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.

May 29 2019

Remembering with love and gratitude

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.

When I was growing up, my family, like many, would visit the graves of deceased relatives on Memorial Day. As a child that didn’t mean much to me. I never knew any of these people and I had no sense of connection to them. They were just names and dates on tombstones.

That changed as I got older and began experiencing the passing of people I loved. Today, when I visit the graves of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles — and, as time goes by, a growing number of friends and contemporaries — I reflect on the significance they held for me. I think of particular chapters in my life and I reflect on the relationships that helped make me who I am.

I also reflect on the sacrifices that family members made. I think about my grandfather, a kid who’d never been away from rural Kansas, thrust onto a French battlefield in World War I. I think of my dad, who was a prisoner of war in World War II, and how that experience changed the trajectory of his life. Though I never experienced what they experienced, those realities also became part of the fabric of my life.

At Unbound, we reflect on the relationships that make our community what it is, and on this Memorial Day we remember with gratitude those who’ve gone before us. We remember our founders and the faith that gave birth to this outreach. We remember sponsored friends, some taken tragically and too soon, who continue to inspire and guide us. We remember staff, sponsors and benefactors of all kinds whose generous commitment endures to bless and sustain us.

Please pray

God of the ages, you for whom past, present and future are one, look upon us in this moment and bless us with holy awareness. May we understand how much those who’ve gone before us have loved us, and how much our love will mean to those who follow us. Help us to be, now and always, in the process of becoming our best selves, that we may honor the sacred memory of our beloved dead, be a blessing for the living and forever glorify your holy name. Amen

May 22 2019

Collaboration gives us all a boost

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.

When I hear the word “commander,” I think of an army. I think of someone who stands in great authority, making decisions for large groups of people and guiding them to act on those individual decisions. This model is appropriate for a lot of situations, but it’s not what we generally see in daily life.

Jesus wasn’t a commander. When he came to us in human form, he didn’t start telling people what to do in a way that required something of them, or resulted in punishment from inaction. He met people on their level, talking with them, working alongside his disciples to spread his ministry.

Could he have commanded his followers to soldier up and perform a specific set of actions? Sure, they probably would’ve followed right along. But as the one true God and the definition of love he had no need to do so. He came with wisdom and sacrifice, and invited others to join him in way that worked best for them.

When I hear the world “collaborator,” I think of small communities, much like the groups, villages and families Jesus lived and worked among. Groups like this thrive when everyone chips in, shows empathy and supports one another on equal terms.

That is Unbound. Sponsors, staff and sponsored friends exist in one community of collaboration, creating a cyclical effect of goodness that gives us all a boost, whether it be economically, spiritually, emotionally or all of the above. It’s not a community of demands and conditions. It’s a community of love, respect and working together. We are collaborators, not commanders, and we walk together under the power of Christ’s own collaborative spirit.

Please pray

Triune God, thank you for instilling in us a sense of community and collaboration, inspired by your very existence as the Three-in-One. Guide us in seeing all others as our equals, and give us the wisdom and empathy to walk alongside those in circumstances unfamiliar to us. We aim to honor your spirit. Amen.

May 15 2019

Listening well, guiding gently

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

Too often we are convinced that we have the right answer, that our way is best. In these situations, we elevate ourselves to a place of pride, setting ourselves above others.

Scripture teaches that pride only serves ourselves and, ultimately, harms us. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, disgrace comes; but with the humble is wisdom.”

Unbound is committed to a style of gentle, balanced leadership. This leadership style flows from the belief that worldly authority and wisdom are not always correlated. In fact, the Unbound community has often seen that those with the least amount of power prove to be the wisest. We believe in humbling ourselves and listening to the true experts — our sponsored families.

Unbound’s late co-founder Bob Hentzen once said, “All staff and community members are considered leaders.” For this reason, Unbound is committed to listening and advising, not informing and demanding. We act as partners with our sponsored friends, acting as an advisor as they set their own goals. And as partners, we listen to the advice the families give us. To advise is to offer guidance. To advise is to listen.

