This week marked the 1 year anniversary of an event I’ve been calling the World Vision Fiasco. I have been lamenting the events which took place last spring, and the damaging fallout that has flowed as a result. As a quick recap for those who didn’t follow the events last year: World Vision is a Christian relief organization which does incredible work around the globe in alleviating poverty, helping people after natural disasters, etc. Behind the scenes, World Vision realized that they represent the diversity which exists in the Christian church, and as a result, they decided that they would change their hiring policies here in the US to include the hiring of gay Christians who were married. Instead of making this change quietly over time, Christianity Today got ahold of the story and pushed it to the front pages almost overnight… and we all know what happened next….
The internet exploded.
The establishment was outraged that gay people might work at a Christian organization, and they marched in lock-step with one another to make children around the world pay for it. Average folks, following the example of leaders such as John Piper and other personalities who denounced World Vision (as well as the band Casting Crowns who discontinued their partnership), took to the internet to plaster WV’s Facebook with nasty messages, and to announce they were canceling sponsorship of their children.
And they weren’t kidding. The number we’ve known publicly was that 10,000 children were dumped by Christian families in those few days- a number so big that it brought World Vision into submission to the right, causing them to reverse their policy decision just a few days later (here’s their official statement on that). Yet, even with the reversal, in many ways the damage was done. 10,000 child sponsorships is a lot to lose. As one WV source told me, one of the key things that saved them during this time were the progressive bloggers recruiting new sponsors- had we not done that, who knows how bad it would have been.
For the past year we’ve been throwing around the number of 10,000 children who lost sponsors, but a year later we now know the full reality. World Vision has made public some actual numbers– and when I break the numbers down, they’re a little hard for me to wrap my head around. Here’s the official statement provided by World Vision US:
“World Vision USA has a clearer picture of the financial impact, which has resulted in roughly 15,000 canceled sponsorships with possibly up to 4,000 additional cancelations that might be attributable to last year’s events.”
That’s 15,000 for sure, and 4,000 sponsorships likely lost, for a total number of upwards of 19,000 kids who had their sponsorships pulled. But let’s break that down even further: a source confirmed with me that the average sponsor stays with their child for 10 years. So when we really want to dissect the impact of the gay marriage fiasco, the ultimate number over time would look like this: 19,000 sponsorships lost at $35 per month, over 10 years each, equals $6,650,000.00 in total losses. Even if we write off the 4,000 children where there’s question as to why they were dropped, that still leaves us at a verifiable, known loss of $5,250,000.00 that is a direct response to the decision to employ gay Christians. It’s simply unfathomable.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit a a widow and her son in Armenia who are supported by World Vision, and wrote about the experience in a post called “Dear Rick and Becky, I Hope You Get To Read This.” We sat in their tiny makeshift home and listened to their story of heartache, loss, and poverty- a story of such sorrow that the mother couldn’t tell it without choking up, and we couldn’t listen without doing the same. However, their story did have one beautiful part: their sponsors, Rick and Becky, from World Vision. They told me about how much their letters are a source of encouragement in a discouraging life, and how they feel like Rick and Becky are part of their family. After hearing their story, I was given the honor of leading the World Vision team in prayer. As I prayed I thought about the 15,000-19,000 kids who relied on these letters as a source of encouragement, but who just stopped getting them abruptly because their sponsors had a problem with World Vision employing a gay person. I wondered how this boy and his mom would have felt had Rick and Becky just abruptly exited their lives (which they didn’t), or how all the children who did experience that loss must have felt.
I don’t know how to express the emotions I felt when I realized the crushing loss that being abandoned by a sponsor must have been, other than it was combination of feeling broken hearted and royally pissed all at the same time.
Here’s reality: there have been between 15,000 – 19,000 children like the one you see here– children who viewed their sponsors as part of the family and a lifeline– who abruptly stopped receiving letters. The relationships were broken and dismissed. No more encouraging notes. No more special gifts on birthdays or holidays. No more funds for emergency clothing or food rations. It just stopped.
For up to 19,000 children. Let that sink in.
Having seen first hand how much these relationships are cherished, I am unable to fathom the relational devastation that was caused by Christians who wanted to stand against gay marriage more than they wanted to help the children they sponsored. And beyond the relational damage, there’s somewhere around 6 million dollars of funding for children living in dire poverty that has now vanished, all because thousands of my fellow Christians couldn’t stomach the idea that the person delivering those clothes or food might be gay.
This is a tragedy. There are plenty of days where it feels like the battle over gay marriage has gotten completely out of control, and this is one of them. One side may have won the three day war with World Vision, but it left upwards of 19,000 hungry children alone on the real battlefield.
Friends, there’s still pieces that we need to pick up. Whether you’re a “Monday” person or a “Wednesday” person, or someone stuck in between, these kids have suffered great loss– and will continue to suffer. Who will join me in standing in the gap? Who will put starving children ahead of their personal theology? If not us, than WHO?
Please join me in sponsoring a child today. Use this link right here— it’s just $35 a month, and together we can turn the tide of this horrible event.