October 2018

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A shrill whistle pierces the warm summer air, signaling to volunteers from Menlo Church that one among them has found the 1 millionth kit. As everyone looks toward where the sound originated, 7-year-old Caroline is smiling from ear to ear and runs over to hug her mother, Nancy, amid the claps and cheers.

Caroline excitedly clutches the orange backpack, a SchoolTools kit, and adds school supplies and a note of encouragement for the recipient — a child in need in her local community, the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It feels good, and it means a lot,” Caroline says after assembling the 1 millionth kit. SchoolTools kits provide the opportunity for children in the U.S. to engage in learning and help ease the burden many parents feel when they cannot provide for their children; they free up family resources for other essentials such as food, medicine, and utilities.

That day, 220 volunteers from Menlo Church assembled 2,000 SchoolTools kits, including the 1 millionth kit assembled by Caroline, and another 4,000 Promise Packs that World Vision will distribute in the Dominican Republic. It is one of many “Serve Your City” opportunities hosted by Menlo Church.

“The ability to connect people with people, serve together, and understand the greater good of why we’re doing this is really what matters,” says Nancy Rosa, a Menlo Church attender for 28 years.

The partnership between Menlo Church and World Vision is rich in history. The church has partnered with World Vision for 13 years, assembling more than 50,000 kits — more than any other World Vision partner — that have impacted 1.7 million people around the world. Not only was Menlo Church the site of the 1 millionth kit event on July 28, it was also the site of the first World Vision kit event in 2005.

“This is just the tipping point,” says Nancy, who was instrumental in the launch of the first kit event. “I think this is just going to explode. I can’t imagine we won’t keep going. I want to keep going until I can’t build them anymore.”

Numerous World Vision staff echoed that sentiment.

“This isn’t the end,” says Karen Sendelback, World Vision’s national director of partner engagement. “We feel this is a chance to say we’ve reached this incredible milestone, and what we want to do now is focus on getting to the 2 millionth kit. There are still children out there that need these school supplies. There are still children who need Promise Packs.”

Easing the back-to-school burden with SchoolTools kits

The 1 millionth kit makes its journey in the San Francisco Bay area from 7-year-old Caroline at Menlo Church to 9-year-old Estefani at Familia Cristiana Verbo.
Nine-year-old Estefani Alvarado holds up her new backpack filled with school supplies. Her favorite subject is math. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

Two weeks later, the 1 millionth kit is now at Familia Cristiana Verbo, another local church, in the hands of 9-year-old Estefani Alvarado — right in time for her to start fourth grade.

“I feel so happy because she packed it for me,” Estefani says. When Estefani opened the backpack, she found Caroline’s note and was excited to see a pack of paper, which she sometimes runs out of. She expressed feeling overwhelmed by the generosity.

“Not all the kids get what I have right now,” Estefani says.

Her father was also grateful for the school supplies and the honor of his daughter receiving the 1 millionth kit. “I feel happy and privileged,” says Nehemias Alvarado, 31. The Alvarado family has been attending Familia Cristiana Verbo for nearly 12 years.

Pastor Orlando Cardona, 56, explains that their annual backpack distribution not only helps families in need, but it also gives their pastoral staff a way to approach families in their community.

“When I hand them a backpack, it gives me the opportunity to show them the love of God and be able to converse with them,” Orlando says. “Then through that, it allows us to tell them about all the programs we have for youth, for adults. And ultimately, we’ve seen how through the help we give them, they’ve gotten closer to the church in search of God.”

His wife, 57-year-old Patty, adds that the physical provision of school supplies is especially important.

“When children hear about the love of God but also receive something from the love of God, they feel more in their hearts,” Patty says. “This community has much need, and we’re happy to be a small part of their lives.”

The staff at Familia Cristiana Verbo are incredibly thankful for the generosity of Menlo Church and many other churches and organizations who have assembled World Vision kits.

“Thank you for taking the time and going the extra mile for people you don’t even know,” says Associate Pastor Ever Turcious, 41. “Thank you so much. God bless you.”

