While elections occur only once every two or four years, with the amount of news coverage and media, it can seem a lot more often. It is easy to become desensitized to the people, the issues, and the noise.
But now is the time to pay attention — the people who are elected to the House, Senate, and to local positions of power in November will make decisions on issues we care about as Christians. Unfortunately, typically only 40 percent of people vote in midterm elections. (Turnout is even lower for odd year, primary, and local elections.) So not only do we need to commit to making it to our local polling place this fall, but we also need to commit to refocusing the conversation around these elections.
Refocus the election conversation to issues of poverty and justice
God asks us to care for the poor. Elected officials work for us and will be our voice when it comes to issues of poverty and justice — such as girls’ education, clean water, human trafficking, or response to war and conflict — what do you want to say?
During these midterms, you have the power to refocus the conversation toward what genuinely matters — issues that will be affected by decisions in the next two to four years.
Start a meaningful conversation
Raise the conversation among your friends, families, and networks — make it of value. Move beyond talking about the candidates as people you may like or dislike, and instead talk about the actions they will take as elected officials and how these actions will affect the most vulnerable:
- Children in Syria and Iraq who have been displaced by violent conflict
- Mothers who give birth unattended and fear that their children will not live
- Girls not in school because they have to collect water for their families
- People who want to provide food for their families, but lack land or resources
- Children facing violence in their own country, but with no place to go
As a constituent whose voice makes a difference, ask your candidates to move beyond their normal talking points and start conversations about issues that matter for the people whom Jesus would describe as “the least of these.”
Ask your political candidates these seven questions
Below are some questions you may consider asking. Reach out on social media, to news stations who are hosting debates, or use the contact form on candidates’ websites.
To find your local candidates, check your newspaper, or look for a voting guide in the mail.
- Foreign aid: Do you support the foreign assistance budget, which makes up less than 1 percent of the total federal budget? (Why it’s important: This budget helps build stable economies and infrastructure while giving communities a path out of poverty through access to basics like health facilities, schools, and clean water.)
- Human trafficking: What do you see as the U.S. role in combating human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery?
- Disaster response: What specifically would you do to ensure that America is able to respond quickly and effectively to people in other parts of the world suffering from war and/or natural disasters?
- World hunger: Programs such as Food for Peace and Feed the Future have a history of strengthening U.S. relationships around the world and building self-sustainability for small-scale farmers. Do you see value in these programs and what do you see as the benefits in continuing programs such as these?
- Health: Preventable deaths of children under 5 have nearly been cut in half since 1990, yet the budgets for international maternal and child health programs are often targeted for cuts in the appropriations process. Do you support these programs, and if so, how will you ensure funding continues to be a priority?
- Education: Although the number of out-of-school children of primary school age declined globally from 100 million to 61 million between 2000 and 2015, progress has stalled since 2007. Do you see the benefits of education programs globally and if so, how do you believe the United States can support this?
- Collaboration: How do you see faith-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the United States government working together to help fight extreme poverty? How can citizens play a role?
Pray for political candidates and elected officials
As Election Day approaches, pray that respect and values come to the forefront. Pray that candidates are given the will to talk about issues first and resist the temptation to attack others. Pray that all political candidates across the country would remember the poor and vulnerable, and that those who are elected would take with them a message of justice to the halls of Congress.
The post Election Day: 7 questions to ask your candidates before you vote appeared first on World Vision.
What do you get for the person on your list who already has everything they need?
Here’s a great idea for your Christmas list: Honor the people in your life with a life-changing gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog.
Find a gift for anyone on your list with our Gift Guide below, or explore the entire Gift Catalog. There are plenty of last minute gift ideas!
Find the best gifts under $50 and Christmas gift ideas for moms, dads, teachers, foodies, accessory lovers, and church leaders.
How the Gift Catalog works
Choose a life-changing gift to donate.
Choose a card (mailed, printable, or email) to explain the impact of your gift.
Give the card to the person you want to honor.
Best gifts for moms
Best gifts for dads
Best gifts under $50
Best gifts for teachers
Best gifts for foodies
Best gifts for accessory lovers
Best gifts for church leaders
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 10, 2018. The storm’s heavy rain, high winds, and extreme storm surges caused massive destruction in its path and spawned numerous tornadoes. Hurricane Michael was the first Category 4 storm in recorded history to make landfall in the northeast Gulf Coast.
As of Friday, Oct. 12, 13 deaths have been reported. Search and rescue continues in hard-to-reach areas. Communities from the Florida Panhandle through Georgia to the Carolinas and Virginia are cleaning up, clearing debris, and taking stock of destroyed and damaged buildings as well as downed trees and power lines.
FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Michael
Explore frequently asked questions about hurricanes and Hurricane Michael, including how you can help people affected by disasters in the U.S.
- Fast facts: Hurricane Michael
- When was the Florida Panhandle last hit by a hurricane?
- How is World Vision responding to Hurricane Michael?
- How can I help people in Hurricane Michael’s path?
Fast facts: Hurricane Michael
- Began in the southwest Caribbean Sea
- Was first monitored by the National Hurricane Center on Oct. 2
- Strengthened to a hurricane by Oct. 8
- Made landfall as a Category 4 storm, the first time in recorded history in the Panhandle
- Property damage estimates to be greater than $4.5 billion
When was the Florida Panhandle last hit by a hurricane?
Hurricane Hermine came ashore in September 2016 as a Category 1 hurricane, ending a 10-year span without a hurricane landfall. The most recent major hurricane was Category 3 Dennis, which made landfall in 2005 with 120-mph winds. Dennis joined a rogue’s gallery of memorable storms that did massive damage to coastal areas, including Ivan in 2004, Opal in 1995, and Kate in 1985.
How is World Vision responding to Hurricane Michael?
Four semi-truckloads of World Vision relief supplies are arriving in the Florida Panhandle Friday and Saturday. They will be distributed by local partners in Pensacola, Panama City, Panama City Beach, and Mexico Beach. One truckload transports enough supplies to serve up to 1,500 people with relief items that include food, clean water, coolers, hygiene supplies, diapers, cleaning supplies, bedding and inflatable beds, as well as temporary shelter items such as tents, tarps, and canopies.
In Albany, in a hard-hit area of southwest Georgia where it may be weeks before power is restored, long-term World Vision partners are already distributing our pre-positioned relief goods. More supplies are on the way.
How can I help people in Hurricane Michael’s path?
Pray: Please join us in prayer for people in Hurricane Michael’s path. Almighty Father, we ask for Your care and protection for people in the path of Hurricane Michael. Give them the assurance of Your presence and equip those who will provide relief and assistance after the storm passes. Strengthen the minds and bodies of first responders for the days ahead.
Give: World Vision is responding to the needs of families affected by Hurricane Michael. We are positioned and equipped to respond to disasters across the United States. When disaster strikes, World Vision is often one of the first organizations to respond. Our relief workers connect with partners — including churches — in affected regions to help hard-hit communities.
We are continually preparing for the next disaster by equipping our field sites and partners to help those affected by tornadoes, floods, storms, wildfires, and other disasters across the country. World Vision also stays long after disasters have faded from the headlines to help communities rebuild. Please give generously to help your fellow Americans.
The post 2018 Hurricane Michael: Facts, FAQs, and how to help appeared first on World Vision.
A few years ago, as I was driving down the highway, swiping at tears, wallowing in some drama, and feeling like a loser, I was interrupted by my phone ringing. It was a close friend who said, “Did I just pass you on the highway, and are you okay?!”
To me, it was a Hagar moment — a personal reminder from God that he is El Roi, the God who sees me even when I think I’m alone.
You remember Hagar — Abraham’s servant who he slept with to “help” God out in getting an heir and appease his wife, Sarai? Sarai then got jealous and abused Hagar, so she and her son, Ishmael, ran away into the desert to die.
There God shows up and reminds Hagar that he is the God who sees her. Always. No matter what the circumstances. But not “seeing” like a gawker driving by an accident. Instead, a “seeing” that calls us beloved, a “seeing” that numbers the hairs on our heads and knows our past, present, and future.
It’s a “seeing” that stoops to write in the dirt, that stops to single us out in a crowd, a “seeing” that has a conversation in the heat of the day at a well when we think we’d rather not be seen.
It’s a “seeing” that enters into our pain and reminds us that everything will change, except God. We’re never lost to him. And we are always secure in him.
This is why we sponsor Loveness and other kids through World Vision. We want them to know they are seen by God and us.
We have sponsored many kids over the years — some who have broken our hearts and others who have thrived, but they all received the message that they are seen. They matter to God and to us.
There is Justine, who got pregnant as an unwed 12-year-old and had to quit school. We visited her in Uganda and mourned the potential that would not be realized. We mourned the loss of her own childhood. God still sees her. She is still beloved.
There is Miguel, who grew up before our eyes in Guatemala and loves baseball, reminding us that all kids deserve a childhood with fun in it. God sees Miguel.
There is Rita, who didn’t do particularly well in school but was able to go into trade school to be a beautician. God sees her. She is precious to him.
