Dear Rick & Becky: I Hope You Get To Read This One Day

Dear Rick & Becky: I Hope You Get To Read This One Day March 3, 2015

IMG_0520Dear Rick and Becky,

We don’t know each other, and the chances of us meeting or finding each other are pretty rare, but I just had to write this letter to you in hopes that enough people would share it that one day you’d read it.

You’re a World Vision sponsor and you have been sponsoring a 12 year old boy from Armenia named Menua. From what I can tell you’ve been sponsoring him for a while now, and the reason why I’m writing you like this is because I met him today.

I’m feeling so emotional after returning from his home that I’m not entirely sure what to say to you Rick & Becky, but I had to write in an attempt to tell you how much you’ve impacted a family a world away.

Before you became Menua’s sponsor, his parents lost everything in the Gyumri earthquake and his father later died when Menua was just four years old. Life quickly went from happy and comfortable to sad and vulnerable, as it so often does for families like Menua’s. For a time he and his mom got by with the help of an aunt, but after the tragic death of Menua’s young cousin his aunt moved back to Russia. Since then, it’s just been he and his mom, living in an apartment that’s not really an apartment- it’s just a converted area in the attic of a building where they find a way to survive.

Menua has a good mom– a proud, loving, and tenacious woman. She works as hard as she can to take care of him, working 7 days a week at $1.50 a day, but as you can imagine, that doesn’t exactly go far. Even with working her arthritic hands to their max, they still struggle to survive.

Today I sat in their make-shift home and I listened to their story. I watched Menua’s mom break down in tears recalling the sadness of their narrative. I watched those sitting around me tear up as our hearts broke for this mom and her son. There was so much tragedy and sadness in the room that it felt overwhelming– but all that dissipated when your names came up, Rick and Becky.

IMG_0505-EditYou see, your sponsorship of Menua is what they talk about when they talk about the good things in their life. In fact, as soon as the issue of sponsorship came up, Menua’s mother immediately went to a cupboard and pulled out a stack of papers.

And you know what they were?

They were your letters, Rick and Becky. All of them.

Letters, photos, cards– they’ve not only saved everything but they are among this family’s prized possessions.

Menua and his mother had told us of their loneliness but then referred to you, Rick and Becky, and said that it was like you were a very close relative to them. When speaking of you, Menua perked up and said, “they are always writing to encourage me.”

Rick and Becky, I know from the other side of the world letter writing might not seem like that big of a deal, but from this side I need to tell you how big of a deal it actually is. Your letters make a lonely and isolated family feel like they are being encouraged and cared for by a close relative. In fact, I think it might be safe to say that these letters are the most important letters you send anyone all year long.

And, it’s not just the letter writing that you need to know about, Rick and Becky. Your monthly sponsorship and the special gifts you have sent have kept them from starvation and ensured Menua has received the medical attention he needs for his eye condition. The World Vision staff here has made sure that your special gifts were used for emergency food rations when they were going hungry, came by with a box of clothing when they had none, and have personally ensured Menua gets to the doctors as often as he needs.

Rick and Becky, I don’t know who you are, where you live, or what you do. But I do know this about you: you are counted asIMG_0507 family to this widow and her son half a world away.

Growing up to old-school Christian music, I remember a song from my childhood called “Find Us Faithful.” While I don’t listen to that style of music anymore, that song flooded my mind today as I sat in that humble home. The words kept repeating over and over again in my mind:

“We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives”

And, I have to tell you, this song I hadn’t thought of in 25 years made me think of you, Rick and Becky. Today, in this make-shift apartment with Menua and his mother, you were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses– the World Vision blogger team.

And well, today we found you to be faithful.

On behalf of Menua and his mother, I just want to say thank you to the both of you for everything you’ve done to lift them up- both physically and spiritually. And, on behalf of the World Vision blogger team, I want to thank you for the encouragement you were to us on this day.

Keep running this race, Rick and Becky, because you’re running it well.

