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The Famine Blog

Getting A Game Plan


By Tash McGill

get-a-game planI’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention lately. The first person to teach me about life strategy had just made some colossal mistakes and lost his job, his family and his idea of himself. He taught me that life happens in three parts; you learn, you earn, you return.

A few years later I came to thinking that you could reinvent and redesign every five years or so. Seemed like a reasonable plan – I mean, in five years you can retrain, you can graduate high school, you can send a kid to kindergarten.

Now I think, you can reinvent anytime you have the chance. Any new beginning and every ending is a chance to reinvent. You’ve got to reinvent the right thing though.

I’ve known a lot of people who’ve tried to reinvent themselves but failed. I think we are wired through nature, nurture and experiences to be who we are so trying to change ourselves is often counter-productive.

The Rugby World Cup is starting in a few weeks. (That’s the greatest game in the world. Seriously, you should look it up. ) The tournament only comes around every 4 years and it’s always a tough competition. You have to choose the best 31 players to join your squad, from which only 15 players can take the field at a time. Rugby players are not carbon copies of each other and they age a lot between World Cups. The 2011 champions are all a lot older than they were four years ago and they’re playing with new, less experienced members too. They have different strengths and skills, so every time a player combination changes you need to be able to change the strategy.

The objective is always to get the ball across the line. The ball doesn’t change, the objective doesn’t change, the rules don’t change. The only thing that you can change is the strategy of how you’re going to get there.

A friend of mine has just come out of rehab. It’s serious stuff. He’s learning he can’t change himself or his desire to drink. He can only change his tactics and strategy for living in a way that doesn’t harm himself or his family.

So every ending and any new beginning is a chance to reinvent your strategy. To get a new game plan instead of letting life just wash over you, hoping you’ll eventually get to where you are going.

The beginning of a new school year can feel overwhelming when you have no idea what’s going to come your way. Maybe you’ve lost valuable relationships, maybe your workplace environment has changed. Maybe you’re just bored or tired, exhausted at the idea of another year of all this.

Change your game plan. Whatever it is that you want to see happen this year; get a plan. And have a strategy in case that plan doesn’t work. Here’s a hint: that strategy begins with “Get back in the game.”

Team Peru Post-Trip Reflection


By Michael Atlas, Team Peru Participant

11898664_10153310323219681_1678521401441290281_nImagine a place where clusters of huts dot the picturesque mountainside. The communities are small and humble, but constantly striving to improve, growing bigger and better day-by-day. Everywhere you look, and in everyone you meet, you see hope; hope for good health, hope for community improvement, hope for a better life. This was my experience in Peru. Team Peru’s study tour into Ayacucho was nothing short of spectacular. I speak for all of us on the team when I say that this trip was touching, inspirational, and most importantly life-changing. It gave me a new take on not only poverty, but the entire way I view life, God, and myself.

While we were in Peru, we all got to see firsthand how World Vision helps those in need around the world. They do so much for the communities they’re involved in, supporting education, promoting hygiene, teaching nutrition; everything people need in order to live a substantial life. World Vision doesn’t just feed the hungry and leave; they provide communities with the basic essentials for progress, so that eventually they can move past the poverty line and become self-sufficient. I witnessed the impact of all this with my own eyes, and it was amazing. One community we visited had a guinea pig project from World Vision’s donations and teachings, and their progress was clearly evident, and quite amazing. Seeing all of the work that World Vision does overwhelmed me, and without their help I think the communities we visited would be in much worse shape.

11035978_10153310313524681_3497593544770866242_nVisiting the communities themselves was a surreal experience. It’s hard to turn everything I felt from the visits into words. Each community we visited treated us as if we were celebrities, throwing flowers at us, taking thousands of pictures, feeding us piles upon piles of food; it was so humbling. The only thing that I could think was that I don’t deserve this, that we were here to help them, not be honored. It was obvious that our arrival was as big a deal to them as it was for us, who knows how long they had been preparing for our visit; their excitement for us being there was almost greater than our own. One thing that I know I will remember for a very long time is all the children that we met. At the end of each visit, we all handed out gifts to the kids. Their eyes would grow wide with excitement, as they all swarmed and reached their hands out asking for anything we could give. I wish we could’ve given every kid we met an entire toy chest, but it still made my heart so happy just to see them all play with the little things we brought.

