Meet Jo Carlson.
Her favorite non-World Vision hobbies are: Traveling and meeting people in different cultures. She loves hearing their stories. She is also the Pit Master at Smokey Jo's Texas BBQ Patio. Yes. She has become a Pit Master in her own backyard! She loves smoking brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and turkey. She says her neighbor once challenged her to a cook off, but then immediately declared her the winner after tasting several of the meats she had smoked.
Jo has been married to her best friend, Jeff, for 20 years. They both agree that their greatest challenge in life was their blended family. This presented a lot of challenges that they never saw coming, but they are grateful that they put the Lord first in their marriage and held it all together in spite of those challenges. Now they are empty-nesters and LOVING this stage of life. Jo says, that no matter what people say, this is the greatest stage!
When asked what brought Jo to the CA program, she reflected on her own childhood:
We all grow up with challenges in our life. Mine was growing up in a very impoverished farming community. I can identify with some of the struggles that others face when they do not have resources. When I was 14, I was given this challenge: "You have often heard that you cannot change the world; but if you can change the world for one person, you have changed the world." This person went on to talk about the work that he had seen done in Appalachia. At that time, I knew God was speaking to me to become involved in helping others living in abject poverty. Fast forward about 12 years, I became a World Vision sponsor. I wanted to share the way World Vision was working in communities. I would tell others of the work and ask them to check it out and consider sponsoring a child. When the CA program came along I knew it was right for me, as now I had a more 'official' means of helping to irradiate poverty.
Jo, could you tell us a little bit about your favorite event/favorite sponsorship story as a CA?
There are so many stories… and it's hard to pick just one. But I think my favorite story is actually one of my own. I was given the opportunity to travel to Zambia with World Vision, so my husband and I decided I should have a sponsored child to meet there. As Jeff said, "It would not be right for you to come home and show everyone pictures of you and the goats, so you will need a child." The child I chose was an orphan living with her grandmother, one brother, and one sister. Among the picture folders I received was one child that the Lord spoke to me about. Munenge was an older child, but she was not in school. As I looked at her picture, there was pain and despair in her eyes. My goal was to get 20 children sponsored in this community before making the trip to Zambia. Although I could have waited to see if anyone else would sponsor Munenge, I knew she was the child that the Lord had for me. In my shallow thought process, I said, "Well, I am sure that the Lord wants me to help this child get through school. My sponsorship will help her with that." Instead of waiting to see if someone else would help her or even mailing the sponsorship in to WV, I picked up the phone, called World Vision, and added her to my account. Six months later, I traveled to Zambia and had the chance to meet Munenge and her grandmother. The grandmother spoke very clear English. My visit was a great joy as I saw so much change in Munenge. The extended family was very warm and loving toward me. As our time together neared an end the grandmother said to me, "Before you leave here today, I want you to know our story." She proceeded to tell me that her son had died suddenly and she became the caregiver for her three grandchildren, but did not have any means to provide for their most basic needs of food and water. They were facing certain death. She explained how she hit her knees and cried out to the Living God for a miracle and that miracle came just a few days later when I sponsored Munenge. She explained how sponsorship had changed everything for them and provided food, a deep well, small animals, garden seeds, and education for all three children. She then put her face near mine and waved her finger right in my face as she said, "You saved our lives!" That was a turning point for me. I now understand that a sponsorship is often more than it appears. I have had the opportunity to travel to 8 different countries and see approximately 2 dozen WV projects. In talking with the people in the projects, it has become clear to me that almost everyone is crying out for a miracle. Our sponsorships are answers to their cries and a sign from God that He has heard them and answered.
Is there a bit of encouragement you could give to other CA's?
This ministry is really not about the number of sponsorships you get each year or comparing yourself to others. It is about answering the call that the Lord has put on your life. It took me nearly 18 months as a CA to get my first sponsorship. And still today, no members of my extended family have sponsored a child. When no one said yes, it would have been easy to let the discouragement take over and quit; but I knew the Lord was calling me to help those living in the most difficult places. Today when someone says no, I remind myself that they are just not ready yet. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convince to them, not mine. I planted a seed and might never finalize that sponsorship, but you might. Also, try to volunteer for a couple of World Vision Artist events. Work an event that your area leader or another CA has set up. These are great training grounds and can answer a lot of questions you may have as a CA. Remember, your leaders are always here for you! So call, email, or text us!
Which scripture/quote gives you encouragement in this ministry?
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Mathew 25:35-40
You can reach Jo via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.