With sincere hope that one day you’ll discover what a difference you’ve made in Menua’s life,

Benjamin L. Corey

Make a difference like Rick and Becky: sponsor a child through World Vision today.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Thank you for sharing this story, Benjamin. <3

  • christine

    thank you Benjamin. We have sponsored children through World Vision for many many years. We currently sponsor three children. Over the years we have perhaps neglected to communicate as often as we could with our sponsored families. We thought it might seem too intrusive…as if there was some level of gratitude expected in return. Perhaps we were wrong and should be in closer contact. Regardless, we appreciate your work and this story.

  • Kristyn P

    This. Was. Beautiful. My eyes teared up reading this. What an amazing connection!

  • R Vogel

    Nice story, but I would hope people could find a better option than World Vision.

  • Please tell me who is better, based upon your experience of missiology and relief work. Would love to hear your professional analysis.

  • I promise, they cherish EVERY letter! I hope this encourages you to write.

  • christine

    My non-professional analysis, and the reasons we have chosen to give our support to World Vision:
    • The go into areas of the world that no other sponsorship or aid programs go. Compassion is a good organization…so is Samaritan’s Purse (I think), but they do not operate in all of the countries World Vision does. Their scope is larger than any other “parachurch” group.
    • World Vision hires workers from the areas they serve.
    • When natural disasters strike they are already in the countries where the help is needed.
    • While I don’t agree with their capitulation to the hardcore conservatives who rebelled when they decided to extend equal rights to same-sex married couples, they handled it quickly and moved on to continue their mission. It wasn’t a fight that was worth the lives of people around the world. That there were so many willing to abandon the commitment they had made to children was so much more telling than anything WV did.

  • R Vogel

    First, the score 2 of 4 stars on Charity Navigator with less than 83% of their income going to program expenses.

    Second, there is this: http://resistdaily.com/african-children-not-your-pawns-world-vision-evangelical-imperialism/

    Third, whether or not WVI likes it or not they are implicated in the bs that went down last year with WV USA. They sure didn’t distance themselves in any way. I would not advocate someone supporting a family to stop, but if you are looking for a charity I think you could do better.

    I don’t really care about missiology, whatever that is. I’m sure there are plenty of other charities that further your agenda without the poor financials and baggage.

    Check out Guidestar or Charity Navigator.

  • mmgcox

    I cannot speak to R Vogel’s second and third points about World Vision, but I must speak to the first one, the fact that “less than 83% of their income [goes] to program expenses” and, thus, WV has a low rating by Charity Navigator and GuideStar. R Vogel’s information is so dated that it is really mis-information. In early 2013, these two charity watchdog groups, along with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, completely reversed themselves on the issue of administrative cost as a determinant of a charity’s effectiveness (and, by extension, worthiness to receive donated support) with a letter to the public that they called “The Overhead Myth.” The letter can be found at http://overheadmyth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/GS_OverheadMyth_Ltr_ONLINE.pdf. I encourage R. Vogel, and anyone else who still believes that the ratio of a charity’s administrative-to-program costs is a reliable determinant of its effectiveness, to read the 2013 letter thoroughly, look at the statistics on the accompanying pages, and dig deeper by looking at the references cited at the end of the document. In particular, look up the article entitled, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” to see how the Overhead Myth has actually made charities LESS effective. Sure, there are charities who really blow it for the rest of us with puffed-up executive salaries, nepotism, and the like. The vast majority, however, do a great deal with relatively few resources and their ability to be the best they can be is often thwarted by the pressures of the Overhead Myth held by their donors, their board, government funders (there’s an irony there), etc. I have faced this situation repeatedly during my career as a non-profit executive, having to willfully under-fund important aspects of achieving my agency’s mission to the people it served in order to maintain the excessively low Myth-driven administrative cost ratio. Administrative costs are not just executive salaries. They include expenses that are necessary for the direct program services to happen (like your local school has school buses — an administrative cost — to get kids to the classroom where the direct service happens). Whatever the other faults that World Vision may or may not have, a 17% administrative cost is amazingly low, given their impact upon people (both in their statistics and in anecdotes like Benjamin described). This low cost is likely possible because of their size (economies of scale), an ability to rely on volunteers or low-paid staff (missionaries), and the fact that the service it provides (while complex in its delivery) is not highly technical or regulated in the areas where the service is delivered. Charities that do not have these characteristics generally cannot be held to a similar standard without sacrificing effectiveness, and I would really wonder about what is being cut at a local mental health center, veterans program, daycare facility, domestic violence shelter, or youth-serving agency to achieve a 17% ratio. Further, if you want a charity to have a healthy mix of funding sources so it is sustainable, please rethink the part of the Myth that considers fund raising expenses to be frivolous — charities compete for donor dollars in an increasingly competitive marketplace and it takes money to make money. Cost-per-dollar-raised is a much better determinant of fund raising effectiveness than the cost of fund raising as a percentage of a charity’s expenses. Please help dispel the Overhead Myth and start looking at a charity’s mission, its service statistics, and its impact on the people it serves. It the administrative ratio looks high, consider the nature of the service and ask questions. Look at the three watchdog organizations’ websites for further tips on discerning what makes an effective charity. Some may consider this to be a rant. I guess it is — R Vogel pushed a button with me. Rant or not, I hope many of you will check out the resources I referred to above and give it some thought. With “missology” being the theological study of the mission of the church, especially the character and purpose of missionary work, it is important in a forum like this to look at the what really makes a difference to those in need. Thanks, Benjamin, for sharing this story of true impact on real people!