I went into this trip expecting to see lots of sadness amidst the poverty; I thought I would encounter illness and disease and all sorts of terrible things. I was wrong though: instead I saw pride, joy, and met people who had a better outlook on life than I did myself. Sure, we did see some people who were sick or hurt, but there was an air of hope around them versus one of depression. As people showed us their homes and their kitchens, they weren’t sad because they were poor; instead they were proud of what they had, and proud to improve their lives with the help of World Vision. This set an example for me, to not be ungrateful for what I own. I learned that it’s OK to desire more (that’s just human nature), but to remember to feel blessed for all that you have, that’s the perspective of the Peruvians we met.

11873551_10153310315209681_6262550694493127079_nAnother thing I saw from the communities was an extreme generosity: when we showed up they gave us everything they had, despite the fact that they had so little. Each one of us was individually fed enough for five people! They knew we wouldn’t be able to eat it all, but they gave it us any way, as a sign of hospitality. I can only imagine what they would give if they had as much as we do. It was almost as if they would’ve given us the shirts off their backs, like Jesus taught. I found God in everyone I met, not just because these people were deeply religious (which they are), but they simply acted with the same kindness that Jesus constantly embodied.

It’s a shame that people as genuine and nice as these Peruvians are struggling just to survive and feed their children; but World Vision is changing that. I was so blessed to be able to see all of this, to meet all of these people, to even travel to Peru in the first place. I know I said this in my previous blog post, but this wonderful experience wouldn’t have been the same without the rest of Team Peru, we all bonded so close during the week, and leaving them was just as hard as it was to leave each community at the end of the day. I’m really going to miss Peru, this experience was undoubtedly the journey of a lifetime, and everything I saw and felt will be forever in my heart and in my mind.

Community Development


community-devepmentMaybe you’ve heard that, in addition to disaster relief and other important work, World Vision is involved in “Community Development.” And maybe you’ve wondered exactly what that means. In the relief and development world, community development generally means improving conditions within a group of people alongside that group of people.

We especially love this definition from the Community Development Exchange:

“Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect. Community development involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives. It starts from the principle that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities’ desired goals.”

That collective action with communities looks like a whole host of different things… food, water, education, health programs, supporting local businesses with micro-loans or access to larger markets—ALL with the goal of a community’s sustainability in mind. The goal is to create a thriving, independent, self-sustaining community together with that community.

Does community development still sound abstract and impersonal?  Here’s more:

We Support the Hungry…So that they can feed themselves.

Could we hand out food? Sure. And we do in situations that are especially grim, like disasters—but that’s relief, not development. It meets the present need, but if that was all we did, what would happen if we left? People would go on being hungry.

Instead, development, looks like working with community volunteers to identify healthy children in the community and learn best practices from that child’s parents that can be combined with best practices in nutrition and farming. World Vision works alongside these community volunteers to share these insights with families in the community whose children are malnourished and to help them implement these learnings in their daily lives. Not only are children becoming healthier, but families are developing a sense of pride in their abilities to keep their families healthy and strong!

We Work Alongside the Thirsty…So that they can drink freely.

Imagine walking four miles every day of your life through tough terrain to gather your daily supply of water. And once you arrive, you scoop dirty, disease-ridden water out of a muddy creek bed. You use this water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Sabina, a mother of three living in Kenya, lived a life exactly like this. As a child, she never even attended school because she didn’t have time – she spent most of her time fetching water. As she grew older, she carried 70 pounds of water on her back every day from the creek bed to her home. She even made the trek the day she gave birth. Sometimes her children fell ill to disease because of the water.

Then, World Vision completed an irrigation system that provided Sabina and her neighbor with water spigots. Clean water. Accessible water. Now, Sabina’s children have time to attend school.  And now, Sabina and her family live free from the fear of water-borne illness.

We Educate Learners…So they know their rights and can be their own advocates.

Because her family lacked the funds to support her, Khoun Kheo stopped going to school after second grade.  In a village in Laos, Khoun now attends a literacy class through World Vision where she is learning how to read and write – two skills that will dramatically improve the quality of her life. When men and women learn to read and write, they can read laws, regulations, and loan agreements. As informed citizens, they can protect themselves and their families from oppression and contribute to society in new ways.

We Connect Local Businesses to Greater Opportunities…So that business owners can support their families.

In Rwanda, a woman named Angela owns a small clothing business. Her town lacks the infrastructure to help her business grow. She can’t walk to a bank and take out a loan to buy new equipment. In spite of these obstacles, Angela is determined to improve her business and provide for her children. World Vision pairs entrepreneurs like Angela with loan opportunities by introducing a donor in the US to Angela via programs like World Vision Micro. Through a small donation, this donor is providing funds to help Angela get her business up and running. Angela will now be able to support her family and contribute to the growth of her local economy as a result.

