contributed by Jim Naugle / edited by Paula Hemphill
I'm not exactly a Child Ambassador superstar. I haven't presented an event where dozens of children were sponsored. I haven't earned enough sponsorships to go on a Vision Trip. During my six years of being a Child Ambassador, I generally got a few kids sponsored each year and talked at a church or two. I’d send out several emails to friends and local churches which usually went unanswered. I took solace in the fact that I was changing lives one at a time, but I kept having the feeling that I could be doing more. This year has been a little different. I have scheduled significantly more meetings with pastors and church committees. I’ve had more one-on-one conversations with friends and acquaintances about sponsorship. I'm on pace to have more sponsorships and refugee responders than previous years. As I reflect on trying to figure out what is different this year, I see that the answer lies in my relationships with other Child Ambassadors.
I think of the time I heard Child Ambassador Javy Diaz talk about how if we each just got 1 sponsorship a month, that would be 12 in a year, and we would crush our goals as a team.
I remember Megan Caddell telling us how successful Child Ambassadors don’t have a special formula, they just arrange child sponsorships by reaching out-- one person at a time.
Then there’s Dee Billing who suggested that I rely less on emails and focus more on personal, direct phone calls.
At last year’s Child Ambassador Conference Merrill Swenke sat on stage, play acting her role as a Child Ambassador as she made the point that she makes time during her workday to call churches and that she is persistent.
I recall fellow CA, Sue Kurnett, posting on Facebook that during the year of her 50th birthday she set a goal to get 50 children connected to 50 sponsors.
I remember Rich Stearns’ talk last year when he demonstrated the seriousness of the Syrian refugee crisis by comparing the numbers of refugees with the populations of 19 U.S. cities: Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Denver, Albuquerque, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Indianapolis, Columbus, Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Detroit.
Stu and Celeste Sherman shared an audio version of their Syrian refugee talk which allowed me to get started on my own presentation by liberally borrowing-- or perhaps stealing-- from their talk.
I retain the image of ten Child Ambassadors standing at last year’s Child Ambassador dinner, each one invited to see World Vision’s work in Rwanda and the inspiration that provides for the rest of us to strive for the same goal.
And I consider Paula Hemphill and how she reaches out to her child ambassador team with regular contact and prayer.
There's a common thread here. I met all of these people at conference over the past six years. Each one has provided a piece of the puzzle, a building block to becoming an effective Child Ambassador. Each one of them has been inspiring, encouraging, setting the bar a little higher each year as I meet them at conference. God leads the right people to conference year after year and as Javy Diaz wrote in his blog, God combines them as parts of an orchestra into one beautiful song.
The symphony continues in October and if you haven't been to Child Ambassador conference, I fully recommend it. It will change how you approach being a Child Ambassador. You will meet people who will carry you along on the journey. You will be inspired. I know because it happened to me.
Hope to see you in October. Sign up here!
Contributed by Laura Walls
We're nearing the close of our 7-day Matthew 25 Challenge and I'm kinda wishing I could go back to Monday and start it all over again, this time with my family on board! It was our first week of school and I was struggling to keep track of all that was going on and, as a result, I decided to make the challenge a personal one and not include my family. But you know what? After going through and watching the videos and participating in the daily challenges, I realized that I missed a really beautiful, kid-friendly opportunity to grow spiritually with my kids! I'm already looking forward to my next chance to do this and this time, I'm going to invite my family to be challenged, as well!
How about YOU? How was your week???
I feel kinda guilty to admit it, but I was surprised at how effectively these simple challenges impacted my heart and my perspective! It was a really humbling feeling to realize that I was fighting within myself to spend even one night on the floor when so many millions of people have no choice. Or that I was so worried about the way that one night on the floor might impact my children's ability to study in school the next day when millions of children have to cope with all of these challenges together EVERY DAY. It was a powerful wake up call.
And it's not over!
Not only do we have two more days in the Matthew 25 Challenge but, as child ambassadors, we have an additional challenge, as well. What are we going to DO about the experience we've just had?
My friends, tomorrow we are going to spend 30 minutes on a prayer walk to pray for those whom we've walked alongside in our challenge this week. As we pray for those who are hungry, thirsty, without clothes, sick, and imprisoned, let's also pray that the Lord would lead us to a way in which we can ACT on their behalf. Let's pray for BOLDNESS! Let's ask our Father to give us courage to ask AGAIN where we've heard them respond, "no." Let's ask for the filling of His Spirit to empower us to speak to leaders in our churches and communities and tell them about what we've experienced and invite them to be part of it, too!