  • Noah

    Checkout mmgcox’s ‘response’ to yours. Stuff about an ‘overhead myth’…

  • R Vogel

    ‘It wasn’t a fight that was worth the lives of people around the world.’

    How about the lives of people around here?

    Suicide is the leading cause of death among Gay and Lesbian youth nationally.

    30% of Gay youth attempt suicide near the age of 15.

    Gays and Lesbians are two to six times more likely to suicide than Heterosexuals.

    Almost half of the Gay and Lesbian teens state they have attempted suicide more than once.

  • christine

    My apologies if I gave you the impression that I consider the value of one life as superior to that of another. I did not intend in any way to be that reductive. I understand all your statistics and have not only sympathy but empathy with “the lives of people around here”. We could have abandoned our commitment to three families we sponsor because WV went back on their original plan to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples in their work place. I believe their initial stand was the right thing to do and would have been a wonderful example to the rest of the Christian world. It is a policy that has been established in other WV regional headquarters. I expressed my disappointment with their decision to reverse themselves, both privately with WV and publicly.

    Because we know the Pacific Northwest well, having grown up there and lived most of our adult lives there, we believe there is more and more good support being offered to gay youth in the area, and with the legalization of gay marriage in Washington State (the location of WV US headquarters), more civil rights support. We chose to remain committed to our sponsored families rather than make a stand that was to their detriment.

    The suicide rate of gay youth is very disturbing. I have not seen the statistics following the national “It Gets Better” campaign, but am hopeful it will make an impression. I pray for that outcome regularly. I believe the expansion of groups like the Gay Christian Network will also have a healing effect sooner than many believe.

  • R Vogel

    ‘We could have abandoned our commitment to three families we sponsor because WV went back on their original plan to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples in their work place.’

    I agree that would have been a tragic and immoral response, no better than the mass of evangelicals who pulled their support when the original decision was announced. I would never encourage someone to end their existing sponsorship. But I would encourage someone looking for a charity to support to look at other options, ones that better reflects their progressive values. As we saw, they only respond to $$$.

  • Man, Ben, that was an really really good piece. Thanks alot! Gave me the chill, in a good way.

  • rebeccatoro

    Benjamin- you found us! Your story of our family really touched us. We are aware of their needs now after being a part of World Vision for years (and having another child in Albania)
    We figured out how great their need is when we intended monies at Christmas to go to Menua for things he might want- instead- they sent photos of he and his Mom with a large amount of food- those staples we take for granted. At first we were shocked and then quickly realized how blessed we are….and how food is what made them happy!!! Flour, sugar, etc were their ‘gifts’. How humbling.

    We are reminded by your post how much our letters mean to them; so we will write more often now. We continue to contribute and be involved with World Vision- World Vision does change lives…we are simply a small piece of ‘why’ it changes lives around the world.

    Thank you for sharing…we hope you are as blessed to know you found us and that we plan to continue on. We are humbled and thankful for your letter and attempt to find us….just two people trying to walk the road of faith and sharing our blessings.
    Happy Easter- feel free to contact us via email Benjamin.