I was reminded of some of my own stories from my mission trip to Moyo, Zambia last year after connecting with an organization that randomly began following me (The ESM Group) on Twitter called Three Avocados Coffee.
Three Avocados is a non-profit organization that was founded as a creative solution to ending the global water crisis, starting with Uganda. 100% of their net proceeds provide clean water in Uganda, with hopes to expand in the future. They aim to provide coffee lovers with a product that enables them to make a 100% socially responsible choice when purchasing coffee.
Three Avocados was formed by a group of Christians after a mission trip to Uganda in January 2010. While they are not a religious organization, they feel that God has richly blessed them, and therefore are compelled to help those in need so that they may see the light of Christ shine through their organization.
Here’s my point… Their name, “Three Avocados” was inspired by a widow in the village of Bulopa, Uganda, who literally gave all she had (three avocados) to ensure others could eat.
It’s amazing stories like these (and they keep coming, one right after another) since I returned from Zambia a little over a year ago that continue to inspire me. And I am certain that these stories continue to be placed squarely in front of me for a reason – stories that existed long before I personally decided to get off my butt and do something but it’s amazing how differently you view the world after you visit a place like Moyo.
Anyway, there’s no doubt the widow is a very special human being and yet, she’s one of many in countries like these. The single biggest thing that struck me during my own mission experience was the way in which people take care of each other there. The reason the story about the widow is so moving is because it’s pretty hard to fathom being compelled to give up so much in spite of one’s own circumstances – so lovingly and absent of regard for ones own needs.
Whether it was the many Zambian women who poured their time and energy into serving other families living with HIV/aids (many of whom were inflicted themselves) or the homegrown/made gifts we received as a thank you from the families of our sponsored children. The humanity and grace abounds despite their having absolutely nothing. And yet, ironically, that is why there’s also so much joy evident upon their beautiful faces – because they live their lives not even questioning the time/reason to serve others. It’s engrained in their daily lives.
Believe me when I tell you, I am not trying to preach. I merely feel compelled to share my own experience and explain how it has changed me. I’ve struggled with this part of my own life (what it means to live missionally in the modern world) since returning, almost daily. And I’m still not 100% sure about the reason I know I was called to go there but I’ve been told (by more than one friend/spiritual advisor) to be patient with the process and the reason will be revealed in time. As someone whose #1 strength is “Activator”, patience is not my strong suit but I’m trying. I’ve been as patient as possible and very open to listening ever since I returned because once I got there, I realized “going to Africa” was not a once in a lifetime experience – at least not for me. I may have signed-up to go thinking about it that way originally, but now I know there’s a bigger plan in the works for me.
World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce, said “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” I totally get that now. Seeing first hand the work that World Vision does in their Area Development Projects (ADP’s) such as Moyo, to help them become self sustainable over the course of 10-15 years, is an amazing experience. They are truly an organization that walks the talk of their mission.
But it’s not just about World Vision as an organization. It’s about all the people, churches and so many other organizations (and there are many) that are doing God’s work because they “get it”. They are so instrumental in breaking the traditional boundaries of religion/business/politics to do something real. They are stirring the hearts of average people like me, and awakening their souls so they can no longer stand to continue walking this earth in denial that what goes on outside their home/world is not their problem. I feel so blessed to be a part of a church that truly cares and does SO incredibly much with their skills and resources both at home and abroad for others less fortunate. It is my intention to continue to model my business in such a way that being missional is always a major part of its core practice.
During my most recent ZTF (Zambia Task Force) meeting, we heard the stories from two more mission trip groups who recently returned from Zambia, one of which was a group of high school students, since our first foundational mission development trip. It was wonderful to hear and see pictures of how in a little more than one year’s time, more bore holes for access to clean water have been dug, crops are growing, the construction of the high school is progressing and hundreds of bicycles are being distributed so the younger children are no longer forced to walk many kilometers in the dark (or sleep on the dirt floor of their school) just to be able to attend. This is not to mention the countless mosquito nets, wheel chairs, and other important supplies that have been distributed – it was a blessing to see the foundation being laid since my trip. And yet there’s still so much work to be done.