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By Sibel Top, Guest Blogger*

Rob Wainright, former director of Europol, warned that “technology has lowered the bar of entry to the criminal world”. Traffickers are making the most out of available technologies to lure potential victims into trafficking. Those who are working every day to fight human trafficking seem to be lagging behind. Rather than waiting for traffickers one step ahead, they are attempting to catch up with the technology traffickers use. Individuals working in the field to fight human trafficking do not necessarily have the required expertise or human resources to chase traffickers online, nor the financial capacity to stop them. Imagine fighting an army of drones with a slingshot; it is an unequal battle. This leaves law enforcement and public authorities in a tough position. What can they do without the expertise, the necessary human resources or the financial means to get traffickers? A potential solution is to partner with a stakeholder that could provide access to automated and scalable technology, thereby requiring minimum human supervision and expertise.

Public and Private Partnerships

The first step of this endeavor would be for public authorities to partner with a stakeholder – private or public – who already has or can develop this kind of technological expertise.  Fortunately, there are possibilities to find funding at the international or supranational levels for such initiatives. The United Nations (UN), for example, launched the Blockchain for Humanity – Global Challenge project, which is now funding a joint project partnering Consensys, a Brooklyn-based software company, with the Moldovan government to create digital identities for undocumented children in Moldova.

The technology developed by Consensys and used by Moldovan authorities will secure a digital ID on Blockchain for undocumented children in Moldova who are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Whenever a child with a digital ID is about to cross a border, their information will be stored on the Blockchain, enabling authorities to easily trace the victim. In order to prevent the child from being trafficked in the first place, developers envision linking the identity to a system of permissioned transaction, which sends a notification to child guardians who would need to give their approval for the border crossing. There are obvious problems already identifiable in this, such as when children are trafficked by family members, but it presents the advantage of creating an automated system that does not require a large amount of human capacity for operation and provides storage of information which enables law enforcement to trace traffickers.

Automation and Scalability

The second aspect of this potential solution is automation and scalability. If the authorities are provided with tools to enable automated research that can target traffickers or “follow the money” with minimum human supervision, they would not need enhanced human resources to fight trafficking on a larger scale. For example, Rebecca Portnoff and her team at Berkeley developed an automated and scalable tool for clustering sex advertisements by owners. Her system is comprised of two techniques. The first is a machine learning classifier using stylometry to identify whether sex advertisements have been written by the same or different authors. If the same author wrote and published many advertisements for different sex workers across different locations, this could indicate a trafficking ring operating behind the advertisement.

The second technique links bitcoin accounts to the advertisements they paid for. This technology has yet to be implemented at a large scale, but it presents undeniable advantages such as the automation of operations and their scalability. The idea is to link advertisements to specific Bitcoin transactions by using the available information on them in the mempool: the price and the time the transaction was made. This makes it possible to identify to what advertisement a transaction was linked because, on advertisement websites such as Backpage, the system does not wait for the network to confirm the transaction, it directly posts the advertisement instead. In comparing timestamps of the appearance of advertisements on websites with payments enables one to identify the transaction linked to each advertisement. For example, if several advertisements from different locations were paid for by the same Bitcoin wallet this could be a sign of trafficking activities.   

These two techniques developed by Portnoff can be used in conjunction or separately. Their undeniable advantage lies in their automation and scalability. In this regard, automated techniques, such as PhotoDNA, have already been used to identify online victims of child sexual abuse and it is only a matter of time before those fighting human trafficking are able to utilize these tools in their work.


These projects are currently either in stages of development or in the first phases of implementation, but their potential opens a way forward in the fight against human trafficking. They arm law enforcement and NGO workers with tools that are more than slingshots and could potentially enable them to overcome two problems at once: the lack of expertise and the lack of human resources. The expertise will definitely be provided by the technologies themselves, while their automation and scalability would remedy the need for human resources. It is likely that these tools would mostly deploy their full potential for purposes of identification and prove to be less effective when used for prevention. However, they pave the way on how human trafficking could be combated in the future throughout its various stages.


*Sibel Top is  a Ph.D. fellow at the Research Foundation, Flanders (FWO). She is part of the research group on Fundamental Rights and Constitutionalism (FRC) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), which is coordinating the DESIrE project on human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This blogpost was based on a briefing paper prepared in the framework of the DESIrE project on the use of technology to combat human trafficking.