We Teach Health and Hygiene Practices…So that families can thrive!

Rowena, a mother of five, lives in the Philippines. In her community, it is not uncommon for a woman to birth 10 children. Because traditional practices neglect aspects of nutrition and disease prevention, children are often sick. Thankfully, mothers and community members can learn better hygiene practices through classes taught by World Vision. Parents learn things like sanitation and basic health care and prevention.  Rowena can now provide for her family’s health in ways she couldn’t before, and she teaches others to do the same.

We take a holistic approach to helping a community stand on its own two feet. Through food, water & sanitation, health interventions, education, and economic opportunities, World Vision’s community development model is designed to improve the lives of the children and families, as well as future generations as they step out of poverty, and into a healthy future.

A Report from Team Peru


Michael Atlas, Study Tour participant

IMG_2124Bear with me as I try to describe the amazing experience that Team Peru embarked on earlier this week. It started off with a flight into the city of Lima, and from there the adventure began. We soon traveled into the beautiful, mountainous, Ayacucho, where we were blessed to be given a look into the people, places, and cultures of the Andes. Each day started with a long morning drive to the city of Tambo, and from there we travelled to each ADP community. We visited houses, schools, sat in on lessons, watched demonstrations, and both saw and learned more than we could remember. We tried new foods, met new people, and travelled to places we’d never imagined.

Food is a huge part of culture to the Andean/Quechuan people, and it’s very different than it is here in the States. While we were there we tried a large variety of different Peruvian foods. Corn is a huge staple, and there was plenty of it; a lot of restaurants served different types of dried corn kernels before meals, and a school we visited snacked on some during class. There were also plenty of meats served, like chicken, pork, and especially guinea pig! I had my first experience with guinea pig (or cuy as they call it) at the first community we visited. They served us a feast of roasted chicken, lamb and corn soup, and most memorably, some fried cuy leg. It was all delicious, (although cuy isn’t really my personal favorite). Lastly, there is one thing we were served almost everywhere we went, Chicha, a drink derived from purple corn. It was literally drunken everywhere and in each area it had a slightly different taste. Everything we ate was spectacular, but just one small part of our amazing trip.

The Andes are a beautiful place, with mountains stretching out as far as the eyes can see. Ayacucho is also just as awe-inspiring, but the majority of our trip took place two hours away near the city of Tambo. Everyday started the same, a scenic drive to Tambo, and from there to the community. The villages we visited were all relatively small, and mainly comprised of humble homes and huts tucked away into the mountains. Each village was surrounded by farm fields (or guinea pig pens!) The houses within the village we visited consisted of three rooms, a living room, bedroom, and child space. Outside, around the house, was the kitchen/storeroom and the bathroom. Inside, the families had plenty of hand crafted, beautiful blankets, not to mention posters of world vision and their own personal goals on the wall (this part touched me the most). The schools we visited were interesting too. Although the building wasn’t as it is in the U.S, the classrooms were decorated with colorful work from the students, just like home.

There was so much to take in on our journey, and we were so lucky to get to see it all.

IMG_2081Out of every single thing we saw, I was most impressed by the people we met. Everyone we met at the communities was so kind and sweet, Each day we’d enter a new village or project to be greeted with signs and cheers and flowers (lots of flowers!), and everyone would shower us with hugs. The people were all so generous, first for letting us look into their lives, second for all that they gave us. Those people gave the little they had to us; they fed us feasts and brought us gifts! Another thing I noticed in each community was how proud everyone was; as they showed us their houses and how they educated their children, they spoke with a great amount of pride. We visited multiple schools as well on our visit, and the energy and enthusiasm the students had for learning was stronger than it is here. Every kid in that classroom was alert and part of the lesson. We watched one adorable lesson where one student read aloud a familiar story, and if he made a mistake the rest would call him/her out. He ended up making mistakes on purpose, in order to check if his classmates were paying attention. What I was most impressed with though, was the people’s complete and utter love for God. Every village we visited showed us their church (the biggest and nicest building, by the way), and one home we visited had a small church even built into the back. Even in their situation, they dedicate their lives to God, and thank him for all they have. It’s almost as if their circumstances have worked to strengthen their faith.

