Newspaper Column 1

Trip Start Dec 2006
Trip End Dec 2006

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    I grew up seeing images of starving children in Africa on t.v.  I'm bombarded with them all the time by the media.  The images of a world so different than mine have always been interesting, but never engaging.  This weekend, I get to go to that far away world where children have been living on rice and chicken feed and don't own a pair of shoes.  I get to meet kids who, until three years ago, were commonly given the honor of seeing their parents shot or tortured in front of them by soldiers under the control of a corrupt and violent government.  I get to go to Liberia.
    I'm excited.  I'm not so sure that I should be excited.  Part of me thinks that I should be downcast, that I should face this experience with sadness knowing that tragedy will be all around me in the lives of the children that I'll meet in the next two weeks.  But I'm not sad.  I'm excited.
    There are more than 130 million orphans in the world.  That's roughly the size of Canada and Mexico combined.  And the number is steadily increasing.  Some say that every 14 seconds another child becomes an orphan. 
    I have the privilege of working for a Christian organization, God's Kids, the purpose of which is to focus on the orphan problem.  We do not fool ourselves into thinking that we can solve the problem.  We're simply determined to engage it. 
    When the time comes, everyone chooses to engage the problems of this world in different ways.  Our organization is engaging by building a network of orphanages around the world that hold to a set of standards for orphan care and financial responsibility.  And I'm excited to be a part of it.
    On December 10, while I'm in Liberia, 200 Liberian orphans are coming to a youth camp organized just for them.  For six days, these kids will play games, eat meals together, sing, and dance.  Hume Lake Christian Camps out of Hume, CA is sending eleven of their staff members to Liberia to partner with God's Kids and give these children a week that they'll never forget. 
    Thousands of kids in the United States go to summer camps, family camps, and youth camps all the time.  But for these 200 Liberian kids, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Many of them have had childhoods that I can't imagine.  But for six days, they will get the chance to be entertained, catered to, and even spoiled a little.
    In addition to the Orphan Youth Conference, I get to be part of a huge Christmas party on December 16.  For the sixth year in a row, John Kpewoan, the God's Kids Liberian National Director has invited close to 3,000 kids to his orphanage to celebrate Christmas in an all-day birthday bash.  All of them are going to get a backpack stuffed with Christmas toys, school supplies, and hygiene items.  Six of these kids will get a pack that was filled by students at Redlands Christian School.
    Beyond the youth conference and the Christmas celebration, I'm going to Liberia to see some of our orphanages for the first time.  I'm bringing 11 framed certificates that I will post on each orphanage wall as a sign of belonging to the God's Kids Network of Orphanages.  It's a promise to feed, educate, and care for children.  It's a promise to engage the problem.
    The orphan issue, like many other issues in our world, is too big for us.  We'll never beat it.  But we don't have to be resigned to it either.  I'm leaving this weekend to experience Africa and one of the world's great humanitarian crises.  I would love to have the influence and resources to affect change like Bill Gates or Bono.  But I never will.  That's ok with me, though.  I'm going to play soccer with a kid in Liberia whose parents were killed a short time ago.  I'm going to hang a certificate in her orphanage that says that I promise to engage the problem.  I'm going to read Emily Dickinson's poem over and over again.
Not in Vain
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
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