A Call for YOU!
World Vision is issuing a NATION-WIDE call to YOU, child ambassador team. This is our chance to take the experience that we've just shared and invite others to be part of it the week of November 12th, leading up to Sunday, November 19th. This is our opportunity to act in "such a time as this."
In so many ways, the world is deeply troubled right now. I personally feel Matthew 25 is like a clarion call to the church to focus our attention on what matters to God and to show the world that He is righteous and good, loving and courageous, merciful and gracious and wants ALL THE NATIONS to be reconciled to Him. And World Vision, located in so many of the world's hardest places, is right where the Lord has led them to be so that He can be known and praised in some of the most difficult places on earth!
So tomorrow, pray for the way in which you will be involved. Will you invite your church to host a Matthew 25 Experience like child ambassador Carmen Brooks?
Will you share with other churches in your community? It's a powerful event and there are some great reasons to invite other churches to experience it! Merrill Swenke has found a church in the Dallas area that is really excited about hosting a Matthew 25 Sunday on November 19th!
Will you have a home party and invite a group of friends to take on the Matthew 25 Challenge together and host a Matthew 25 Sunday in your home? Courtney Crowder is preparing something special for some of her friends!
Or will the Lord lead you to do something else to share this call with His church? Let us know how He leads you! We want to be praying for you!
It IS possible to host a Matthew 25 Sunday ANYTIME throughout the year, so if you need to choose a different date, that is completely fine! However, note that the Matthew 25 Challenge sent out via text is ONLY available the week of November 12th. (On a personal note, I'm going to be praying and working to find a church willing to host a Matthew 25 Sunday on November 19th because I LOVE the Matthew 25 Challenge so much that I want to share it throughout the community, as well!)
Contributed by Laura Walls in Ideas for your Ministry
This past May, I had the chance to travel to my hometown of Hastings, MN to serve Christ's Family Church with their Matthew 25 Experience. It wasn't my home church, but I'd grown to truly love this church's heart for God and felt as though they were an extension of my own church family. After two years of meetings and emails, the Lord brought everything together and Christ's Family Church hosted the very first Matthew 25 Experience in the nation!
The way that God laid the groundwork for all involved was breathtaking and the materials provided by World Vision for this experience were perfect! The Matthew 25 Experience is so loving and compassionate to the church hosting it and I was proud to share it with them!
Following are five reasons why I think the Matthew 25 Experience is ideal for YOUR church, as well!
I couldn't see her face but my mom's voice carried a smile through the phone, "Do you have a minute? There's just something I have to share with you!"
She went on to read a letter from her new sponsored child, Vanessa, in Rwanda. She laughed in delight at how Vanessa called this letter "a golden opportunity" to thank my mom for choosing her. As I listened to the letter, I smiled and was reminded of the moment when Vanessa's picture folder lay on a table at Christ's Family Church in Minnesota following their Matthew 25 Weekend Experience.
It had been a powerful weekend, one that impacted many hearts in a lasting way! Pastors Joe Hannah and Paris Pasch along with the missions team had planned this event for many weeks with great anticipation. But the end result was greater than anyone expected! Ultimately their loving preparations along with World Vision's Matthew 25 resources, were used by the Holy Spirit to produce an exciting weekend that enabled the congregation to join together in following Christ's call to care for the "least of these!"
But what Christ's Family Church experienced isn't limited to them. In fact, the Matthew 25 Experience would work well for ANY church and here are five reasons why!
1) It makes love its aim. (1 Corinthians 14:1)
The Matthew 25 Experience doesn't simply inspire us to show love to the poor, rather this experience is about loving the church, as well. Its goal is to see the church come closer to God through this event. Its focus is love, pure and simple, and that comes across in every aspect of this resource - from the beautiful, eight minute video that shares the many ways a family in the United States seeks to live out their faith; to the interactive story cards that invite people to step outside their normal lives and into the shoes of a child on the other side of the world - every moment is designed to show love to those listening.
2) It gently communicates something that we all long for - deeper meaning and connection.
