International (MNN) — A major bombshell dropped on the evangelical community Monday: World Vision President Richard Stearns told Christianity Today that his organization, one of America’s largest Christian charities, is now allowing gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be hired as well as gay Christians who follow their policy of abstinence outside of marriage.
The organization, known for their child sponsorship programs worldwide, is now dealing with the fallout.
The reality: it will be children who will suffer the consequences because of dropped sponsorships or programs that may suffer due to diverted giving.
Meanwhile, over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (USD$1.25 per day). Children under age 18 make up nearly 48% of the population of the world’s least developed countries, compared with 21% of the population of the world’s industrialized nations.
This begs the question: does child sponsorship make a difference? There’s about $3.3 billion going into child sponsorship every year, compared to the $2.9 billion that goes for development assistance from the U.S. government. Up until last March, no one had done a study on child sponsorship to see if it is effective.
According to a peer-reviewed study released last March by the University of San Francisco, the message does make a difference. In that study, published in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Political Economy, researchers concluded that sponsored children are more likely to graduate both secondary school and college, have salaried employment, and be leaders in their communities.*
The study notes that programs from other organizations–including World Vision, Plan USA, and Save the Children–that “use funding given in the name of a sponsored child more broadly to create village-level public goods” are “less-targeted nature” and “more difficult to assess.”
The one-on-one impact of sponsor to child in the name of Christ helps shatter the cycle of poverty. Tiffany Taylor with Orphan Outreach says, “It’s one thing to have humanitarian aid and to be able to help the children with their physical needs, but obviously, the key for these children is for them to have a lifelong personal relationship with Christ.”
Sponsors are encouraged to engage their child, because even though they may be worlds apart, it makes a difference to a child to know that someone cares. “They know that there’s someone who is praying for them, who is writing them, who is caring for them. We also have the opportunity for people to go on short-term mission trips and actually meet their children.”
Orphan Outreach’s sponsorship programs provide funding that will allow a child to remain part of a vital Christian program in their community. Taylor says their staff makes no apologies for a biblical worldview. “What’s key to us is that these programs involve Christian discipleship of the children, that they are run by Christians, and that these children are exposed to the Gospel on a daily basis.”
Sponsorships with Orphan Outreach are just $36 a month. Orphan Outreach cares for orphans and at-risk kids (in Christian schools) in Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Latvia, and Russia.
Actual details of what a sponsorship covers can vary from project to project–from monthly tuition to food and clothing. But the investment is transformational for both the sponsor and the child, adds Taylor. “Their sponsors also can be totally open with them about their love of Christ. And that is why they are sponsoring these children and giving them their financial and prayer support directly, to transform the lives of these children.”
You may ask what the connection is between the World Vision announcement and the vision of a sponsorship program by Orphan Outreach. For Orphan Outreach, who they are directs what they do.
Orphan Outreach is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to glorifying the Lord through reaching out to the millions of at risk children throughout the world. Since our founding in 2007, we have acted as instruments of Christ impacting the lives of those we serve. Ministering primarily in Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Latvia, Russia, and the United States, we support a variety of programs designed to offer a better chance to children in dire living conditions. James 1:27 is the inspiration of our mission and the motivation and passion towards attaining our vision.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Editor’s note: All this week, we will be contacting MNN partners and ask them to be a part of this dialogue. Check back often as this discussion continues.
*Peer-reviewed, independent study on the viability of international child sponsorship led by Dr. Bruce Wydick, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, reveals large and statistically significant impacts on life outcomes for children enrolled in Compassion International’s Christian child sponsorship program.