My daughter, Rooney, has a sweet little book in her bedroom about Saint Nicholas of Myra. It tells the story of the fourth-century Christian bishop who inspired the Christmas gift-giving character of Santa Claus. We read it here and there all year long, but it carries a special meaning for our family this holiday season.
Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280 A.D., Saint Nicholas was left with a large sum of money when his parents passed away, and he used it to help the poor.
After his own death in 344, the legend of his generosity grew. Saint Nicholas transformed into the fabled character of Santa Claus, the beloved old man who brings presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. Over the years, while advertising and culture have popularized the image of the jolly, red-suited sleigh operator, many influences have made Santa what he is today.
It’s surprising how easy it can be to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas and lose sight of what is truly important. I’m guilty of working tirelessly to try and set the right tone and atmosphere for my family during the holiday, without thinking beyond what lies inside and what hangs outside the four walls of our home. We end up devoting a lot of time and energy into placing decorations, preparing events, preserving traditions, and planning meaningful experiences for the people closest to us — all the while missing the real blessing that comes from thinking like the original Saint Nick. If we aren’t careful, our attention can quickly switch to a focus on what we want, leaving little room for thinking of others and what they need.
The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic his giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.—Saint Nicholas
This year, our family decided to take a few intentional steps back to realign our hearts with the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of the legendary gift-giver. We wanted to make some changes this holiday season to awaken the joy that comes with generosity. It was time to decide, as a family, how we could ask “What can we give?” instead of “What can we get?”
So, Santa is going to look a little different in our house this Christmas season. In August, we called a family meeting, and the three of us sat together in our living room. Snuggling up together with blankets on the couch in the middle of summer had us all giggling, but it gave us the opportunity to talk through ideas for how to change our perspective this Christmas from getting to giving, from receiving gifts to revealing God’s love by first noticing the needs of others and then doing something to meet these needs.
My daughter ran into her bedroom to grab the most recent letter we had received from Dilcia, the mother of our sponsored child, Andrea Victoria.
We read her letter again together and prayed for a few minutes about families around the world who are trying to climb out of poverty. What could we do to send a message — one that says we care that you need something, and we’re going to do something about it?
Out of that meeting, we identified three simple steps that would help our family flip the focus this Christmas.
- Encourage each other to notice the needs: Our sponsored child, Andrea Victoria, lives in Honduras. Her father is a farm laborer, and her mother works to keep the home and raise Andrea, her two brothers, and her three sisters. From the letters back and forth that our families have shared and from what we have read about their community, we know Andrea’s papa struggles to provide enough food for the family. We took turns flipping through the World Vision Gift Catalog. We talked about how food like milk and eggs are regular purchases in our home, but that’s not the case for many families around the world.
- Empower one another by learning about how your gift will impact others: With a little research, we learned that a goat can give up to a gallon of fresh milk every day. Our family talks often about why it is so important to maintain a healthy diet and nutrition plan, and my daughter lit up at the thought of a family in poverty getting the benefit of a steady source of calcium, protein, and nutrients we know they need. We dug a little deeper and learned that chickens are another awesome gift. They provide a consistent supply of eggs, are easy to raise, and will naturally multiply, allowing future generations of kids and families to be positively impacted. The gift of an animal, while it seems so simple, is a way to turn one act of generosity into additional blessings. It was beautiful to watch my little girl light up as we talked about how gifts like these can also provide hunger relief, farming assistance, and other essentials to families living in poverty.
- Emphasize the greatest gift God ever gave to the world: Jesus. St. Nicholas of Myra said, “The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic his giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” When our Father sent his Son to be born on earth, it was his good and perfect gift to us. The most incredible blessing the world has ever known is two-fold: We are able to receive this gift, and we are able to share this gift with others. That’s what Christmas is all about. Let’s share the love and gift of God’s Son with others by meeting the needs of his children around the world. One act of generosity can light up a life. This Christmas, let’s shine God’s light by seeing the needs of the world and taking action.
Erin Weidemann is a member of World Vision’s Speakers Bureau and the founder and CEO of Bible Belles. She lives in Encinitas, California, with her husband, Brent, and their daughter, Rooney. Learn more about Erin at erinweidemann.com.
The post Santa Switch: Shine bright by ‘flipping the focus’ this Christmas appeared first on World Vision.
Written and photographed by World Vision photographer Jon Warren
Nikon D750 camera
10.5mm lens, 1/60th at f/7.1, 320 ISO
* * *
I love Matthew’s account of the wise men — the Magi — who traveled far, facing peril and making sacrifices, all to bring precious gifts to the newborn King Jesus.
