Aug 7 2019

The dignity in self-determination

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Managing Editor Loretta Shea Kline, with a contribution by Social Media Coordinator Ashley Griffin.

“The right of each person to participate fully in society, to have adequate food and housing, to have the opportunity to get an education and to develop their talents is inherent to each person’s dignity as a child of God.” That passage is from Unbound’s core value on “Dignity of the Person,” and it speaks in part to the human need for self-determination.

Indigenous groups aim to gain recognition of their identities, ways of life, and rights to traditional lands and natural resources, but have historically faced discrimination, the U.N. said in its promotion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, observed annually on Aug. 9.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people worldwide. While they make up less than 5% of the global population, according to the U.N., they comprise 15% of those with the fewest economic resources. Unbound works with indigenous communities around the world, recognizing their considerable contributions, such as care for the environment and preservation of cultures.

As a member of the Dumagat indigenous community in the Philippines, 66-year-old Remegia didn’t have access to formal education growing up. Now she and her classmates of all ages are learning how to read and write in an integrated literacy program.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Dumagat students gather in an outdoor classroom on their ancestral land, eager to learn. In addition to basic skills, teacher Alona Hungco, 27, a Dumagat member herself as well as an Unbound staffer and former sponsored child, focuses on indigenous peoples’ rights and sustainable development ⁠— issues critical to the future of her community. Through the school, the people are also able to keep their history and language alive.

“It feels good that I am now able to write my name,” Remegia said. “It was like a precious gift for me. I keep on persevering to learn these things because I feel like it will make me complete as a human being.”

Please pray

Lord of all, you gifted us with life and with myriad talents so that we may realize our inherent potential, as individuals, as community members and as members of your human family. Let us glorify you by recognizing our own giftedness and the contributions of our sisters and brothers from every background and corner of the world. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.

Jul 31 2019

Recognizing potential is an act of faith

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Outreach Coordinator Clair Paul.

This summer, I’ve been studying the book of Romans. Paul spends time unpacking a lot of heavy stuff for the people of Rome. In Romans 3:23 he reminds us that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” That’s a lot to wrestle with, and it can leave you feeling disheartened. No matter what we as humans do, we are all sinners and unworthy of God’s glory. Words like that tend to stick with you and make you stop and think.

Happily, Paul goes on to say in the next verse, “They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Though we sinners were undeserving, the Lord sacrificed his only son to pay the price for our sins. Through His grace we are made clean and new, redeemed and worthy in the eyes of the Lord.

God knew that all people have potential. We can have faith in him because he first had faith in us. Recognizing the potential of others and doing something to draw it out is just as much an act of faith.

Unbound’s program runs on potential. We believe the capabilities of sponsored persons will show themselves when the right opportunity is provided. Sponsorship isn’t about solving short-term problems, but developing long-term change powered by goal-driven individuals.

One person’s willingness to invest in another through sponsorship is an act of faith that recognizes an individual’s worthiness in their eyes, and well as the eyes of God.

Please pray

Lord, thank you for seeing our potential. Though flawed, we are still redeemed by your eternal grace. Allow us to see the potential in others and help them to grow through our faith in you. Amen.

Jul 24 2019

Seeing what others see

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from contributing writer and sponsor Maureen Lunn.

Throughout my life I’ve been faced with moments of doubt, in myself, in a life circumstance or in a new venture. In all those moments, I’ve been surrounded by people acting as cheerleaders and supporters — people who believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself. Without them, I likely would have never gone to graduate school, become a writer or had the courage to uproot from my Midwestern life to build a new career and community in New Mexico.

I’m thankful as I look back over the years and realize that so many of the steps I’ve taken started with someone saying, “You can do it. I believe in you.” Without those moments, I think my life could’ve been very different.

Belief, though, is not binary. It’s not something we get and then have forever. Rather, it’s a work in progress and often something we need help with. In the Gospel of Mark, we see the father of a boy who was deaf and mute ask Jesus to help him believe.

“‘But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘”If you can!” Everything is possible to one who has faith.’ Then the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe, help my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:22-24)

Sometimes we need others to believe for us, to help us believe. It’s a crucial part of the experience of community, and of the sponsorship relationship in Unbound. When a struggling mother or father knows that someone in another country sees them, cares about them and believes in them, it helps them believe in themselves, too.

Another’s belief is empowering. It helps us see things about ourselves that are often hidden to our own eyes, and to find power we didn’t know we had.

Please pray

Triune God, thank you for empowering us to believe in ourselves, in others and in you. Through your power, we believe. Help us to firm up our belief and to spread your love along the way. Amen.

Jul 17 2019

Looking beyond

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

Over the past few months on our various Unbound platforms we’ve shared the story of Melody, 24, who was once selected one of the “Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines.” We also told you about Joyce, a 95-year-old Kenyan woman who weaves and sells colorful baskets, and Damián, 17, a promising baseball player in the Dominican Republic who was recently signed by a major league organization.