There are many others over the years — each seen, each loved by our family.
Then there is Loveness. We have been privileged to visit Loveness in Zambia and will see her again soon. She has a smile that lights up a room. She has a family who loves her and who trusts God. We brought her a dress on her third birthday, and she wore it in every picture after that for two years.
The reason I share these stories is because regardless of the outcome, these kids are made in the image of God and need to be reminded that they are seen and loved. They matter.
My husband, John, was serving as the senior pastor of our church in Minnesota when our faith community sponsored over 1,000 kids in Rakai, Uganda. Early one Sunday morning, in the 90s, news broke that the Lord’s Resistance Army had kidnapped a bunch of children overnight for the purpose of forcing them to be soldiers and domestic workers. As people came into worship that morning, one after another asked my husband, “Are those our kids? Are those our kids?” John went to the pulpit and assured the congregation that the kids who had been kidnapped were not from Rakai. But even though they technically weren’t “our kids,” all of them are “our kids” in a sense. They are beloved by God and need to know they are seen. They matter.
Just as my friend saw me in my moment of pain, God sees each child in need. Sponsoring Loveness and our other kids has given us the privilege of partnering with God’s work in the world. If you sponsor a child, maybe take a minute now to pray that they’ll be reminded today, through the care of World Vision, that they are seen and matter.
The post Child sponsorship helps children understand that God sees them appeared first on World Vision.
Five years ago, Pastor Larry Heenan of Spring Valley Baptist Church in Raytown, Missouri, challenged every Sunday school class in his church to raise $85 for goats from World Vision’s Gift Catalog.
For Sharon Baker and her class of 12 third, fourth, and fifth graders, this seemingly simple request felt daunting. They were doubtful they could raise the money for even one goat.
But now with the 470th goat in the works, Sharon’s husband, Tom, has lovingly dubbed her the “crazy goat lady” — a nickname she has embraced with open arms.
We can’t help everyone, but we certainly can help someone.—Sharon Baker
“Goats are one of the cutest animals ever. They’re so precious, and they provide so much for each family,” Sharon says. “We realize there’s a lot of hurt out there. We can’t help everyone, but we certainly can help someone.”
Fundraising really took off once her class started letting donors name each goat — starting with goat No. 47, named “The Old Goat — Russell” by Jaunita Box in memory of her husband.
All of the goats now receive names, each one unique to the situation or the reason for buying the goat. And the children were insistent on going back and naming all of the previous goats too.
After goat No. 50, Sharon says they were planning to quit, but the children wanted to keep going. And an answer to her prayer came quite obviously the next Sunday morning, with Pastor Danny Dyer pointing directly toward her during his sermon and telling her emphatically to never quit doing this good work.
“We do not have a goal any longer,” Sharon says. “We are just going to keep going.”
With help from her fellow teachers, Ed and Peggy Conway and Joe and Kim Biondo, the children in their class have been donating their allowances, doing extra chores, selling donated items, saving aluminum cans, collecting UPC codes, and using their imaginations to create crafts to sell — all to add another goat to their classroom’s “goat meter,” which keeps track of their progress.
“‘I am a Christ-centered, biblically anchored world-changer.’ I have the children say that every Sunday,” Sharon says. “Their eyes light up when you tell them they are a world-changer. Saying that really broadens your view of who you are. It gives me the confidence to be the ‘crazy goat lady.’”
Both the church and the community, particularly those in Sharon’s line dance classes, have rallied behind them every step of the way. Money periodically arrives in her mailbox with a note to buy another goat, and for Sharon’s birthday and Christmas gifts, her friends give a goat in her name. People also donate money in honor of someone or in their memory.
“I could not possibly do this alone,” Sharon says. “As we’ve asked others to come in and be a part of what we’re doing, they become part of the team.”
Both their team and impact continue to grow, but Sharon gives all the glory back to God.
“Knowledge and prayer bring the passion — the knowledge that there are people out there who are hurting that you can help, and prayer to ask God’s guidance every step of the way,” Sharon says. “There are doors we never dreamed we could open.
“We never dreamed that we could talk to someone about a goat, and they would hand us [$85]. That is purely God working in the hearts of other people. Once you see that happen, your passion becomes like a bonfire. It just grows. You realize that you can do something significant with God’s help.”
The post No goats, no glory: Sunday school students give the gift of goats appeared first on World Vision.