When I saw the majestic Bactrian camels in Mongolia, I knew I had to try to recreate that scene. We were in the Bayankhongor area, on the edge of the Gobi Desert, so I turned to the best possible helpers — World Vision staff, who seem to know everyone in their community.
They introduced me to a local man who had a large herd of camels and who was happy to help us. He warned me, though, that the camels weren’t tame, making it difficult to separate three of them from all the others.
Finally, with the help of camel herders, we lined up three unruly camels next to a ger, or yurt, and hung some battery-operated Christmas lights around the door.
And then their patience with me paid off. The setting sun filled big clouds on the horizon with brilliant color. I switched to a 180-degree fisheye lens to gather it all in.
Some gifts are material, like the animals and gers in the World Vision Gift Catalog. Others are time and hospitality, like the camel herders’ gift to me. But ultimately, every good and perfect gift is from God, and every gift given in love is an act of worship.
On Giving Tuesday 2017 — with a backdrop of farm animals juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline — Jennifer Nettles shined as she talked about giving back with World Vision. The country superstar attended World Vision’s Give-back Gift Shop in New York City’s Bryant Park to encourage fans to give a gift matched by Thirty-One Gifts.
“I loved the chance to showcase the beautiful variety of gifts available,” Jennifer says. “There is something for everyone at every price point. Everyone can give a gift with meaning.”
This year, her Sugarland bandmate, Kristian Bush, will join her, and the Grammy-award winning duo is promoting child sponsorship and Giving Tuesday together. World Vision recently caught up with Sugarland to talk about Giving Tuesday and what has them excited for Christmas this year.
What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?
Jennifer Nettles: I always look forward to watching the magic of Christmas in my child’s eyes. He will be 6 in December, so he is prime age for all the magic.
Kristian Bush: I love being around my kids at Christmas. They are teenagers now and have started to embrace the holiday as something more than gifting. I am looking forward to being around them and hearing the way they see the world.
What’s one of your favorite family Christmas traditions, and why?
Jennifer: I always love that we take time to come together. Now that we all have our own families and children, it has become harder to make time to get together. Christmas is a time we can look forward to reconnecting.
Kristian: Pajamas! My mom used to buy us all matching pajamas when we were kids. She passed away when I was 30, and her friends used to continue the tradition after she passed and sent pajamas on Christmas Eve.
How do you show God’s love to others, especially at Christmastime?
Kristian: Christmastime is a great deal of stress for many people, and a well-timed smile or a kind word can go a long way.
Jennifer: I believe the best gifts we can give each other are our time and open hearts to listen. Those are the most significant gifts we can give our loved ones but also those around us within our broader communities — especially people who may believe, worship, love, and live differently than we do. I believe that this is what God wants for us: to help each other. Listening to each other and learning about each other is the fastest way to compassion. I hope we all do more of that — during the holidays and beyond.
How would you encourage readers to love others this Christmas season?
Jennifer: The world can seem dark. Anytime that we can remind ourselves to shine brighter for each other, we should. Let’s try and bring some light to people this season.
Kristian: Shine brightly this season by helping someone you don’t know.
Giving Tuesday is one way to help people we don’t know. Why is Giving Tuesday important to you?
Jennifer: I think Giving Tuesday is actually what the holiday spirit is about. We often buy gifts for each other that don’t have much meaning and gifts that the other party may not even want. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to honor your loved ones with a gift that has meaning and changes lives at the same time.
Kristian: Giving Tuesday makes sense to me in a season where we make consumerism so easy — that there can be an equal ease to charity and charitable giving.
What are your favorite gifts in the World Vision Gift Catalog?
Jennifer: I always love the animals! It’s a great opportunity to get my own child engaged in meaningful giving. Most kids love animals, so they grab their attention and invite a wonderful way to teach about giving back and the world.
Why is it important to you to partner with World Vision?
Kristian: Our fans are a community of people that enjoy music that has a deeper meaning, and World Vision is a perfect partnership because the organization is driven by a deeper meaning.
Jennifer: I believe music is powerful and connects directly to the heart. I want our music and my art to connect with messages of love and compassion and inclusion. I hope people will listen and have their hearts opened by those messages.
What aspects of World Vision’s work are you most passionate about?
Jennifer: I love empowering women. By empowering women, we elevate whole families and communities. I love that World Vision gives people the opportunity to gift sustainable, economic empowerment to women around the world, especially during the holiday season.
Kristian: I love the connection between the sponsor and the sponsored child. The ability to directly effect change in another person’s life is precious, and World Vision’s ability to facilitate that is amazing.
Learn more about Sugarland’s #LoveBIGGER campaign.
The post Q&A: Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland appeared first on World Vision.
