To Ethiopia With World Vision, Who Are They?

World Vision Ethiopia - 147_2As you may know, Mike and I just got back from a trip to Ethiopia with World Vision. My brain, and my heart, are still in a bit of shock, but I’m sorting through our experiences so I can share a couple of them with you. But, before that, I thought it’d be helpful to let you into the heart and soul of World Vision.

I’m embarassed to say that Mike and I knew very little about World Vision before we left. We thought we knew who they were—we have seen their ads, heard their appeals and have sponsored children with them—but when we were with them, up close and personal, we realized that we knew virtually nothing about them.

As I was trying to articulate what makes World Vision so special, I did some research and came across their “Core Values.”  These core values embody what they are all about. And Mike and I saw these values in action, transforming lives, families, communities, indeed an entire country. 

I especially saw this value in living color:
We seek to facilitate an engagement between the poor and the affluent that opens both to transformation. We respect the poor as active participants, not passive recipients, in this relationship. They are people from whom others may learn and receive, as well as give. The need for transformation is common to all. Together we share a quest for justice, peace, reconciliation, and healing in a broken world.

You can’t get better than that!

Read what else embodies World Vision. Then stay tuned for some real life stories of transformation. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

The World Vision Partnership has six core values that are central to its identity and what it aspires to be. (From the World Vision International Website: Core Values)

We are Christian
We acknowledge one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Jesus the love, mercy and grace of God are made known to us and all people.

We seek to follow Jesus – in his identification with the poor, the powerless, the afflicted, the oppressed, and the marginalised; in his special concern for children; in his respect for the dignity bestowed equally on women and men; in his challenge to unjust attitudes and systems; in his call to share resources with each other; in his love for all people without discrimination or conditions; in his offer of new life through faith in him.

We hear his call to servant hood, and to humility.

We maintain our Christian identity while being sensitive to the diverse contexts in which we express that identity.

We are committed to the poor
We are called to serve the neediest people of the earth; to relieve their suffering and to promote the transformation of their wellbeing. We stand in solidarity in a common search for justice. We seek to understand the situation of the poor and work alongside them.

We seek to facilitate an engagement between the poor and the affluent that opens both to transformation. We respect the poor as active participants, not passive recipients, in this relationship. They are people from whom others may learn and receive, as well as give. The need for transformation is common to all. Together we share a quest for justice, peace, reconciliation, and healing in a broken world.

We value people
We regard all people as created and loved by God. We give priority to people before money, structure, systems, and other institutional machinery. We act in ways that respect dignity, uniqueness, and intrinsic worth of every person – the poor, the donors, our staff and their families, boards, and volunteers. We celebrate the richness of diversity in human personality, culture and contribution. 

We practice a participative, open, enabling style in working relationships. We encourage the professional, personal, and spiritual development of our staff.

We are stewards
The resources at our disposal are not our own. They are a trust from God through donors on behalf of the poor. We speak and act honestly. We are open and factual in our dealings with donors, project communities, governments and the public at large. 

We demand of ourselves high standards of professional competence and financial accountability.

We are stewards of God’s creation. We care for the earth and act in ways that will restore and protect the environment. We ensure that our development activities are ecologically sound.

We are partners
We are partners with the poor and with donors in a shared ministry. We are members of an international World Vision Partnership that transcends legal, structural, and cultural boundaries.

We pursue relationships with all churches and desire mutual participation in ministry. We maintain a cooperative stance and a spirit of openness towards other humanitarian organisations. 

We are responsive
We are responsive to life-threatening emergencies where our involvement is needed and appropriate. We are willing to take intelligent risks and act quickly. 

We do this from a foundation of experience and sensitivity to what the situation requires. We also recognise that even in the midst of crisis the destitute have a contribution to make.

We are responsive in a different sense where deep seated and often complex economic and social deprivation calls for sustainable, long-term development.

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17 Responses to “To Ethiopia With World Vision, Who Are They?”

  1. I loved reading this. I am sponsoring some World Vision kids in Ethiopia! I would love to read more about your experiences there. Thanks for a great blog.

  2. Gail, I’ll pull together that WV trip with you and Luci so that I for sure won’t be left out! I love your blog — it brings it all back to life for me. And, I love the verse Luci shared from Matthew 6 — the gospel writer could have been talking about *you*. You help out, quietly and unobtrusively. I saw it all week in Ethiopia, as I’ve seen it whenever I’m with you anywhere.

  3. Luci Swindoll May 21, 2009 at 10:48 am

    One more comment, Gail. I found this great passage yesterday in “The Message”, from Matt. 6:1-3. It’s sooo World Vision and how they do things everyday…all over the world —

    “When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes — helps you out”.

    Is that cool, or WHAT?

    Thanks for your sweet response to my note, and for telling me about Mahelet. What a fabulous name. [I’m ready for that trip whenever you are. Remember — I stay packed].


  4. Oh, Luci, PLEASE let’s find a trip to do together. I would have loved to have seen Ethiopia and it’s precious people through your eyes. You have supernatural powers when it comes to seeing the real worth and dignity of a human being.

    It’s an amazing time we live in, which makes it possible for us to experience Christ in all places. To see his hands and feet in such remote parts of the earth. He truly is everywhere present and filling all things. Especailly in places of pain and suffering. I saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted that joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God.