In our hurried lives here in the United States, we often lack real connectedness with God and others. We quickly move from distraction to distraction, missing out on the real meaning and purpose that Christ longs for us to enjoy. The Matthew 25 Experience is a gentle invitation to remember that in loving the thirsty, the hungry, and the stranger, we are loving Christ. And in doing that, we experience joy as the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to make us fruitful.
3) It moves us from knowledge of God to action through Him.
There is a difference between knowing a lot information about God and living a life that is compelled by a desire to live out that faith, rooted in Christ's love. I say this because I have lived it. I attended nearly 12 years of Christian school, and was part of countless Bible studies and Sunday School classes. But eight years ago, I realized that I had very nearly missed the whole point.
You see, I knew a lot about God but I was still living as though the purpose of my life was about me. At that time, after going through many years of struggling with depression, I realized that the purpose of my life wasn't about me at all. I realized that the purpose of my life was to bring glory to God and to align myself with His purpose and through that rotation of focus, God brought about the joy and fulfillment that I'd been longing for.
The Matthew 25 Experience can be used by God to revitalize the life of your church in a similar way. It gives us opportunity to live out our faith in a tangible way aligning our hearts with His global purpose. It moves us from knowledge of God to action through Him, and as we do so, God uses it to breathe into us His life and hope!
4) It gives us a way to live out Matthew 25 in our own lives.
Reading Matthew 25, we see that acting to meet the needs of the thirsty, the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner matters to God. In fact, it matters so much that His followers will be divided into two groups based on whether or not they did those things. We are told that the King will say, "in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."
We may be an ocean removed from people who lack access to clean water. We may not personally know the children who are dying from the food crisis in East Africa or those who are sick and without access to medicine. We may not know of a way to help the displaced refugee who is a stranger or those who are detained in a refugee camp but through this opportunity, we can be part of changing their lives in a real way. By hosting a Matthew 25 Sunday, we are giving an opportunity to love Christ by loving "the least of these."
5) It awakens our spirit, provoking a desire for something more.
I have served as a volunteer child ambassador for seven years, sharing about child sponsorship through World Vision with many, many churches. And through the years, I've been surprised by how often times I've had people come to sponsor a child with their eyes full of tears. I've heard many of them say, "I just don't know why I'm crying!"
Not long ago, I heard an explanation for this reaction that really rings true to me.
Tim Dearborn, Director of Faith and Development at World Vision International described it in terms of hunger. He wrote, "In cases of severe malnutrition, the aid worker seeks to provoke hunger in the starving child. Mercifully, after weeks without food, a child's digestive system shuts down, gastric juices cease to flow and hunger pangs disappear. Aid workers dip their fingers in sugar water and gently place them in the child's mouth, rubbing the child's chapped lips. If a child starts crying, the aid worker knows he or she has probably won the battle against death, for crying means the appetite has been reawakened."
I truly believe that the cries of a child as their stomach awakens to their deep hunger corresponds in a spiritual way to the tears of so many new child sponsors I've met. They cry because their spirit is awakening to the deep hunger within them to experience God. And in welcoming a little child, they are welcoming him.
I believe that all believers want to have an active faith that lives out Matthew 25. I think we long to experience something of significance, to live lives of meaning and purpose, and to see the face of our Savior but we don't always know how to take those steps to live out a more active faith. The Matthew 25 Experience can be used by God in our churches to give us that opportunity and to awaken us spiritually to cry out for more of him!
As child ambassadors, we have the privilege of stewarding these moments of transformation. We have the honor of introducing our friends, families, and churches to deepen their walks with God through obedience and faithfulness to his leading. Through this ministry, we serve the Lord not only by helping the poor and oppressed but also by inviting our family in Christ, the church, to experience the blessing of a glimpse of the face of God as they receive a child in the name of Jesus (Mt 18:5).
Are you interested in hosting a Matthew 25 Experience at your church? If so, you can find out more information here!
How about the Matthew 25 Challenge? The Matthew 25 Challenge is a week-long, message-based experience rooted in God's word. It includes daily sacrificial challenges, powerful stories, and prayer points. It's a glimpse into the lives of those whom Jesus calls, "the least of these," and a chance for us to walk with the children and families we serve in this ministry. It's also an opportunity for us to preview this resource so we can more effectively reach out to individuals and churches in our area!
Are you in? Text M25CA to 44888 to take on the Matthew 25 Challenge with the CA team on August 14-19! (But let's keep this preview between our Child Ambassador team and immediate family members for now! We'll have an experience you can share coming soon!)
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.