Jim and Ellen Storey have been Unbound sponsors for 19 years. They sponsor four children in Colombia, where they recently visited on an Unbound Awareness Trip. Jim took some time to describe his experience with Unbound.
It’s eye-opening to visit Unbound program sites knowing the humble beginning they originated from — a group of five co-founders working together in family, faith and love. These humble beginnings have now transformed to self-sustaining programs all over the world, all run by local people, for local people. It has morphed and grown from an unlikely and precarious start, far beyond what those five founders could have imagined.
It reminds me of the words of a rabbi named Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles. When the early Christians were being persecuted, he advised the leaders of the Sanhedrin , “Keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God (Acts 5: 38-39).” To me, Unbound is following this advice and letting God do his work.
Unbound’s programs have continued to grow for 35 years now, and every time I see them in person, the people and their work stand as examples of love in action, doing God’s work among their own.
In these places of poverty and want, the value of human life is paramount. While some struggle for survival, they still protect their dignity and uphold their love for all people, even those who might increase their struggle.
When we arrived to visit some homes of Unbound children and elders in Colombia, the community there was so happy to see us. They cheered for us as we stepped across the planks of wood that support their humble abodes, which sit ten feet above an open sewer, carrying much of the waste of a city of four million.
They sprayed some air freshener to make the smell bearable for their guests, without embarrassment. They offered us snacks and soda — special occasion gifts they provided out of their love for us. The combination of it all was awe-inspiring — seeing up close the lives of people so economically suppressed, living a tenuous existence, but constantly exclaiming, “It’s all right.” There is no self-pity here, only people living full lives, helping each other with the help of Unbound, and loving their sponsors and guests as much as they can.
For those of us traveling from the U.S., we were acutely aware that we have it so good in comparison. My first thought was that I’m a wimp compared to these people who offer such great love in the midst of the poverty that surrounds them.
So I’m back here in my seemingly palatial house, but with a new sense of contentment after seeing the challenging conditions in which others still exude peace and love. And I wonder how they do it. Is it because they’ve learned what’s really important and they are doing something about it? I don’t know, but I do know that they have a deep goodness inside of them, something that many of us have lost touch with along the way.
It’s as if I, the sponsor from the United States, am the true person in need. I give them some support, and they give me their love, even the ones who I don’t directly provide anything for. Those who I don’t even sponsor looked at me as a symbol of their sponsor, and wanted to thank me anyway. It was truly humbling. I was the one receiving the greatest gift.
Colombia is a good place, and Unbound is a good program. I will continue to support it. Amen.
Read more personal reflections from recent awareness trips.