Sadie Robertson has had a busy year of speaking engagements, but as part of the “Duck Dynasty” family, she’s really looking forward to heading home for Christmas, which is a three-day festivity for the Robertsons.
“Our family is hilarious at Christmas,” Sadie says. “We have the most fun traditions!”
What are you most looking forward to about Christmas this year?
I love Christmastime. Who doesn’t? Now that I don’t live at home, I feel like it’s even more special because it’s a time I get to spend with my incredible family. I think after this crazy year, Christmas is going to be the best yet by getting to be home.
How do you cut through the hustle and bustle of the season to experience God more deeply?
Christmas literally is God’s holiday, so to miss him at Christmas, you’re missing the true meaning. You have to know that every season, he is in it, and there is a new side of him to see. That keeps me expectantly seeking him.
How would you encourage others to shine bright by showing God’s love this Christmas season?
I would encourage you to keep your eyes open to how you can be a blessing, and then take action based on what you see. See this Christmas season as a time to love others.
Why is it important to you to team up with World Vision for Giving Tuesday?
It is incredible for such a big group of people to intentionally give to people in need and for corporations to support. I love when there is unity for the better of the world in any capacity.
What aspects of World Vision’s work are you most passionate about and why?
Going on trips around the world, I see the need for help in the eyes of beautiful, passionate kids, and so I love to team up with anyone who is bringing hope to those little eyes. World Vision is beautiful, and I cannot wait to see many more kids sponsored with hope restored for their future. In order to make World Vision grow and kids all around the world have hope restored, we need each other.
Praying the Scriptures is one of the most powerful ways to talk to God. This season, pray Psalm 139 over your sponsored child using the prompts below that correspond with verses in the Psalm.
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
Thank God that he sees and knows your sponsored child.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Thank God for his protection on your sponsored child.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
Praise God that your sponsored child is never alone. Ask that your sponsored child senses his presence.
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Praise God for his guidance, and ask for continual guidance as your sponsored child grows.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank God for how he has uniquely and lovingly created your sponsored child with dignity.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Praise God for creating your sponsored child.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Ask God to reveal his great plans for your sponsored child and their life.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Pray that your sponsored child learns to love God.
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
Pray for God’s protection from anyone who would want to harm your sponsored child or their family and community.
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ask God for his leadership in your sponsored child’s life.
Rubina, or Ruby as her friends call her, had to drop out of school after just the fifth grade. Her father died when she was 13, and her 16-year-old sister had to provide for the family by working at a print shop making envelopes in Delhi, India. Ruby worked alongside her to help increase the output.
When she was 16, Ruby married a local mechanic named Mohd. The couple had two boys, and she was determined that they would get the education she wasn’t able to get. But tragedy struck when Mohd died of tuberculosis after battling the disease for a year and a half.
Ruby was once again forced to work and struggled to provide for her family.
But in 2014, she began working with a fair trade group making jewelry. She earns fair wages, works in a safe and healthy environment, and she receives education assistance to ensure her boys can attend school. On top of that, she enjoys working with the other women to create beautiful pieces.
One of the bracelets Ruby makes is The Grace Collection Charm Bracelet, which is part of The Grace Collection by Patricia Heaton, a jewelry line available in the 2018 Christmas Gift Catalog that was sourced by our partner, California-based Gifts With a Cause. Patricia has supported World Vision’s work for many years and was recognized at the Television Industry Advocacy Awards for her work and commitment.
In addition to making jewelry, Ruby is also responsible for running quality assurance on the pieces she and the other 11 artisans create and then packing the jewelry. She enjoys her work and is able to provide for her family, and the best part is that her boys are now in the sixth grade and ninth grade, and she dreams that they’ll get great jobs that will make their futures bright.
The post How The Grace Collection by Patricia Heaton is creating hope in India appeared first on World Vision.
In Zambia and other places where World Vision works, families often eat only what they grow, which may be one or two crops.
Community volunteers teach mothers to combine three kinds of foods to give children energy and to build and protect their bodies.
The approach is called Go, Grow, Glow.
“Go” foods are energy foods — grains, roots, and tubers. In Zambia, the most common “Go” food is maize.
“Grow” foods build the body — proteins like milk, eggs, legumes, fish, and chicken.
“Glow” foods — fruits and green leafy vegetables, rich in Vitamin A — help protect the body from disease.
Community volunteers use storybooks with pictures to teach mothers how to combine the food groups, turning them into a tasty porridge, or serve all three together. Mothers then gather — each bringing the one or two ingredients they have in their household — and cook together, combining the foods into a healthy meal like this one. Give it a try with your own kids.