By Rosie O’Connor, Director of Educational Programming
Private immigration detention facilities in recent years have made up to 25% of their total profits, an estimated $30 to $77 million, from utilized detainee sanitation and work programs. For example, throughout November 2012, if GEO Group had hired outside janitors and maintenance employees at their Denver Contract Detention Facility, they would have spent over $125,000 in wages and benefits. Instead, they spent about $1,680 for those services by coercing or forcing detainees to work for wages of $1/day.
Private detention facilities are exploiting labor to reduce costs and increase profits at the expense of the rights of detainees. Furthermore, U.S. immigration policies and enforcement are integral to these systems of exploitation by virtually assuring the companies a steady influx of exploitable labor, via contract line items such as minimum occupancy rates at detention centers. The U.S. government is currently supporting a system wherein private prison companies gain from contract payment and a steady stream of detainable exploitable individuals.
Currently there are seven open lawsuits alleging forced labor exploitation in immigration detention centers in Georgia, California, Washington, Colorado and Texas. All of these centers are managed by either GEO Group or CoreCivic (previously Corrections Corporations of American or CCA). While the foundation of each case varies, with some relying on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and others focusing on unjust enrichment or minimum wage violation, they all highlight institutionalized, oppressive exploitation. This exploitation is a result of multi-level intersectional policy by the U.S. government and private companies that propagate a capitalist agenda.
There are two primary legal defenses for these exploitative programs, the 13th Amendment and Alvarado Guevara v. I.N.S. The 13th Amendment states that forced labor can be used as punishment for a crime. However, the legal ‘forced servitude’ in the 13th Amendment applies only to those who have been ‘duly convicted’ of a crime, which does not apply to those in detention. In Guevara v. I.N.S, the argument challenged the compensation as a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In this case the judge ruled that the detainees could not be considered employees because, as undocumented individuals, it was illegal for the US government to hire them.
These companies have two primary programs mentioned in the lawsuits: sanitation unit programs and ‘voluntary’ work programs. The sanitation unit program is a system designed to uphold the seemingly innocuous requirement of keeping a clean sleeping area. However, based on testimony of detainees, the program is implemented through guards arbitrarily selecting detainees to clean the sleeping areas on a daily basis for no pay. The detainees report being threatened with solitary confinement if they do not comply. The ‘voluntary’ work programs allow detainees to work within the detention center doing maintenance and janitorial duties for a fixed wage of $1-$3 a day for anywhere from 2-8 hours a day. The work programs are technically voluntary, but individuals report feeling coerced or required to work in order to pay for basic necessities like toothpaste or sanitary napkins.
Policy and Enforcement
Recent policy shifts around immigration and detention have worked to benefit private companies and politicians, and have created the opportunity for the current exploitative system. In 2009, and again in 2015, Congress voted for a ‘detention bed quota’, requiring the U.S. Department of Health Services (DHS) to maintain at least 34,000 beds for detention. Given detention is one of the least cost effective monitoring methods for immigration court, Assistant Professor of Law Anita Sinha suggests that members of congress were motivated to support the policy because of the financial gains and job opportunities this initiative created for their constituents. However, some of the strongest lobbyists for and greatest beneficiaries of this policy were the private prison companies who maintain over 65% of these beds. Furthermore, this coincided with a billion dollar increase to the U.S. border patrol program budget, and, consequently, the combination of these policy shifts and funding increases has resulted in an influx of individuals coming into private detention facilities.
Profit as Motivation
The capitalist motivations of this system are integral to its persistence. In focusing on the privatization of prisons there is a clear shift toward more traditional economic initiatives, like delivering the most financially efficient, low cost, high profit product, and private prison companies are succeeding in this endeavor. A December 2016 evaluation by the Homeland Security Council reports that private detention centers cost roughly $40 less per person per day to maintain than the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintained centers. However, the same report suggested there was a need for more oversight and involvement of ICE in the private detention centers. The recommendations suggest there is a lack of accountability of private contractors and a need for more formalized inspections of the private institutions.
While more inspections may ensure better adherence to the Performance-Based National Detention Standards, there is evidence to suggest that the system is dependent on this exploitation and thus the lack of oversight may be integral to its survival. Alonzo Peña, a previous Deputy Director of ICE, suspects a pattern of private companies hiring former immigration officials for suspect motives. In addition, Andrew Free, an attorney involved in one of the cases suggests that without the exploited labor of the detainees the companies would be operating at a loss. With the current dependence on private detention centers to hold the detained population, it seems unlikely that there will be any significant recourse to a failure to uphold standards. The current system has questionable accountability and a complicated interworking system of seemingly independent profit driven policies, individuals, and corporations that foster the continued exploitation, marginalization and oppression of the detained population.
*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: flickr
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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