Hunger and How You Can Help


From famine in rural regions of Africa, to severe food shortages in refugee camps in the Middle East, to undernourishment in wealthy U.S. cities – hunger affects a multitude of people around the world every single day. Approximately 805 million people suffer from hunger on a daily basis according to the World Food Programme.

willowcreek_coh_C&J_blogpost_bowlFood is necessary to fuel the body and mind for a healthy life, and when people suffer days, weeks, and sometimes months without adequate nutrition, they cannot function in daily activities. Their minds are not clear, their bodies are not able to perform daily tasks, and their immune systems cannot fight off illness. Malnourished muscle tissue deteriorates, reducing stamina and making it difficult for one to perform the work necessary to support a family. Hungry children lose the desire to play, as well as the ability to concentrate in school. And when workforce and education rates are lowered, the result is economic troubles for the entire community.

The most dangerous effect of hunger and malnourishment, especially in children, is slow immune response. This increases the risk of infection and makes it harder to recover from simple illnesses like diarrhea and the common cold. Many children die from these illnesses because their bodies are not nourished, and therefore, not strong enough to fight infection.

The form of hunger most highlighted in the media is acute starvation – children who are just skin and bones and mothers so weak they can barely hold their babies. These images are real and true, and Willow Creek partners with churches around the world that are fighting to end famine of this magnitude. Whole communities are transformed when seeds are donated, cultivation methods are taught, water wells are dug, irrigation systems are built, and chickens are provided for farming. Contributions to our annual Celebration of Hope campaign go toward helping with these initiatives.
However, hunger is more than just the images of starvation you see in the media. Daily undernourishment is much less visible and harder to produce in photos. Sometimes people who have enough food to fill their bellies are still undernourished because they lack access to adequately nutritious food. Much like those in underdeveloped regions of the world who must subsist on plain rice or corn flour, Americans who rely solely on fast food and cheap, processed food are in danger of undernourishment.

The Willow Creek Care Center is addressing these local needs by providing nutrient-rich foods, such as fresh vegetables, dairy, and whole grains in our full-choice food pantry. We serve households that are food insecure – meaning they do not have ready access to nutritious food, generally due to insufficient income. We are also launching nutrition education classes at the Care Center to teach those who suffer from food insecurity how to obtain and prepare nutritious meals on a limited budget.

At Willow, we believe in coming alongside those who are suffering from hunger, not only by providing immediate food supply, but also by helping them find a way out of the hunger crisis. Our global church partners are working diligently to end hunger through areas of education, health services, and community development. The Care Center helps our local neighbors in need get back on their feet through employment services, dental and vision care, help with transportation, and many other areas of assistance. All of God’s people deserve to be freed from hunger, and as Christ followers we are called to be the hands and feet that help them.

So how can you help? Pray for those who are hungry, help educate the people around you, give to Celebration of Hope, and volunteer at the Care Center.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:35-36

Sasha’s Story



When she arrived at the Christian Life Center Hospice Facility in Phumula, South Africa, 15-month-old Sasha was on the verge of dying. Born HIV positive, she is now living with the AIDS virus.

The hospice facility is a ministry of Christian Life Center, a local church that houses and cares for children diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. “This facility is a divine means by which God is using the church to rescue and care for His children,” said Pastor Siva Moodley, one of Willow’s Global Partners, working at the Christian Life Center.

Because of the social stigma attached to having a baby diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, Sasha and her mother, who also battles the AIDS virus, were ostracized and thrown out of their traditional rural community. They roamed the streets, often assaulted and harassed, until authorities eventually caught them living in a shopping mall and were thrown out. Day after day, Sasha’s health deteriorated because her mother couldn’t afford to feed her or provide her with the medicine she needed to survive. Knowing that her daughter needed immediate medical attention, Sasha’s mother tried to get her daughter admitted to a government-funded hospital, but was denied. Sasha was also turned away from various care facilities and orphan centers because doctors said her chances of surviving were considered hopeless—until she arrived at the hospice facility.

The Christian Life Center has given Sasha a second chance at life.

“The hospice program is able to provide Sasha a haven of hope that will provide comfort, care, and security,” said Siva. While Sasha’s health is still critical, she is now able to consume solid food and is no longer in constant pain. “The pain and anguish on her face has disappeared and is now replaced with a constant smile,” said Siva.

Sasha receives professional medical attention, has started a new ARV treatment, and has a housemother, Gogo (Granny), who provides-round-the-clock care for her. Her quality of life has greatly improved. “We believe that God will heal Sasha and that she will someday live a normal life,” said Siva.

Role of Willow members
 The Christian Life Center is able to help children like Sasha because of ongoing support from Willow members—support that comes in the form of prayers, resources, and volunteerism.