It is my absolute belief that the best possible thing that could happen to each of every one of us is to make of point of baptizing ourselves by such an experience as this in order to inspire others to take action and get involved. Experiences such as these help us to remember once we come home and fall back into the pattern of our daily lives because once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to deny the desire to figure out a way to use the blessing of that experience to pay it forward. I strongly believe it’s the only way anything is ever going to change because it sure as heck isn’t going to happen through any one of our countries’ respective governments. And whether we’re comfortable with the concept of it or not, we gravely need to change.
I want to make a point of telling you how much your past support has changed me as well as what it has meant to me personally. I still don’t know for certain what I’m supposed to be doing with all the stirrings inside me but I do know this; My heart continues to be “broken” by the images engrained in my memory and there’s no doubt in my mind that God did not intend for some of his people to live like kings and queens while others are left to die.
As the back of my Team World Vision jersey appropriately states, “I care. And so I run.” at least for now. I add the, “for now” part because believe me when I tell you, it’s not that I’m overjoyed to train all summer long in the sweltering heat. I like running but running long distances does not come naturally to me and despite a bruised rib, I gotta finish this thing. I’m not looking for anyone’s sympathy here. I say all this with the intent to express how important doing something with all this pent-up energy and passion (until I’m guided to what else I’m supposed to do) means to me. In other words, I don’t just do this run for fun and then expect everyone else to put forth all the resources. I’m truly passionate about the cause and have seen and heard what our combined efforts are doing for these people.
Last year, with the gracious generosity of friends and business partners, I raised over $6,700 and my church as a whole raised a little more than $27K for Moyo. This year my goal is $7,000. I am very motivated to push myself beyond my normal boundaries as my own way of helping others in need that I’ve met firsthand but I can’t begin to tell you how much your support in the form of donations fuels my fire. Last year as I ran this race I asked God to bless every one of my contributors while the images of the children of Zambia were playing like a slide show in my head. By the time I crossed the finish line I was crying my eyes out.
Will you donate and be instrumental in supporting my run? All proceeds go toward helping the community of Moyo, Zambia become self-sustainable and this is the community in which my own sponsored child lives.
Since I’ve returned I’ve made being “missional” a part of my lifestyle and my business and although I’m far from becoming “a missionary”, I have come to realize that I’m supposed to use my gift of influence as a stewardship for the purpose of altruism. Which is kind of ironic coming from a former VP of Sales who used to only use this gift to influence the next sale. Needless to say, it’s been a transformational journey.
I feel the need to let you know that I too am walking the talk, so here are some of the results that have come from my experience in Zambia…
• Personally, I have downsized twice, become leaner, greener, healthier, calmer, more focused and more at peace with all things and as a result, a much happier person in general
• I made a four-year commitment to the Zambia Task Force (ZTF) at my church that works very closely with World Vision in Moyo, Zambia (as well as many other mission partners locally, domestically and internationally)
• As a ZTF member I meet monthly with our group to plan how we (as a church community) will continue to keep awareness high in our own community
• As an only child and having no children of my own, I find myself even more committed than ever to Beene (my sponsored child whom I met in Moyo) and this commitment will continue until such time that my church and World Vision’s work is done (10-15 years for self sustainability)
• As the #1 fund raiser last year, I agreed to an interview on WCCO radio with the goal of making a greater impact on awareness for the cause and fundraising
• This year I was asked to be a Team World Vision captain – acting as a volunteer resource to impact awareness, including recruitment for the race, training support/encouragement and fundraising motivation/tips for my team
• Since returning, I’ve been asked to speak publicly about my mission experience and will continue to do so with anyone/group that will listen
• I’m running my second half marathon on August 21st and hoping to exceed last year’s impact by raising $7000 this year
• I’ve been holding meetings with a number of missional organizations just to learn more about what they’re doing globally as I feel the need to come up with other ways to serve
• I have launched my website with a page dedicated to conducting “Business Unusual” – a term I learned and adopted while meeting with Mike Veitenhans the World Vision Regional Director in Zambia.
It is my personal goal to figure out how I’m supposed to incorporate my passion to be missional more fully into my business before this time next year. I just know I need to figure out new ways to spread out my impact.
In closing, please see this timely post by Seth Godin today on “Selling the Benefits of Charity“.
Elizabeth (Eli) Mansfield