** The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC.

Edited by Cecily Bacon, Director of Research and Projects

Photo Credit: Project DESIrE

About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.


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It’s that time of the year when your child comes home from school with a runny nose, a cough, and complaining of a sore throat. Children everywhere get colds and coughs, and they don’t always have access to a pharmacy or medical care. Find out what people around the world do for natural remedies to colds, coughs, and the flu.*

1. Hot tea to soothe throats and relieve congestion

Home cold remedies around the world include drinking various types of hot tea.
Hot tea and hot milk are used around the world to help soothe and fight coughs and colds. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Hot liquids help relieve congestion, soothe the membranes of your throat and nose, and keep your body hydrated, which is necessary to fight viral infections. Here are some variations on soothing tea to fight colds and coughs.

  • Passion fruit and onion tea — The Dominican Republic
    Cut two passion fruit and one medium onion in half and boil them together in about 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain, leaving only the liquid. Sweeten it with honey.
  • Ginger tea — Cambodia
    Boil water and add powdered or fresh ginger. Let it steep before drinking.
  • Garlic tea — Mexico
    In rural Mexico, families prepare a hot beverage, like lemon tea, and add lots of onion or garlic. It doesn’t taste the best, but it does fight infections.
  • Cinnamon tea — Mexico
    In urban Mexico, a standard treatment for colds is hot water mixed with cinnamon and honey.
  • Golden milk — India
    Bring a cup of milk to a simmer, then add a teaspoon of turmeric. Mix before drinking.
  • Lemon leaves — Mali
    Boil lemon leaves and mix the hot liquid with a little sugar.

2. Honey to fight coughs and infections

Home remedies for colds around the world include the use of honey.
These 1-gallon jugs of honey are not only a source of income but are also used to boost children’s health. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Honey is a natural cough treatment. In fact, studies have found that honey is equally as effective compared to a common cough suppressant ingredient. Honey also has antibacterial properties that can fight infections.

  • Spicy honey — South India
    Sprinkle powdered ginger and black pepper on a spoonful of honey. Lick the spoon clean.
  • Honey and shallots — The Dominican Republic
    Fill a glass jar with honey and sliced or whole peeled shallots. Let it sit for a while to absorb. Then, eat a tablespoon of the honey three to four times a day. Some even eat the onions.
  • Honey tea — Ghana
    For a simple remedy, mix some honey in warm water.
  • Blended radish and honey — The Dominican Republic
    In a blender, mix radish, watercress, and honey, preparing a couple cups at a time. Give a tablespoon at a time to help clear a cough and fight a cold.

3. Hot soups for cold and flu

Home cold and flu remedies around the world include various types of hot soup.
This chicken and vegetable soup is a favorite in Zambia to give children energy and protect their bodies. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

Like hot liquids, hot soups work to clear congestion, soothe membranes, and deliver important nutrients to help your body fight an illness. Chicken noodle soup is a worldwide classic but try these hot soup variations as natural remedies against colds and flu.

  • Congee — China
    Congee is a traditional Chinese soup made from water or stock and rice, but with the option to add many different ingredients. Most people eat it for breakfast, but it is believed to be a healing food any time of a day.
  • Vegetable soup — Cambodia
    A simple broth with vegetables and a little spice.
  • Lugaw — Philippines
    Lugaw is a rice porridge cooked with ginger and chicken and is the comfort healing food of the Philippines.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup — Zambia
    This “Go, Grow, Glow” soup can be made vegetarian but either way offers protein and foods to boost energy and protect from disease.

I remember when I was young, when I got a cold, my dad cooked vegetable soup for me and he encouraged me to have it while it was still warm. It made me sweat. I felt so much better and gained energy after having it.—Ratana Lay, World Vision staff and mother, Cambodia

4. Alternate treatments for colds and flu

Home cold remedies around the world are often invented because people lack access to medicine.
In Uganda, these medicinal herbs are mixed with water to treat coughs. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Besides drinking or eating, there are a few cheap and easy cold and flu treatments that can alleviate symptoms and help children recover from colds and the flu faster.