The hospice program has expanded and now includes a new building that will be able to house and care for 12 children, as opposed to 6. The new building is in need of modern medical equipment, medically approved furnishings, a professional nurse and two nursing assistants, Willow volunteers to train housemothers and the medical staff, as well as food, clothing, and linens. This new building will ensure children like Sasha receive the love and care they need and deserve.

If you are interested in working collaboratively with other professionals to enhance and support Willow’s global partners like Christian Life Center, consider joining one of Global Ministry’s Community Development Advocate Teams. These teams exist to equip global partners with resources and help them meet the needs of their local communities through development initiatives. CDA teams will meet at the Global Ministry Gathering at Willow Creek from 6-8 p.m., January 21, in Blue Sky 1.

The Seeds Have Arrived!


An update and note of thanks from our partners the Jubilee Center in Zambia.

Hundreds of adults and children will receive Willow Creek’s lifesaving help thanks to an incredible response by church members to the appeal for seeds and food packs. Thousands of our families affected by poverty and HIV and AIDS live without adequate food.

Around 2,000 households will receive seeds of tomatoes, cabbage, onion and spinach. Lawrence Temfwe, the Executive Director of Jubilee Centre who participated in the Willow Creek Celebration of Hope appeal early this year stated that, “We are grateful to Willow’s church leadership and their members for this support.” Willow is not only providing seeds, but also supplies households with fertilizer and training in how to increase their harvest.

Willow, through its Celebration of Hope giving, has helped improve access to clean water by drilling boreholes in several communities in Zambia. This month three churches will have boreholes on their premises to provide ‘living water’ to their communities. Bishop Arnold Singoyi of Christian Bible Church is one of the people whose church will receive the borehole. He said, “The borehole will be such a powerful example when I tell members and the community that Jesus is the living water. We are thankful to God and to our Willow family for helping us in such a holistic manner.”

Cures Made Possible Through COH



Imagine holding your three-week-old baby in your arms and looking lovingly into his face. For nine months you’ve waited and prepared for him and now, he’s here. But something is wrong. Instead of seeing the sweet face of a newborn, there’s a grotesque flaw. That’s what Samuel’s mother experienced. Samuel, was born with a meningocele, or fluid sac on his face. Pressure on his bran from fluid buildup was a serious health concern. In addition, the sac made it difficult for him to breathe and almost impossible for her to breast feed him.

Samuel’s mother took him to the nursing room at SCCP (Samfya Community of Care Providers). He was referred to the CURE Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia where doctors applied two shunts to drain the fluid—both attempts failed, but the third shunt successfully drained the fluid. A surgeon from CURE was able to replace bone in Samuel’s forehead and seal the problem area. Needless to say, this has led to a dramatic change for both Samuel and his family.

As a toddler, Bridget, an orphan who lives with her aunt, sustained an infection that resulted in a draining fistula and loss of lip structure. It was difficult for her to eat and talk, but her aunt could not afford medical treatment. SCCP referred her to Smile Train and after two reconstructive surgeries, Bridget is able to close her mouth, eat, and speak more easily.

Thousands of lives are being improved due to medical support made possible by Celebration of Hope 2013. SCCP is able to support special surgeries like these, as well as monthly nutrition and hygiene support for clients, medication for the nursing room and for care providers with First Aid training, client medical referrals, a translator for the nursing room, and more.

A Novel Idea: Sending Books to Samfya


eager to learn

The third time was a charm for Lisa Backus, teacher and Willow North Shore member. After participating in three mission trips to Samfya, where she worked with teachers in the classrooms, Lisa vowed to do something about the lack of books. As a teacher, Lisa could not imagine trying to teach a subject without reading materials. Yet, that was the situation in Samfya, where children struggled to learn English without any reading books to practice with and without a story time when the teacher read to them. After her third trip, Lisa resolved to help by sending the schools a box of children’s books.

An Unexpected Chapter
Back home, Lisa acted on her resolve but was shocked to find out how costly it would be to ship a box of books all the way to Samfya. Trying to avoid expensive shipping costs, Lisa searched the web for a way to purchase the books in Africa. She found them, but unfortunately, they proved too expensive as well. So Lisa came up with another plan.  The high school where she taught equipped students with newer editions of math books and would be getting rid of the used ones. Feeling strongly that the books should be donated as opposed to discarded, Lisa and fellow Willow Creek member and teacher Diane Riendeau discovered an organization called Books for Africa.

Books for Africa operates warehouses in Minneapolis and Atlanta for general book donations. Because one of Lisa’s daughters happens to live in Minnesota, her daughter drove the math books to the warehouse site. In a “light bulb moment,” Lisa thought to ask Books for Africa if they were capable of sending particular books, such as children’s reading books, to a particular location. “That’s exactly what they do,” Lisa said, only on a grander scale than what she originally envisioned.

