Just who actually is being punished?

Published on Friday, 28 March 2014 22:58 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

This week, humanitarian Christian nonprofit, World Vision, announced that it would allow gay, married Christians to be employed by the organization.

Then, after an enormous uproar from evangelicals, the organization reversed its decision two days later.

World Vision is an organization that uses a sponsorship model to help children around the world.

Thousands of children who struggle to get adequate food, healthcare and education are given a new chance at life. This work is done by partnering with members of the community to address both the immediate and long-term needs of families.

Part of the uproar included a number of sponsors dropping their sponsorship.

Full disclosure: I have been a World Vision sponsor since 2010, which is undoubtedly the reason I was so affected by this story.

Her name is Amina, and she’s 14 years old. Amina lives in Ethiopia, in a small hut with her family. She and I share the same birthday. She loves school (her favorite subject has changed from writing to science over the years) and she loves playing soccer.

Amina’s latest annual photo is on my fridge, and when I look at it I am struck by how quickly she is becoming a young lady. I have written her dozens of letters over the years, and it’s the highlight of my week when I get one from her.

Amina has always gone above and beyond in expressing her gratitude for sponsorship. The kind of gratitude that, if I were there in person, I think I wouldn’t know quite how to accept it. Have you ever had someone been so thankful for something you gave him or her that it almost makes you feel bashful?

I remember in one letter, she wrote that her family passes my photo around the room and kisses it. I was overwhelmed by the gesture of a family I’d never met; imagining that scene made me feel like I was part of theirs.

I have a special fondness for Amina because she is mine, but I don’t think that she is exceptional in her graciousness. I imagine that other World Vision children feel immense gratitude toward their sponsors as well.

So when I read that children were losing their sponsors over a religious culture war, I felt deep anger and sadness. I imagine someone from World Vision approaching a child and delivering the news that they aren’t being sponsored anymore. How would you explain this to a child in poverty, that they are being punished for something that has nothing to do with them?

I get it: people want to take a stand for what they believe. I’m all for that. But at what point does the damage become too high a cost?