  • Sleeping remedy — Mexico
    To help children sleep with a cold, run a hot iron on your child’s bed sheets, making the bed nice and toasty. Then put Vicks VapoRub on a child’s chest and cover him or her with blankets. They will sleep better and sweat out the cold.
  • Foot bath — Cambodia
    Put hot water in a bucket and soak your feet in the warm water.
  • Shea butter — West Africa
    Apply shea butter on the nose of a child to relieve congestion. This can especially be helpful for sick babies and is a favorite remedy in multiple African countries.
  • Herbal steam — Zambia
    Using an herb called Mayani — it smells like mint and is known for its expectorant qualities — sit under a blanket with a pot of recently boiled Mayani leaves and let the steam mist over the face and chest. You could also substitute eucalyptus oil or menthol in hot water.
  • Onion — Ghana
    Peel an onion, cut it in two, and place on either side of a child’s bed. The onion absorbs toxins and germs and is thought to purify the air.


Claudia Martinez, Ratana Lay, David Munoz, Annila Harris, Collins Kaumba, Joelma Pereira, Robert Vesleno, and Marion Roberts of World Vision’s staff contributed to this story.

*Please note: This is a compilation of folk remedies, not professionally tested medical treatment. No representations or warranties are being made about the efficacy of any remedy listed.  They are not a substitute for medical consultation; when in doubt, please check with your health care provider.

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More than 150 children — including Debby — received more than a backpack at a birthday party for kids in Zambia. Inside they discovered an insect-repelling blanket, hygiene supplies, washcloths, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and school supplies, including crayons, pens, pencils, a pencil sharpener, and an eraser.

“I’ve never had anything like this before,” says Kenser, who used to carry his books to school in a plastic bag. On rainy days, they’d get soaked. But there was more. Tucked inside the backpack the third-grader received was an uplifting note from a couple in Orange County, California. The care letter had traveled nearly 10,000 miles to get to Kenser.

How did that happen?

It started when the couple attended a World Vision kit event in Orange County — one of nearly 300 such events that take place each year across the country. At these events, participants assemble kits with school or hygiene supplies and write a care letter of encouragement to the person who will receive it — in this case, Kenser, Debby, and their friends. Assembling kits is a great way for a church or a group to reach out to a hurting world in a meaningful way. Best of all, it’s something families can do together.

Here’s how it happened:

1. Someone from a church organization contacted World Vision by emailing kits@worldvision.org or calling 1.800.478.5481.

2. Next, they chose Promise Packs from several types of World Vision kits:

3. A World Vision event specialist explained how to host their event and confirmed the supplies order.

4. On the day of the event, a group of volunteers set up long tables with all the supplies needed to assemble the Promise Packs. Participants, in the fashion of an assembly line, placed one of each item into the kit. At the end of the line, they wrote a care letter of encouragement for the person who would receive it.

5. The kits were shipped to World Vision’s 40,000-square foot warehouse outside Pittsburgh.

6. A cadre of volunteers carefully added other supplies to the kits, such as clothing and pharmaceuticals donated by generous corporate partners.

7. The shipment, including the backpack from Orange County, was loaded onto a boat in Baltimore to make the long journey to the port at Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

8. The backpacks and other supplies were trucked from the port in Tanzania more than 1,200 miles southwest to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city, where, project manager Fred Mazumba received the kits at the World Vision warehouse in Lusaka.

9. Fred and his staff loaded the backpacks onto trucks and drove them 175 miles south to World Vision’s office in Choma.

10. World Vision staff loaded up the kits and crowded into vehicles or rode motorcycles to navigate the rough roads leading to the birthday party in Moyo.

11. Along with his friends, Kenser opened his backpack and marveled at the supplies and the special greeting from Orange County — a care letter letting Kenser know it had been packed just for him.

The world became a little smaller — and a lot more joyful.

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The song of Matthew Sakala’s life is clearly “Happy Birthday.” On a sunny Monday in May, he has just told hundreds of eager children at a World Vision birthday party how much God loves them and how the day they were born was a special day, indeed. Matthew runs sponsorship programs in Moyo, Zambia.

This is not his first World Vision birthday party — not by a long shot.