The Plot Thickens to 22,000 Books 
Books for Africa ships and organizes donated books in large containers at the shipper’s expense. After working out the details, Lisa emailed Willow’s local partner in Samfya to ask if the schools could use 22,000 books. Willow’s partner said “Yes!” and Lisa took on the task of raising $16,000 to ship the container.

Even though she had always avoided fundraising, Lisa became a “Container Captain,” and contacted everyone she knew who might be interested in helping. She raised $10,000 leaving her with a $6,000 shortfall. Then through God’s perfect timing, she was invited to join Celebration of Hope’s lobby exhibitions in 2012; the remaining money was raised through Celebration of Hope funds.

The final hurdle was making sure Books for Africa had enough books in stock, because the organization had filled a significant number of orders prior to Lisa raising the $16,000 for her container shipment. Once again, everything worked out. Lisa got the call that with an eleventh hour donation, Books for Africa received enough books to guarantee the 22,000 book shipment—enough to supply 12 schools in Samfya with an entire library of books.

Looking back, Lisa says, “It’s almost surreal. With each stumbling block, I didn’t know how to move forward.”  But God did. “God blows my mind,” she says. “I set out to send one box of books to Samfya; God sent 22,000 books.”


Hope For Her Continued


History of the Hope Bags

Celebration of Hope 2012 focused on Hope for Her.  And what better way to create Hope for Her than pay the women in the highlands of Guatemala a fair wage for their expert weaving.  This suggestion excited Willow member Deborah DaSilva, who is no stranger to the beautiful patterns indigenous to that Mayan region.  DaSilva formerly lived in Guatemala, working as a United Nations peace observer during the civil war. Several Compassion and Justice staff members and volunteers wondered if the ladies of the highlands could make the bags, as a sample Hope Bag made its way to Guatemala to find out. The result exceeded Willow’s expectations. Not only did the women weave beautiful, high-quality bags, they recreated bags nearly identical to the sample they were provided. Though the weave was not a local pattern, the women loved the challenge and found someone to teach them the foreign pattern so that they could reproduce it. The result was the colorful Hope Bags distributed during Celebration of Hope.

Hope for Her in Guatemala

DaSilva travels to Guatemala about three times a year. During her last trip, she visited a weaver who lives in a home made out of corn stalks. The woman, a widow, owns no land and must work in someone else’s field during the harvest season. Because of rain, the harvest season lasts only three months, and it can be hard to find work. Accustomed to being exploited for any goods she does sell, the woman was thankful to be paid a fair wage for the Hope Bags by Willow. Referring to her as a modern-day Ruth, DaSilva says that the woman grabbed her arm and asked if there would be more work for them.  “I hope so,” DaSilva replied, knowing she needed to do something.

From Hope Bags to Bracelets

As a manufacturer of hair products like bows and headbands, DaSilva knows accessories. And she knows about being a Christian business owner. Fronting the money, she placed an order with the weavers for 2,500 bracelets. DaSilva’s dream is to “empower young people” like students in Student Impact and Elevate to make change for the poorest of the poor by selling the bracelets, a marketing technique used by Girl Scouts when they sell cookies. DaSilva knows that “kids and teens want to be involved too; they don’t just want to watch their parents get involved.  The bracelets are something they can take viral, through friendships and social media.” Selling or sharing bracelets is well within their reach and can make a difference in the lives of women like Ruth,” DaSilva says.

Convinced that bracelets are only a “tiny piece of the puzzle,” DaSilva has already tapped into a large pool of talent at the North Shore campus to cast a vision for future products.  And it continues the hope for more than 100 Guatemalan women.

Bracelets are available for purchase ($3 each) at the Compassion & Justice Cart at the North Shore Campus, or by contacting Deborah at

Clean Water, a Family Business, and New Found Hope


Elizabeth, mother of three young boys, never had the money for school supplies, uniforms or entrance fees at the beginning of the school year. Each fall, she was saddened by her situation for not being able to provide the basics for her children.

Her family of five sleeps in the same room of their two-room house in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic, and her husband works hard each day as a carpenter, making doors and cabinets for local businesses. Her boys, ages 4-8, can be found chasing each other and their chickens around their small plot of land. “My family has always worked very hard but there never seemed to be enough money to really thrive as a family of five,” said Elizabeth.

Given the Opportunity
Just a year ago, Elizabeth’s church asked her to consider taking on a small business to bring additional income to her family. Consuelo Christian Bible Church (IBCC) has a water filtration system that is selling over 2500 gallons of clean drinking water each day to their local community. After purchasing a delivery truck with their profits, the church had an idea to create income-generating opportunities for needy members of their congregation and also expand the impact of their low-cost water. They specifically wanted to give people who didn’t have much opportunity to make money the chance: the disabled, the elderly, the mom who was tied to the home all day.