    I also saw that so little we do or so little we give can relieve SO MUCH suffering in others. One person can (and SHOULD) make a big difference. We have such a resonsibility.

    We got the name of our new little Ethiopian sponsored child yesterday. Her name is Mahelet and she’s 6 years old. She’s beautiful.

  5. Luci Swindoll May 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Great blog, Gail. I so wish I had been in Ethiopia with you, if for no other reason than to see your face as you encountered the work of World Vision, first hand. I knew it would melt your heart. Since the first trip I went on with them many years ago, I’ve been an avid follower and advocate of their commitment to the poor.

    They truly live out of their core values, and make the rest of us want to do the same. Hopefully you’ll go again, and perhaps I can be in that group, with you. Until then, let’s get together one day and introduce each other to the WV children we sponsor.

    Much love to you and Mike…and welcome home!

  6. Rachel,

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    Very well articulated. I know you will love THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL because it speaks to heart of what you’ve already observed. What DOES it really mean to be a Christian?

    I have to say, that while being with the Ethiopians, on staff with World Vision, something instantly registered in my soul that this is what it “looks like” to be a real follower of Christ. I just wanted to be more like them; full of joy, full of love and empty of self.

    Now come get the book!

    Love you,

  7. Shelia,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this video:

    Please, everyone, watch this.


  8. Gail,

    I agree with Rhonda, that all who call themselves “Christian” should likewise adopt these core values. Were that the case!

    I read WV’s values several weeks ago when I was trying to decide whether or not to sponsor a child through them, and I was so pleasantly surprised with how they had defined themselves and how much “social justice” language they were comfortable using. Ever since my years as an undergrad, I’ve been so frustrated by this dichotomy I’ve seen in my friends — the ones who are not Christians have been, in my experience, the biggest advocates for who Jesus referred to as the “least of these,” and my friends who were Christians, cared about social justice issues for the most part in word (if that) but not in deed.

    Which is to say, reading WV’s core values was incredibly refreshing for several reasons. As I was reading the “We Are Christian” tab, I kept saying, “Yes, yes, yes, yes!” I really appreciated their inclusion of the word “marginalized” as one of the groups of persons Jesus identified himself with, and their recognition that Jesus bestowed dignity equally on both sexes, and his call to share resources among one another.

    More than that, I feel it speaks volumes about who they are as an organization that they explicitly outlined that the poor are HUMAN BEINGS just as we are. The sentence “We respect the poor as active participants…” cheered me to no end. And I think it’s a distinction that gets lost too, too easily. As you know, Paul Farmer is one of my heroes, and one of the reasons that his work with Partners in Health has been so successful is that from the beginning they acknowledged that the poor are the only ones who are true experts on their own poverty — that you can bring in infectious disease specialists and economists and civil engineers and any other specialist you see fit, but in the end, the most successful programs are the ones designed with the input of those who will utilize them. I am really happy to see WV doing that as well. It turns out that going about development in this way — with regards to the dignity and input of the poor — is also more sustainable and cost effective in the long run.

    Whew! I could go on and on and tell you all that I love about these values, but I will spare you and your readers 🙂 Can’t wait to read Hole in Our Gospel and talk to you about it, and hear more about your trip.


  9. Gail,

    Thank you for sharing this beautifully articulated, humble and expansive vision statement. I agree with Rhonda that this should be our credo. It IS our credo, we just need to live it. I look forward to reading more as God gives you the words to share all that is in your heart.

    With regard to the beautiful statement regarding how much we ALL have to learn from one another, I wonder if you have ever seen the video, “I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me”. It uses the photography of local photographer Jeremy Cowart and beautifully illustrates just that point. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here;

    See you in a little bit…

  10. Eva,

    You’re not being demanding at all. I definitely will share my personal experiences. And I had three that were particularly life-changing. I’m working on one now about meeting a single mom with six kids who literally was at the bottom. Lying naked on the floor of her tiny mud hut with no food and no hope, who wanted to take poison and end it all. Now she puts us all to shame with her outlook on life. … more to come 🙂

    Thanks for the nudge.

  11. Gail, thank you so much for sharing. What an incredible journey. I too was uninformed about the depths of World Vision.

    I love this: We hear his call to servant hood, and to humility.

    We maintain our Christian identity while being sensitive to the diverse contexts in which we express that identity.

    In a day and age when Christians are redefining themselves to fit it with others, it’s so critical to remember Christ is in the core of our hearts and ministry and lives.

    I’ve enjoyed going on the virtual journey with you and Mike.


  12. The only way others can touch the reality you have seen is through your words. I know you have a journal full of notes and will find time and energy to reenact more of your experience for us to see. Sorry for seeming demanding, but what you have to offer is a value that cannot be overlooked.

  13. Reading this was like reading a devotional, or a living creed, one that doesn’t go stale with time. Thanks for sharing this. I would like to stay informed about this organization. I also pray that the imprint Ethiopia left on your heart will always have an active voice in you, and a presence in your thought life.

  14. Rhonda and Colleen,

    I totally agree that we should take these values to heart and demonstrate them in the “world” where God has placed us. I’m so grateful to have seen this modeled before my very eyes.

    Wait until you read The Hole In Our Gospel, it puts even more into perspective and is so inspirational.

    Thanks for your comments.

  15. Oh that we would all take those to heart, Gail! Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Their core values should be the values of all of us who bear the name “Christians.”


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