spot where an entire family lives and works.
But something strange was afoot in these villages. Somebody apparently forgot to remind these people that the appropriate emotion for people with so few possessions or modern conveniences is abject misery. Everywhere we stopped we were greeted with smiles and tears of joy. Young girls danced in forms as old as time and women old enough to be their grandmothers danced too, clapping and laughing aloud and thanking us for honoring them by being there. You see, to these people we are responsible for their success simply by being American because to them America is World Vision. To them our little group represented the people who helped make the radical transformation in the lives present. Children now get healthcare and education. There is better food to eat and better farming techniques to cultivate it. Most of all there is now hope and hope sings loudly from every smile that beams out wherever you chance to look.
We received flowers from Buddhists, traded blessings with Hindus, and ate food made by Muslims. We shared a delicious meal (eaten with our fingers in good Sri Lankan style) with teachers and children in their school building. “Look at us!” these gifts all but shouted “we were once weak but now we are strong. You gave gifts to us, now here are gifts from the labors we do. Now we are proud to give back to you.” Although poor by American standards, this area is now completely self-sustaining needing no outside World Vision support to pay teachers, hire community leaders, and continue the work of improving lives by building healthy children, strong families, and unified communities.
But World Vision’s work is far from over in Sri Lanka. At this writing there are forty other areas in need of sponsorships and funding so that they can repeat the story of success we saw here today. The end of this work brings a new beginning as the staff relocate to a new area to begin the work anew. With help from you this same celebration happen over and over again.
I wish you could have seen those children smile and dance.
33 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Beginning At The End”
What a wonderful day!
It’s great to know how World Vision works and the goals they are working toward.
My first second.
In our world of over abundance we often fail to grasp the significance of hope, because we do not experience real need. In our world of “want” we have lost the ability to be grateful for what we have and have become an ungrateful people of expectations.
(I believe that attitude often seeps into our Christian life as well. We lose sight of our need of Christ on a daily basis and take on an attitude of religious entitlement. My 2¢ worth )
Yep, excellent points.
Oh my… What an awesome story for you to be able to share! I can just imagine their joy and your gracious reactions! It does the heart good to hear of the shared enthusiasm for life!
Thank you for sharing Darrell!
‘We received flowers from Buddhists, traded blessings with Hindus, and ate food made by Muslims.’
‘… praising God and having favor with all the people… [Act 2:47].
This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.
What a beautiful story!
I am so glad the fundies don’t run World Vision…they obviously have a different philosophy.
I totally agree. I’ve been on Fundy mission trips a few times and have never seen anything like Darrell has posted about here. We mostly had preaching services and that was it.
Yeah. Save their Souls(TM) and nothing else. Nothing matters except Saying the Magic Words in the Altar Call. So what if they live in Third World poverty and die young in their own filth? Their Souls Are Saved!
And sometimes it’s not even concern for their Souls(TM), but for fulfilling End Time Prophecy(TM). “The Gospel shall be preached to every nation, then The End shall come.” And now they’ve been preached to, so go and preach to the next group and the next and the next so The End shall come! “Immanentizing the Eschaton” — not as blatant as trying to blow up the Dome of the Rock and start WW3, but the same general idea.
That’s wonderful! I’m delighted that World Vision really helps improve lives and doesn’t leave until those improvements are self-sustaining.
What happens to the sponsors of children when World Vision leaves? Do they lose contact with the children in that area? Are they left never knowing what happens to them? If so, that must be really hard on people who have an emotional investment in a particular child. Are they told what will happen when they sign up?
If world vision is leaving an area then the staff are literally relocated to another office in a different area with need. Unfortunately, that means that due to privacy concerns there is no way for the sponsor to maintain contact with the child (or vice versa) once the need for that sponsorship has ended since World Vision acts as go-between in all communications.
What will happen is that the sponsor will be offered another child to sponsor in the new work area and the chance to build a new relationship.
It is a little heart breaking to think of losing that contact but in reality, once the child becomes and adult and leaves the sponsorship program to head to university or an occupation, there really is not much way to keep up the communication anyway.
The sponsorship information given out does speak to this. It’s a temporary situation and the sponsors are meant to work themselves out of a job, so to speak.