Once Elizabeth was identified as a good candidate for this project and committed to give it a try, she was provided a metal rack to sit on her small front concrete stoop to hold 60 5-gallon bottles of water. The church planned to deliver the water whenever she needed more of it. The sale of each water bottle would provide her a five peso profit, or 12 cents. Each time Elizabeth sold a whole rack, she would be able to make $7.20 for her family, which is two days’ minimum wage in the Dominican Republic.

Immediate Success
Much to Elizabeth’s surprise, her small business took off immediately. Her neighbors quickly found the water was quality, has excellent taste, was very accessible to them and had a significantly lower price than any other seller in their area. “Since the very beginning, I have been calling the manager of the church’s water system at least three times a week to refill the cages with water bottles,” she said.

A Mother Filled with Pride
She has been selling water for 18 months now and can provide for her children in ways she wasn’t able to before. The boys have uniforms, books and never have to worry when small additional costs come up during the school year. Elizabeth is able to continue with all of the essential tasks of being a mother at home and also make much needed money at the same time.   She is a mother filled with pride, thankfulness and satisfaction – which might be the biggest difference of all.

Celebration of Hope Background
During Celebration of Hope 2009, the theme was water, and many water filtration systems were installed throughout Latin America and Africa. The Dominican Republic was one place where these systems have grown significantly and are thriving. Local churches began to wonder how they could maximize the potential of their water systems, and began to place racks in distant parts of their neighborhoods and villages. This worked extremely well, not only beginning to sell more water as a church, but began to provide micro-business opportunities for their church members. Through these efforts, most families can earn $600-1200, which is significant income.

Today ten churches have begun to distribute water in this way with a total of 244 water distribution businesses which have been developed through these efforts. The potential of this micro-business model is still just beginning. Much more expansion still exists for these 10 churches and countless additional churches lined up to begin to do the same in their communities.

Student Impact Makes an Impact in El Salvador


A team from Willow’s Student Impact Ministry spent their spring break in El Salvador. Far from the glamour of a spring break spent vacationing abroad or even at home, on this trip, 16 students chose to roll up their sleeves instead. Their mission? Build homes in San Jacinto. Working alongside Zurisadai Church, a Willow partner in El Salvador, the team worked at such a fast pace that they surpassed expectations. On average, a new home in San Jacinto takes 20 days to complete. On this trip, the team was able to complete a home in just eight days.

The Impact on One Student

In order to construct the homes, students moved dirt and bricks, mixed cement by hand, and carried heavy water containers from the well to the work site. “It was strenuous carrying the water,” recalled 17-year-old Jordan Jensen, one of the team members.

Twice a day, they made a 15-minute walk to the well. The water, though sufficient for mixing cement, was unpurified. Using a rope and a bucket, the students filled water containers and struggled to carry them back to the construction site. Because no one on their team could carry the water containers on theirs heads, Jordan explained “eight-year-old girls took them from us and carried them.” For Jordan, whose access to clean water is easy and unrestricted, that was “one thing that really stood out.”

Promiseland Children Experience a Celebration of Hope


Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds….teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18a-19)

Teams of excited Promiseland children filled the lobby as they traveled from one station to the next to learn firsthand about the conditions of the under-resourced. Promiseland, Willow Creek’s children’s ministry, provided a hands-on experience during Celebration of Hope (COH) week. Carrying bright yellow activity sheets filled with questions, children obtained the answers from teachers who were stationed at the lobby exhibits.

At the various stations, children learned about making adobe bricks, building a retaining wall out of rubber tires, sending seeds and planting gardens, housing conditions in El Salvador and Africa, and they took time to pray for Willow’s Care Center while walking across the bridge of hope.

Cassidy, who served earlier with her mom packing seeds, said “I really like having enough food, but people in Africa have so little. Packing seeds is a way I can help them. The shacks in the lobby showed us how people are really living. It’s sad to know that we have such big houses and theirs are so small. If I lived there, I would miss my electronics, my bed, and the basics like getting a glass of water.”

Seed Packing: Making a Difference


My husband, Rick and I participated in this year’s Celebration of Hope Seed Packing. Assigned to table 24, we began our task of filling packets with cucumber seeds. As I glanced around our table, I noticed it was filled with people of different nationalities and ages—adults, children, individuals, and families. The fact that people did not know each other did not stop  the conversation. In fact, complete strangers joked with one another, encouraged one another, and applauded one another.

Reflecting on this unexplained community, we wondered if the secret ingredient was a commitment to a common purpose. Despite the differences in our make-up, we acted as one.

Each One Matters

Particularly inspiring were the videos of gardens flourishing in Zimbabwe. It was as though we could see ahead of time the impact our serving could have.

Category : Celebration of Hope