The entire trip was awe-inspiring, eye-opening, and simply amazing. Everything that we saw and everything that we experience will stick with us forever, and I have so many people to thank. Firstly, I’d like to thank all the wonderful World Vision Peru staff, they were with us every step of the way in Peru, and helped us to experience and learn so much. Also, I’d like to thank our World Vision team leaders for getting us through Peru and keeping us safe and well. Lastly, I’d like to thank my team, each one of them contributed to our group personality. Over the short time we had we grew into a family, and I couldn’t think of doing this with anyone else. I, as well as the rest of us, were so blessed by God to be able to make this journey, and I know none of us took it for granted. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I’m so glad to have been part of it.

How Long-Term Hunger Impacts the Brain



Let’s be honest, most of us can’t make it through the workday (or teenagers throughout the school day) without snacking. By 11 a.m. our stomachs are grumbling and we’re already thinking about what’s for lunch. The thought of being busy all day, then missing that meal seems crazy. But for far too many, hunger is more than a missed meal here and there. Hunger is a part of everyday life. The effects of hunger, malnutrition, and stress on brain development are not only devastating, but can be irreversible.

What exactly happens to the brain?

  • Hunger delays development on the cognitive, social and emotional level. This includes reading, language, attention, memory and problem-solving capabilities.
  • Hunger hinders our ability to focus and study. Children who experience hunger early on are more likely to perform poorly academically, repeat a grade and/or require special assistance while in school.
  • Each year, as a result of vitamin A deficiency, more than 2 million children experience severe eyesight issues and some are permanently blinded.
  • From birth, irreversible brain damage can be caused because of iodine deficiency in the mother. Iodine deficiency is easily preventable and affects around 1.9 billion people worldwide.
  • Hunger results in a lower IQ and less developed brain matter then well-nourished children.
  • Hunger and stress effect the functioning of the brain that determines decision-making.

WVbrain2Why does this happen?

  • A lack of necessary protein, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that contain the energy people need to lead productive lives. Many people eat the same food everyday and lack access to these nutrients.
  • When children experience prolonged poverty and hunger, damaging chemicals are released in their brain.
  • In the first two years of life, 70% of the brain develops. If a child experiences significant malnourishment, hunger and stress during that time frame, it’s likely their brain will be permanently damaged.

What can we do?

The long-term consequences of hunger are frightening. People enduring malnourishment aren’t only suffering today, but will most likely suffer well into their future. The many side effects of hunger create yet another roadblock for those trying to escape poverty. With hunger currently plaguing around 925 million people, this is an issue that cannot be ignored.

Your participation in 30 Hour Famine is hope crafting: despite the immense suffering in the world, we have the opportunity to transform lives. Hunger alters a child’s future, but 30 Hour Famine is a chance to offer a brighter one. We can stop hunger in its tracks.

(Note to Famine leaders: This blog post might be good to save with your Famine materials. You could use it in promotion of your 30 Hour Famine, or read it to students during your Famine.)

Countdown for departure to Peru



Michael Atlas

As the days countdown for departure to Peru, I can’t help but be filled with excitement when I think about the coming trip. It’s been this way ever since I heard the news that I was actually accepted onto the team and it has been growing ever since! Back then, questions of all sorts swarmed my mind: What would I see? Who would I meet? What would I learn? Now, with flights scheduled and hotels booked, I still don’t really know what to expect, but I know for sure it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.

In Peru, we’ll be traveling between different ADP communities, talking to the people living there and seeing how World Vision helps in each area. I know that I, as well as everyone else on the team, am looking forward to meeting the many Peruvians that World Vision has helped, talking to them and really connecting with them. I’m excited to hear their stories with open ears, and see how God works within their lives. We are all also bringing gifts for the kids, so we can play with them and help them to have fun. I can only hope that our presence in Peru will brighten their week, as well as everyone else’s, and that through our faith we will give them hope.

Now, this is a study tour after all, an opportunity to go and experience first hand how World Vision helps the less fortunate. I’m excited to go out and learn, to see World Vision succeeding in the fight against world hunger and poverty. I know that throughout the week we will all learn plenty of new things about service, about God, and about ourselves. I’m especially looking forward to talking to some of the World Vision staff in Peru, seeing how God has influenced their lives and how they have been inspired to help fight world poverty. Hopefully, I, as well as all of us going on this trip, will come back changed for the better from what we see and what we learn on this “adventure” of sorts. It could very easily inspire any one of us to dedicate our lives to service, and will give us the background to help for the rest of our lives.