Each of these people has struggled with poverty and has worked to improve their situation with help from their sponsors and Unbound. But that’s not the whole of each one’s story. It’s just a part.

Sometimes people become tempted to think of “the poor” not as individuals, but as a nameless, faceless mass of helpless human beings with nothing to offer but need. At Unbound we believe that to appreciate who a person is you must be willing to look beyond their circumstances. It’s only in getting to know them as people that you can truly appreciate their capabilities and their beauty.

Keep checking in with us and you’ll see more stories that show just how true that is.

Please pray

Loving God, each person you’ve created is unique. From the number of hairs on our heads to the patterns of our fingerprints, your care for each of us is intricate and your love unfathomably deep. Help us to respect the individuality of each sister and brother and cherish each one as an irreplaceable gift to the world. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Jul 10 2019

‘You’ve got this’

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Writer/Editor Jordan Kimbrell.

In my off hours, I tutor teenagers preparing for the ACT test. I’m always amazed at how big a difference saying something as simple as “I know you can do this” has on their focus and overall scores. We’re often covering material they already know. They just need to approach it in new ways and believe in their own abilities. Building trust in themselves is key to reaching their goals.

It’s similar to how we at Unbound approach working with sponsored individuals and families. They know quite well how to survive on minimal means; for many, they’ve been doing it their whole lives. But they have dreams beyond surviving, and with encouragement from sponsors, staff and their fellow sponsored families, they’re turning those dreams into achievable goals.

In the past year, we’ve published stories about elders saving money so they could visit the ocean for the first time, students creating businesses to pay their way through college, and even a former sponsored youth meeting the pope. These are all people who started with a great need and found ways to turn dreams into reality.

For many, having someone in their corner saying “you’ve got this” can be a major motivator. The more they hear it, the more they start to believe in themselves. They start realizing those dreams aren’t unattainable. They start making small changes in their lives that can lead to big changes for them, their families and even their communities.

And it can all start with just a little encouragement.

Please pray

Dear God, thank you for believing in us. When we don’t believe in ourselves or others, you show us compassion and our hearts are filled. Wonderful teacher, thank you for showing us, through our sponsored friends, that nothing is insurmountable if we believe in each other and put our faith in you. Help us become better sources of encouragement and light in each other’s lives. We ask this in your name. Amen.

Jul 1 2019

Real change comes from within

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Managing Editor Loretta Shea Kline.

No one likes to be told what to do. My grown daughters remind me of that truism when my “advice” may not be as helpful as I might think. The fact is that people respond much better when they have the space to come up with their own solutions to problems.

At Unbound, we believe lasting change comes from within and that the surest path out of poverty is a self-directed one. In other words, the individuals and families participating in our programs know more about what they need than we do. What they require from us is a willingness to listen and accompany them on their path to change.

That’s what sponsors do when they commit to support a child, youth or elder. They offer material help through their monthly financial contribution, trusting that Unbound and the sponsored individual or family will use the funds in the best way. Sponsored friends often share in their letters the progress they’re making through that support. (And when sponsors write back, they give even more in the form of direct encouragement.)

Solutions to poverty in Unbound come from the grassroots, from the families themselves as they partner with local staffers to set goals, make plans to achieve them and hold each other accountable through parent groups. Change comes from within. It’s what we believe wholeheartedly.

Please pray

Loving God, you gave us the gift of free will to chart our own course. You also gave us the blessing of accompaniment by the Holy Spirit and our fellow human beings. Open our eyes to see potential, our ears to listen to dreams, our minds to create opportunity and our hearts to give freely of ourselves. May we seek your wisdom as we go forth with faith and confidence, knowing we’re not alone. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Jun 26 2019

Believe and let go

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

My son is driving by himself now. I knew that would be a big step for him. What I didn’t anticipate is what a big step it would be for his mother and me.

Letting go is hard. It takes more than a little faith. It’s also takes a certain coming to terms with the fact that, no matter how much you might want to control the actions of others, you can’t if they are to fulfill their potential.

Having meaningful relationships with people requires trust. You have to believe in their goodness, in their giftedness and in their ability to grow. You may never get to the point that you stop worrying about them, but, ultimately, you must give them over to their own choices and commend them to God’s care.

This is who we are as Unbound. We believe in our families. We believe they are capable and motivated. We believe that, given opportunity, they can lift themselves up.

We also believe in our sponsors. We believe in their goodness of heart. We believe in their generosity. We believe in their willingness to step out in faith with us.

There’s one more thing I didn’t anticipate when my son started driving. I never expected to be as proud of him as I am. It’s a pride I would never have known had I not been willing to let him go.

It turns out that believing in others is also a gift you give yourself.