In this way we try to adopt the attitude reflected in Proverbs 27:17: “Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.” Our families have a wisdom, gained through their life experiences, that we should do better to appreciate, and it is only through working together that we can create effective change.

Please pray

Lord, give us a spirit of humility. Show us when we need to listen, and when it is best to offer advice and encouragement. Give us wisdom and discretion to see you in every person. Amen.

May 8 2019

A mother’s encouragement

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

May, for me, has always been associated with my mom. Partly, and obviously, because of Mother’s Day, which my sister and I mark by making her breakfast, but also because Mom’s birthday is at the end of May. So when May comes around, I celebrate her.

And there’s a lot to celebrate. Growing up and throughout my life, Mom’s been my biggest champion, and not just when others doubted. She’s had to convince me a time or 20 that I was perfectly capable, despite my skepticism. She pushed me to try my hardest and to realize my potential, even when I’d have rather been playing video games.

In many of the interviews I’ve read as a writer/editor for Unbound, mothers talk about how being part of Unbound helps them pay school fees, start businesses or participate in mothers groups through which they can take loans.

These moms are using the resources offered through sponsorship and other Unbound programs to push their daughters and sons to achieve their highest potentials. But the moms add something sponsorship can’t provide. They offer a special kind of love and encouragement, and discipline, too, without which the other resources wouldn’t be as effective.

It’s why we celebrate moms.

Please pray

We give thanks, Lord, for the women in our lives who give us life, love and support, the ones we call “mom.” May mothers everywhere draw strength from you, that they may raise their children with grace, compassion and patience. May we as children remember your command to honor our mothers and be thankful for all the sacrifice and turmoil they experienced on our account. In your name we pray. Amen.

May 1 2019

The threefold path of happiness

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.

In his book, “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart,” Dr. Gordon Livingston (no relation to me) shared some of what he learned during decades as a practicing psychiatrist. One of his conclusions was that consistently happy people seem to have three things in common: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.

As a Christian, I filter that observation through the lens of my faith. It brings to mind the last verse of the magnificent 13th chapter of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor. 13:13)

We see these great virtues — faith, hope and love — beautifully expressed in the lives of families served through Unbound. Faith allows them to persevere through hardship, hope gives them vision for a brighter future, and love drives them to work hard so that their children and their children’s children won’t be burdened by crushing poverty.

Perhaps that’s why, despite their many challenges, these families often possess a special kind of happiness. It’s not momentary contentment or the fleeting pleasure that comes from material possessions. Rather, it’s the happiness of those who are wise enough to put their trust in God, in their own abilities and in their friends.

Know that they count their sponsors among those friends.

Please pray

God of faith, help us to believe and to put our belief into action. God of hope, be with us when we are discouraged and help us to embrace resurrection. God of love, break through our self-centeredness so that we may be the living expression of your healing love in a world in need. We ask this in the name of your Son and our brother, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Apr 24 2019

A prayer for Sri Lanka

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.

On Easter Sunday, several bomb attacks took place at hotels and Christian churches in Sri Lanka. As of this writing, nearly 300 persons have been reported killed with hundreds more injured. Unbound stands in prayerful solidarity with the victims, their families, the people of Sri Lanka and all who suffer as a result of violence.

We ask people of goodwill everywhere to pray with us for God’s healing love in this moment of need. Now and always, the Unbound community will strive to act as a gentle witness of peace, reconciliation and the triumph of the human spirit when aided by the kindness of others and the grace of God.

Please pray

God of Resurrection, we long to see your face in a broken world. Be with those who suffer from the actions of others, especially our sisters and brothers in Sri Lanka. Heal our divisions and bring wisdom to our encounters, that we may be agents of peace in violent times. Grant us the strength, always and everywhere, to speak the truth, so that we may dispel hatred with compassion and fear with love. We ask this in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus the Christ.