I am so thrilled for this wonderful trip, and everything that it has to offer. My hopes and excitement know no boundaries, and I’m eager for everything that I’m going to see and learn. I cannot wait to see what’s awaiting me in Peru, and I know that the rest of my team feels the very same way.

The Impact of Development


Adam McLane

_MCL3348-1000In late July I had the opportunity to travel to the south coast of Haiti with our mission partner, Praying Pelican Missions.

This was my eighth trip to Haiti. Besides Port-au-Prince and Carrefeur, the economic and population centers of Haiti, I’d only taken day trip to other areas of the island.

But on this trip I traveled alongside three teams of adults from North America who’d come to partner with a local pastor  in a small fishing village west of Les Cayes.


We arrived into our small village after dark, set-up camp, and quickly fell asleep. The next morning our team woke up to discover that we’d landed somewhere intensely beautiful. Cool breezes drifted from the Caribbean just 100 yards away, every seven seconds you heard the roar of another wave crashing against the sand, nearby a cool freshwater river ran by  inviting us to swim, and our campsite itself was full of lush gardens.

That first morning we all drank fresh coconut before breakfast and every smartphone filled with pictures of the beach, the palm trees swaying in the wind, the farm animals running freely, and the flowers blooming in every direction.

When I shook Pastor Jean Delcey’s hand at breakfast he asked how I’d slept. “I slept great and I woke up in paradise!


In the coming days, as we got to know this small village, they helped us see past the beauty to discover the many challenges facing the community.

Fresh, clean water flowed freely from several wells but there were not enough latrines to meet the needs of the community. Many locals turned to the beach to relieve themselves. In the past couple of years the pastor had helped raise the funds to build three latrines, but they needed at least 27 more.

This lack of sanitation meant that the beach, the communities greatest financial asset, was unusable. Besides human waste, the beach collected local garbage, you can imagine the odor that sometimes accompanied the cool ocean breezes.

Local fisherman depended on shrimp which could be harvested near the shore but not only was the beach contaminated with human waste, but either that or another problem had lead to an infestation of seaweed, depleting the harvest and making it nearly impossible to fish. And when they did harvest? Since the community lacks consistent electricity they don’t have any way to freeze their catch to wait for market prices to go up. Consequently, local buyers take advantage of the fisherman.

Until Pastor was able to start a school, the community’s children had no where to go. Even if they could get to a school they likely couldn’t afford the school fees. The long term result? Many researchers have discovered and holds true not just in Haiti but throughout the developing world, that when you fail to educate a communities children– especially girls– the cycle of poverty spirals out of control as women have more children and earlier. In this community many young women have their first child at 14 years old, the average woman has 6 children.


Many of the problems we encountered, as shown to us by our Haitian brothers and sisters, are problems which do, indeed, have solutions. They aren’t easy solutions. They aren’t just things to toss money at. But they are problems you can solve when you work collaboratively with a community while strengthening the local church.

Sanitation, education, medical care, family planning, economic development, and food security. Don’t get overwhelmed by those big, fancy, and technical development words. These are things you and I can actually address and make an impact on. They seem huge– and in many ways they are. But they aren’t impossible to address.

As you work with the teenagers in your life to help them see the needs of others, think of this small village and imagine the impact even a small group of them could have on the long-term health of an entire village.

It’s truly exciting!

Thoughts about Relevance


thoughts-about-relevanceBy Travis Hill

In Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Nouwen spends time going through the three aspects of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Reflecting on the first temptation–to turn stones into bread—Nouwen suggests something that caught me off guard and challenges me, that Jesus’ first temptation was to be relevant.

How absolutely true this is. We, as youth workers, live in this interesting dichotomy where we need and want to teach about Jesus, but also want to be relevant. It is easy to get stuck in the assumption that “this message needs to be relevant to the lives of my students” is more important than “this message is about a life-changing incarnational outlook of God’s Kingdom here on earth.” While I’m not saying that relevancy is bad, I’m saying that too often I can focus on laughter or cultural hipness instead of Christ. We do it all with good intentions, ultimately desiring to reach that kid in our ministries with something, anything, that will trigger their desire to seek after God. Really, it’s a question of priorities: cultural relevancy is great; but it’s of lower importance.