Please pray

Bountiful God, your faith in your children overflows and overwhelms us. Help us to embrace the confidence you have in us so that we may realize how truly magnificent it is to be human. May gratitude to you, expressed in loving care for others, guide us and fill us with the joy that is the reward of the good and faithful servant. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Jun 19 2019

The resilience I learned from Unbound families

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Regional Reporter Coordinator Gustavo Adolfo Aybar.

As I near my fifth year at Unbound, I reflect on the many thrills and struggles I encountered during that time. Those first few months in the organization found me as a newly single father, in a new apartment, and dealing with the loss of my traditional family and its future. I felt broken. Hopeless.

In those early days, I worked on the Sponsor Services side that forms part of the Unbound call center team. I remember moments when I connected to a sponsor, shared news about their sponsored family, and found myself growing more resilient through the examples of the families in the program. Due to the daily interactions with various lives, either staff members, youth, elders or sponsors and donors, I was reminded to appreciate the many blessings in my life.

I discussed a single mother’s challenges to feed, raise and educate her three children. I privately applauded a father’s commitment to help his wife’s voice evolve into a vital part of the decision-making process within their family structure. I learned about two young brothers — both blind — and their willingness to persevere.

Each phone call, letter, interview and conversation led me to realize that resilience required me to fully accept my situation and the people close to me — the life-draining, as well as the life-affirming. Resiliency demanded that I understand my contributions to the problem. This new commitment allowed me to focus on self-improvement and gratitude.

One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes says, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But, I refuse to be reduced by it.” My years at Unbound helped me to identify challenges as opportunities for growth, the triumphs as lessons learned. This quote serves as a reminder to me that the resiliency of our families shapes and elevates them. Their fortitude guides us along this journey.

Please pray

Dear God, I pray for anyone going through new, difficult or uncertain times to feel your constant love and support. I pray they can learn from your example and the example of others to rise above their situation and embrace the journey and the growth. More importantly, I pray we continue to count our blessings, to see life as a gift. I pray we develop the strength to endure life’s difficulties and the wisdom to appreciate life’s splendor. Amen.

Children in the Philippines walk to school.
Jun 12 2019

Traveling companions

Children in the Philippines walk to school.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Church Relations Director Paco Wertin.

“Alberto walks from his humble home to the fields so far away,
Teresa walks to the river to bring water for this day.
Carmen walks for firewood each and every day,
Rosa walks to the mill in town with the corn to be ground today.”

Those words are from “Why Do I walk,” a song written by our late Unbound co-founder Bob Hentzen. In it he sang of his experience with Unbound families in the midst of their struggles and joys. They walked, he walked; side by side, full of gratitude and joy.

Together, they had a deep sense of the sacredness of the ground on which they walked and the beauty of creation that surrounded them and provided a home, clothing and food.

As we listen, we realize that the earth that provides for us all is threatened. The lives and livelihoods of our sisters and brothers are at risk. Pope Francis highlights this in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are interwoven. They’re one and the same cry and they call us to do our part.

As we walk side by side, we are aware that change takes courage. We see it in Unbound families who, from within, call upon that courage as they forge a path out of poverty. And that same courage is available to us.

Please pray

O God, you are the ground of our being. May we walk humbly with our sisters and brothers who call us to accompany them on their journey in our common home. Walking together, and with deep respect for one another and for our Earth, may we work, laugh and pray. And may we call upon that courage that comes from within.

We pray the words that Bob sang:

“To connect with all God’s people is my hope for every step,
With the sun and the wind and the trees and the birds and the stars overhead.”

In faith we know that it is you we accompany, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Jun 5 2019

Change takes heart

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Outreach Coordinator Clair Paul.

Change isn’t easy. Whether it’s making a lifestyle change or moving across the country, you have to be bold to make the choice to travel down a new path.

Families must be strong in spirit as they embark on the journey of entering the Unbound program. They’re making a commitment to change their lives as they know them. Though they benefit from being part of the Unbound program, the path out of poverty is still a hard one.

Parents may work long hours to get new businesses off the ground. Students may travel long distances to get the best education. Sacrifices are made, and many are met with enthusiasm in the face of difficulty.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be difficult. Our sponsored members and their families know that such change is necessary to reach their goals, and they put their whole hearts into it.

“I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)

In this Psalm, God comforts his children by assuring us that he has a plan. When we are unsure which way to go, he will provide direction, and equip us with the tools we need to be successful on our journey. When we struggle, he is there to support us. That isn’t to say that the road will always be free of obstacles, but our Lord knows what lies ahead and will walk with us every step of the way.

When we face difficult times or transition in our lives, let us remember this Psalm, and the spirit of our sponsored friends. Change takes heart. Though it isn’t always easy, we know it can be for the best and lead to wonderful things.

Please pray

Lord, it’s amazing to think that you have a plan for each and every one of us. When change comes our way, you already know how we can best handle it, and you give us the heart and the courage to do so. Be with us and our sponsored friends as we come upon difficult times and challenges in our lives. Let us always remember that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.