He was sponsored by a U.S. family through World Vision when he was 8. “I used to go to birthday parties,” he says. “It brings back great memories.” The parties made child sponsorship real for Matthew. “I knew there were other people outside of where I live who were thinking about people in my community. That really touched me.” Birthday parties in communities where World Vision works are funded by sponsors through a special birthday fund. The fund ensures that children in the community know they are loved by God and their sponsors. Celebrating birthdays is not part of many cultures around the world.

“In a typical home, you would never find them celebrating their birthday,” Matthew says.

That’s why birthday parties were so special to him.

“They would give us new clothes,” he says. “It was a wonderful feeling to have new clothes.” The parties were always festive, he says. “We would dance as the music was playing.”

In Moyo, the party starts in the morning and lasts into the afternoon with singing, dancing, skits, and prayers for the children. Children eat a hot lunch of their favorite foods and receive gifts — backpacks from World Vision’s Giving Tuesday partner, Thirty-One Gifts, a company dedicated to empowering women to run their own businesses. Since 2012, Thirty-One Gifts has given more than $100 million in cash and products like backpacks to organizations that support its mission. On Giving Tuesday, Thirty-One Gifts is matching donations to World Vision with up to $2 million in product. Each backpack is stuffed with school supplies and a note from the person who packed it.

Matthew, who distributed hundreds of backpacks at the birthday party, wanted to work for World Vision since he was a child. “I wanted to be part of an organization that transformed the lives of children,” he says, “just as I was transformed myself.”

It really struck me when I would see the donors come and interact with the children and how much love they had for them.
—Matthew Sakala

Living with his grandparents in a poor area in southern Zambia, he watched his community grow because of sponsorship.

“One of my close friends had a sponsor who sent him money to buy four head of cattle and build a house,” he says. “The project brought a skills training area. People would go to do basic training on carpentry, plumbing, joinery, and baking,” he says. “We were touched to see what World Vision was doing.”

He saw the joy sponsors’ letters brought. “There is a direct communication between someone who is miles and miles away from them,” he says. “This attachment makes children really feel valued, loved, and cared for, even if they don’t see them.”

But it was sponsor visits that really moved him. “It really struck me when I would see the donors come and interact with the children and how much love they had for them,” he says. “I said, ‘I want to be part of this.’” At age 12, Matthew decided he would someday work for World Vision.

To prepare, he earned a certificate in social work and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in development from Zambia Open University in Lusaka, the capital. Ten years ago, he began working for World Vision, and today he is the church community engagement and sponsorship plan development facilitator for Moyo. The title is a mouthful, but it speaks to the fusion of faith and sponsorship.

“When we enter a community to talk about child sponsorship, we talk about how God views the children,” he says. “In the eyes of God, we are all children.” Matthew works with faith leaders to ensure they focus on children. “We [tell] them the story of the children who were being chased away by the disciples. But Jesus said, ‘Let them come to me.’” Churches must be part of the change, he says. “We encourage pastors during their sermon — please talk about the children.”

It’s working. “The culture that we live in is slowly changing,” he says. “It once demeaned the children. It did not allow children to flourish.”

Matthew, now a father of three, says he owes his life to child sponsorship. “I am indebted to World Vision. I don’t work for a salary,” he says. “I am World Vision.” And with that, he’s off to deliver backpacks, serve cake, and sing another round of “Happy Birthday,” the song of his life.


Help children, their families, and the entire community share a little joy during the year in celebrating their birthday.

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On Giving Tuesday, you can help children and families in developing countries — and even here in the U.S. It’s made possible through World Vision’s partnership with Thirty-One Gifts for Giving Tuesday 2018.

This is the fifth year World Vision and Thirty-One Gifts, which sells purses, totes, and home décor, will partner to double your Giving Tuesday gift with a product match. With any donation you make for Giving Tuesday – Nov. 27, 2018 – Thirty-One Gifts will match it in product donation up to $2 million with apparel, towels, and thermals to help women and children in need. Last year, many products went to help families in Zambia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and El Salvador.  Additionally, 37 pallets were distributed in the U.S. through the help of World Vision partners to assist survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

“World Vision is providing amazing programs and resources that allow us to support women and families all over the world who are truly the most vulnerable and who may be ignored otherwise,” says Wendy Bradshaw, executive director of community affairs and philanthropy at Thirty-One Gifts.