In Matthew 4:3-4, we witness the first temptation of Christ, “The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” The beautiful thing about this situation is that Jesus easily could have taken the hurt and pain around him, the lack of food for the poor and broken, and crafted meals out of rocks, which were not in short supply there. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus responded with Deuteronomy 8:3, that “Man shall not live on bread alone.” Jesus knew and understood that simply doing something relevant, even if it was beneficial for the larger whole, pales in comparison to the true nourishment of God.

Before we decide to track too far down the “but there is real hunger in the world” path, let us be reminded that Jesus did, in fact, go out and feed others. He did not merely speak to sound sophisticated and not follow up with actions that supported what he said. So while we are simply trying to find that fun, cultural explanation of something, may we look further and deeper than something that will merely reference pop culture, sound cool, or make students laugh. Let’s look for a deeper meaning, one that isn’t based on the necessity of finding a reason to put a messy game in our service, but rather to find a more intentional way to bring students into a deeper understanding of God.

Uniqueness in Ministry


By Brian Mateer

brian and shawnLast week, I had the opportunity to host my friend, and fellow 30 Hour Famine blogger, Shawn Kiger’s youth group for a short term mission trip at my church.  It was the first opportunity I have had to interact significantly with teenagers since transitioning a year ago from a youth ministry position to my current role as director of missions.

I really enjoyed my time with the youth and adults from Wrights Chapel UMC in Ladysmith, VA, helping to coordinate mission projects for them.  On the surface they seemed like a typical youth group, but after having spent the week with them I realized this group was unique.

Two students from the group have disabilities and were empowered and loved for their abilities within the group.  The interaction and inclusion of these individuals by the youth and leaders was powerful and beautiful to witness.  The senior pastor came as a humble participant leader interacting with students.  He was fully engaged with the mission projects and during times of sharing, without the need to be at the center.  Shawn’s wife and children came along on the trip and were seamlessly integrated within the entire group.

Here are a few of my thoughts and observations after being with this group of youth and leaders.

  • The future of the church is in good hands as youth leaders get more thoughtful about ministry (which often comes with experience).
  • Longevity in ministry can be a tremendous gift to a church and leader.
  • There is great beauty in inclusivity within a youth group community and the church can learn from this.
  • Interaction of a senior pastor with youth from their church creates a bond and breaks down barriers.
  • Middle school girls are taller and more mature than middle school boys and the latter should bathe more often.
  • A youth leader with a spouse and children present in the ministry can be a great way to model a healthy Christian family and life.
  • One of the most exciting moments in ministry is witnessing an epiphany from a teenager while being pushed from their comfort zone.
  • Creating times for mixed ages in youth ministry is a great opportunity for mentorship and leadership practice.
  • Middle schoolers are awkward and awesome all at the same time.
  • Parents can make great youth leaders and  volunteers.
  • Adolescents can be so different but at the same time similar.
  • Youth ministry will always hold a special place within my heart.

What makes your ministry unique?



vulnerableBy Brien Bell

There’s nothing more unnerving than the realization that your home has been burglarized.

I’ve had the misfortune of this realization on more than one occasion; in fact as I sit here now I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of that very stark reminder that I am not safe. Things that once belonged to me no longer do. Coming home to this was not the news I wanted, and I was discouraged. I felt vulnerable, and it frightened me.

In youth ministry, we often talk about vulnerability. It’s especially true as we deal with our kids entering high school and learning to be open to the changes to come. We ask them to be vulnerable, to let God work, to explore this process of making oneself open to things that challenge or change us.

And yet, in so many parts of our lives, vulnerability is characterized as dangerous. In fact, the act of being vulnerable is one of that means we’re ‘capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.’ Why would we want that of our kids? Aren’t we supposed to encourage them, to build them up? Isn’t the Word of God meant to empower them? Isn’t God’s love and strength meant to “heal the brokenhearted” and “bind… their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)?

Perhaps my lesson in being burglarized is exactly the kind of vulnerability we’re called to in God’s kingdom? If I think about it, those things — impermanent objects, possessions entrusted to me by God for a time — were never really ‘mine’ to begin with, and that understanding only came once I was open to hear God’s call. I was hurt by this invasion of property, but made stronger by recognizing that God is so much bigger than my things, and so much safer than my “home.”

These are things I want my youth to be open to. Sometimes we let God enter our lives willingly; sometimes He breaks into our lives “like a thief in the night”(1 Thessalonians 5:2) and we are changed forever. I want my kids, and everyone I know, to be vulnerable to how God makes himself known to us, and changes how we view our world. And that’s not something to be frightened of; in fact, it might be the best news we’ll ever receive.