Recipe for vegetable soup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60 to 90 minutes
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cups vegetable stock (Zambians would use water)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (Zambians would use peanuts)
- 2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes with juices, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup turnips, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup fresh or canned okra, chopped
- Optional: 1 to 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (Zambians might not have this)
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Sautee onions about 5 minutes or until translucent.
- Whisk 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock and all the peanut butter into the onions until the mixture is smooth.
- Add in the remaining vegetable stock, diced tomatoes with liquid, and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Stir in cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Stir in okra and chicken. Simmer until okra is tender (about 30 minutes for raw or 10 minutes for canned).
Read more recipes from around the world! Did you make this vegetable soup? We want to see pictures! Send your photos to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us @worldvisionusa on Instagram or Facebook.
The post In the kitchen: Go, Grow, Glow vegetable soup recipe appeared first on World Vision.
Today, October 16, is World Food Day. As we begin the season for holiday recipes, let’s celebrate the work that World Vision does all around the world through food!
Try our top 8 holiday recipes from friends like Patricia Heaton, Food Faith Fitness, and more, and see how food plays a big part in how you can shine bright in the life of a child through World Vision!
* * *
1. Patricia Heaton — Winter corn chowder
Last spring, actress and World Vision Celebrity Ambassador Patricia Heaton helped cook for South Sudanese refugees as they arrived in Uganda. Inspired by providing a first warm meal to welcome the newcomers, Patricia guest-blogged with us about a recipe for winter corn chowder (from her new cookbook!) that features some of the same foods she helped feed refugee families.
Read Patricia’s perspective on hospitality through warm meals.
2. World Food Program — Dolma
Saeeda Nouri is one of tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians who fled religious violence in Mosul, Iraq, in June of 2014. Now she lives with her husband and youngest son in Ashti Camp for displaced Iraqi families in Erbil, Iraq.
When Marwa Awad, on staff with our partners at the World Food Program, visited Saeeda, she heard her story and learned about one of Iraq’s most famous dishes, dolma. This recipe is one of Saeeda’s favorites that she used to cook at home, and through innovative programs like mobile e-vouchers, Saeeda is able to still cook it for her family, even while displaced.
3. Taylor Kiser of Food Faith Fitness — Goat cheese cheesecake
Inspired by how goats and the milk they provide can change everything for families in need, blogger Taylor Kiser developed her recipe for goat cheese cheesecake with honey cinnamon apples. Goat milk provides protein to help kids grow up strong, and extra goat milk can be sold to help struggling families earn money for their life necessities. Their manure also helps fertilize crops and vegetable gardens.
Find out how to make one of her favorite new recipes!
4. Chef Billy Parisi — Huevos rancheros
Food is one of the essentials of life and over the years it has proved to bring people together over and over again. Chef Billy Parisi partnered with us on his recipe for huevos rancheros with avocado and crispy bacon to shed some light on the rest of the world that may not get the opportunity to eat meals on a regular basis or even have access to clean water.
“God has given us every single thing we have so who would we be if we were not a blessing to those who are the most vulnerable,” Billy says.
What ingredient do you think inspired Billy’s recipe?
5. World Vision staff — Mongolian buuz
On the plains of Mongolia, the cuisine is focused on the meat and dairy provided by livestock, especially for nomadic herding families. This recipe for traditional Mongolian steamed dumplings — called Buuz — illustrates what it’s like to cook in this harsh climate.
6. Lindsay Cotter of Cotter Crunch — Almond flour loaf cake
Why is Lindsay Cotter’s almond flour load cake sweetened with honey? Honey is natural, healthy, and is an ingredient that pays it forward in World Vision communities!
When you donate a beehive through the World Vision Gift Catalog, you help empower a family economically. Communities raise the bees and sell the honey they produce for an income to help them better support their families.
7. Laura Sandford of Joy Food Sunshine — Carrot zucchini muffins
These muffins were one of the first baked goods Laura ever made for her daughter. They’re healthy and full of nutrition, they help her teach her kids about healthy eating, and they include ingredients that could be grown in a home garden!
A World Vision program called Common Pot teaches mothers around the world to do this very same thing: to cook delicious meals with ingredients they can easily get that will be highly nutritious for their kids.
8. Josephine Bingi — Banana pancakes
Josephine in Uganda makes 650 banana pancakes every Sunday and sells them at church for a penny each. She raises her 13 children and grandchildren on that income: $6.50 a week.
Read what it’s like to make this recipe and how love and prayer keep her going.
* * *
Share with us below: Which holiday recipes did you try? What was your favorite?
The post Top 8 holiday recipes to teach your family about the world appeared first on World Vision.