We spoke with Wendy to learn more about why Thirty-One Gifts works with World Vision and the impact Giving Tuesday will have.

Why does Thirty-One Gifts partner with World Vision?

We first met World Vision because our founder, Cindy Monroe, and her husband were personally committed. Cindy said, ‘This is something I think our consultants will engage with and support.’ There’s such mission alignment with both of us being faith-based organizations and a platform and mission to serve others. Your mission and ours say the same thing: provide tools for women and families to meet their full potential. It was as if we met a sister in our goals to help others.

How did you initially partner with World Vision?

We love the women hygiene kit process. We provide the bag, and then put the products you provide in our bag. We have amazing consultants that gather in July for our annual sales conference, and we have a give-back that we do through the kit program. This year, we assembled 2,500 kits.

When we walk in, you see people gushing and just excited to be part of something bigger than the conference. They write prayerful notes and pray over each one for the ladies that will receive these bags. We don’t want people to think they’re just getting stuff – they’re getting prayer and heartfelt notes from us to cheer them on in a tough time.

Many kits that were built last year were distributed to people affected by the hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico. We never would have imagined that those kits were destined to help Americans shortly thereafter. Some of them were made by women who are from the areas where World Vision distributed them, so they came full-circle to support communities where our people live and work. Each kit also contains a note of encouragement, and they certainly went to people who needed an emotional boost after everything they experienced.

Why has Thirty-One Gifts expanded that partnership with World Vision for Giving Tuesday?

We love Giving Tuesday as a whole. It’s a time of year where there’s so much hustle and bustle, and the holidays are full of year-end projects at work, holiday parties, and activities with the kids. But taking a day to think about others who are less fortunate makes Giving Tuesday such a special day.

For us, saying we can double your gift is a fun message. We’re proud to be partnered with World Vision again, and we’re looking forward to another big year.

It’s magical when you can put two organizations together to double their reach. We’re committed and passionate about supporting women and families around the world, and we’re going to take donations and double them, so you can’t beat an investment you’re making in someone else that way.

What kinds of products will people in need receive this year?

It’s a mixture of apparel, thermals, and towels that people will receive this year.


You + World Vision’s local staff = help, hope, and love to people in nearly 100 countries.

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For as long as I can remember, the birth of Jesus has always been central to Christmas. My family had a nativity set, and each year we arranged Mary, Joseph, and the animals in the stable. But we would not add baby Jesus until Christmas day. Everybody in my family wanted to be the special one to place baby Jesus at the center of the nativity.

It wasn’t just at Christmas that I waited to put Jesus at the center. Unfortunately, that became a theme in my life.

For many years, there were people around me who told me about the saving love of Jesus Christ. Some were friends, and once it was a pastor sitting next to me on a flight who invited me to accept Jesus right then and there at 30,000 feet in the air! I wasn’t ready. I was doing all right on my own. My career was going great; I was an executive at Procter & Gamble. I had a wonderful family.

But deep inside, I knew it wasn’t enough. A good friend at P&G became my spiritual mentor, and he was the one who invited me to a Promise Keepers conference in Dallas in 2002. When I walked into the stadium filled with 14,000 men, all singing and worshipping God, it was completely unfamiliar — and very uncomfortable. What am I doing here? I wondered.

Then the band played a song I had never heard before. The lyrics said, “Here I am to worship / here I am to bow down / here I am to say that you’re my God.” Tears started rolling down my face. I realized I had never bowed down to anyone. It had always been all about me.

In that powerful moment, I bowed down and began the journey of recommitting my life to Christ. And that changed everything. Since then, my journey has been one of pressing into Jesus more and more.

It transformed how I led my family and lived my daily life. And it caused me to seek opportunities to serve the Lord. That’s what brought me and my wife, Leiza, to World Vision in 2015, leaving a for-profit company to go to a “for-impact” ministry that cares for the poor in the name of Christ.

Now I realize what a miracle it is that someone like me — who, as a kid in Latin America, once experienced hardship — could become the president of this world-changing organization. God was always at work in my life, preparing me.