Yes! It’s just like parenting or discipling someone. Your job is to make yourself obsolete. It is sad to not have that connection anymore, but what a beautiful opportunity to give to someone with no expectation of return.
And World Vision is showing the sense and integrity to “work themselves out of a job.” Too often the missionary/charity work becomes a self-perpetuating jobs program for the missionaries/charity workers. Never let the little brown ones be able to fend for themselves — then how can us white Christian missionaries from the First World be important?
This is what happened to the New England Calvinist missionaries in Hawaii. (Never mind that New England Calvinist and Hawaiian Polynesian are about as different culturally as you can get.) They made themselves self-perpetuating and within three generations accumulating wealth and political power (as a new white aristocracy) had eclipsed anything to do with preaching.
Man. You just lit up my day, Darrell!
Your pictures have all been so wonderful, what a blessing!
Give her paler skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, and that little girl in the picture could be my niece. Same eye shape, same mouth and nose. I kid you not.
I looked at her and saw–family.
But then, isn’t that the point?
(Gotta go now before anyone sees me cry.)
Wonderful! Sounds like you had a little taste of heaven today.
Joyful — that’s the word that comes to mind reading this. What a great work they’re doing!
What an amazing experience for you!!! We have sponsored a World Vision child for the last 6 years. This spring we received a letter stating that this summer they would moving on to a different area as they are now self sufficient. Wondering if that area they are moving from is the same as where you are at? For the life of me I cannot remember where our sponsored child was from… it appears my memory loss is getting worse…. 🙁
As my favorite, unapproved, rock song lyrics state: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” What a blessing to be able to share in that victory – for World Vision and the now self-sustaining community! That’s what it should be all about! Thanks for putting things in perspective for me this morning
It’s great when you do start something that helps people, but how even greater to see your work completed.
If I may put some logistical stuff into all this sentimentality, there are very, very few people in America who truly cannot give to World Vision or a charity like it. Most people don’t because we budget our money around our luxuries that we deem necessities.
I do not agree with the fundy perspective to always do more, but I do agree with the biblical perspective to do something. So if you are someone who isn’t doing something, let me challenge you to find the $35.00 a month to start. Look for ways to squeeze the money out of your budget. That’s what I did.
Some practical ideas; if you have a smart phone, downgrade to a regular cell phone. That alone would cover the cost of sponsoring a child. If you are in the process of getting a car, purchase one with better fuel economy than your old one and transfer those savings towards this goal. If you are a person/ family who goes out to eat often, either skip it once a month, order something cheaper than normal and pay yourself the difference, or get water intead of soda or 1 more beer (because who only gets 1 right?)
There are tons of ways to sqeeze an extra $35.00 a month. Granted there are a lot of people out of work who are really trying, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. However, when the job does come, my challenge to you would be this; write out a budget and include this in your bills to start.
Heck, I’d even say that if you are a person who gives or tithes to your church, and your church is doing just fine financially, redirect $35.00 a month of that to World Vision or something equivalant.
Either way, just do something. Don’t allow yourself any excuses.
As I read this description of the tangible thoughtful beautiful love of God, and how it multiplies and moves in lives and in spirits regardless of address, education, color or religious label, once again, Psalm 46:10 gently rang in my ears:
“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Best line of the trip:
“I wish you could have seen those children smile and dance.”
I just caught up on the Sri Lanka posts, and I’m loving them. Thanks for showing the rest of us what you’re seeing, and what World Vision does in the name of Christ. (My family sponsors two Bolivian children through World Vision, and it’s reassuring to read a firsthand account of WV work.)
I loved two things about your post:
Your daily, regular interaction with such a wide variety of faiths (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu) astounds me. I hadn’t realized that Sri Lanka was home to such diversity (I guess, if anything, I’d assumed it was largely Hindu, like India.) It sounds like such a cool opportunity to learn!
I am also impressed that the Sri Lankans are reaching out to you favourably because you are Americans and America means “World Vision.” We Americans have royally messed things up in some parts of the world, and in others we’re primarily known for Hollywood. How cool to see a place where we’re actually known for something GOOD.