World Vision’s founder and all the World Vision presidents before me prayed: “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

That is the prayer of someone pressing into Jesus. We know Jesus loves all people, no matter who we are, and that he has compassion for children and the poor. When we love him, we care about those he loves too.

This Christmas, as you celebrate how much God loved this world — so much that he placed Jesus at the center of human history — it’s the perfect time to ask yourself, “Is Jesus at the center of my life?”

Edgar Sandoval Sr. became president of World Vision U.S. on Oct. 1, 2018. Follow him at twitter.com/EdgarSandovalSr.

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Jesse Klaasen is a big-hearted western Michigan teen who saved up his treasures for another in need thousands of miles away.

For three years, Jesse, 16, worked on a cattle farm in western Michigan and saved his paychecks — totaling $4,500 — to pay for a home for a struggling mother and her children through World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

He sacrificed himself through physical labor and resisted the temptation to spend his hard-earned money so a family he doesn’t even know could have a better life.

Jesse loves to give through the Gift Catalog, donating funds for animals and other gifts for the past five years as part of his commitment to tithing at least 10 percent of his income. Whenever his family receives the Gift Catalog in the mail, Jesse carefully studies it to determine what he wants to give.

It’s pretty straightforward: “I love Jesus, and I want to act like him and be like him; I want to help others,” Jesse says.

Whenever his family receives the Gift Catalog in the mail, Jesse carefully studies it to determine what he wants to give.
Whenever his family receives the Gift Catalog in the mail, Jesse carefully studies it to determine what he wants to give. (©2018 photo courtesy of Carrie Klaasen)

Back in winter 2015, he had set the goal to gift one of the big-ticket items in the catalog. “I was just flipping through and was like, ‘I wanna get that one,’” Jesse says.

He made a point not to tell anyone he was saving for it. Every time he got a paycheck, he would take a portion out and add it to the growing pile of money inside a hollowed-out book on his bedroom shelf. Right before his 16th birthday in January 2018, Jesse gathered his pile of bills worth $4,500, singled out one of the most expensive items — the house — and donated the money to World Vision to provide a house for someone in need.

“I was really excited,” Jesse says. “Holding that much money was just crazy. It was a stack.”

Jesse’s mom, Carrie Klaasen, says she found out he was saving for a big Gift Catalog purchase about a year before it happened — almost two years after he set out to do it.

“When he commits to something, he’s going to do it,” Carrie says. “He’s got a compassionate heart.”

Jesse acknowledged he could have used the money to buy a much nicer vehicle or phone. His noisy 2001 Chevrolet Blazer could have benefited from a new muffler. He stuck with his aging flip phone until he got a smartphone as a gift. And he says he was tempted numerous times to pull out a few $20 bills from that book on his shelf and go spend it. But his resolve to love God and love people helped him resist.

“I was just ready to do this,” he says.

Jesse, 16, worked on a cattle farm in western Michigan and saved his paychecks for three years to pay for a home for a struggling mother and her children through World Vision’s Gift Catalog.
Jesse, 16, on a cattle farm in western Michigan. (©2018 photo courtesy of Carrie Klaasen)

That heart full of compassion has always been there, Carrie says. Jesse started sponsoring two children when he was 11 — one in Honduras and one in Ethiopia. But his sense of compassion deepened after his parents brought his first sister home from Ethiopia that same year.

“I was just so excited and so happy,” he says. “They came home, and I held her on the couch. I was crying and was just so happy to have her here.”

And then he visited Ethiopia in 2015 when the family adopted his two other sisters. It opened his eyes to a different culture, to poverty, and got the then-13-year-old asking profound questions.

Seeing his siblings’ home country for the first time was overwhelming for him, Carrie remembers. She sensed something change inside Jesse.

“I remember him just taking it all in and thinking, ‘Why isn’t this me? I could be going through this, and I’m not,’” she says.

That experience is part of what motivates him. Even after he sent in his big donation, Jesse says he remains committed to the unknown family who will receive his gift. “I pray for them every day,” Jesse says. “I’ve been praying that the right family gets it — that they can just praise God for it and give him thanks for it.”

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