Celebration of Hope 2013



At Willow Creek, we believe the most powerful force for fighting global poverty isn’t just government, aid or charity—it is the local church. Because they know best what the needs in their own community are, Willow Creek partners with local churches in Africa and Latin America as they provide sustainable solutions for fighting poverty and injustice. And that partnership is transforming thousands of lives.

During Celebration of Hope 2013, we will highlight our global church partners that are working to provide clean water, nutrition, and education for children, and churches that are administrating micro-enterprise efforts, and providing home-based health care and HIV testing. Our partner churches work together courageously to fight poverty in their communities through these and other ministry programs.

You have an opportunity to serve churches in Africa and Latin America in three ways:

  1. Take part in the 5K Run for Shoes:  Register to run or walk the 5K Run for Shoes on April 20 and provide churches with shoes they can distribute to children in their communities that open doors to education and better health.  Register.
  2. Help fill 3/4 million seed packs:  Help families in Latin America and Africa grow home vegetable gardens to feed themselves and earn additional income with seeds that are distributed through their local church. Register to pack seeds or  learn more about being a Seed Packing Event Host.
  3. Experience the Lobby:  More than 40 solutions to poverty will be on display in the Main Lobby at the South Barrington campus during the three weeks of Celebration of Hope 2013. Take the time to speak with Willow’s staff, volunteers, and ministry representatives to learn how your contribution can provide tangible solutions that truly change lives.

There’s no greater agent of change in a community than the local church in action. Celebration of Hope 2013 focuses on our global strategy of empowering the local churches in Africa and Latin America by providing encouragement and support for the work God has called them to do. To learn more, check out the Celebration of Hope website.

Playing a Crucial Part



“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”—Henry Ford

Without the hundreds of tiny parts that make up a single car transmission, interconnecting and working together, the modern car would be rendered completely useless. Every part is crucial to the overall performance of a car—imagine the outcome if one of those parts were missing.

Willow Creek’s Gifts-in-Kind volunteer ministry— a program designed to provide Willow’s global partners with high-valued items and materials—has grown immensely in the last few years because of the overwhelming support of various donors and volunteers from all six Willow campuses. The program has been operating for many years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the program became more defined, a “partner-oriented initiative,” said Frank Davis, volunteer at Gifts-in-Kind.

Since 2009, the ministry has focused on understanding the needs of the global partners, whether it is for the educational development, business development, or church development of the partner country.

“Relations have been built and nurtured,” said Frank. “There is communication and follow-through—when that is in place, the success of the program can grow.”

The process begins when the country managers, Willow staff people in the ground in each partner country, address the needs in their community and compile a list that is then sent to GIK. Generous donors provide these materials—desks, computers, refrigerators—and GIK volunteers are responsible for picking up and packing the materials. Each freight container is 40 feet, weighing anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 pounds.

“What we have been highly blessed with is a good amount of material that fits all parameters,” said Frank. “The ultimate source of its success is God.”

These particular materials are either not available in the country of the global partner, or the expense of the materials is far too great for the country manager. More importantly, all of the materials that are packaged are completely operational. Any materials collected that cannot be packaged are recycled, and those funds are used to pay for shipping costs. “It’s a cool double edge,” said Frank. It’s a green initiative that began in 2012 in order to avoid any material being thrown into local landfills.

And once the freight container arrives overseas, the country manager is responsible for unloading and distributing the materials. Materials are usually allocated to partnering churches within Willow network, but often, the materials would be better utilized in other areas of the community.

“If the partner finds other needs within the community where material could benefit, it’s up to them—they are in charge,” said Frank. “We go out and get it, pack it, and send it. They are in the drivers seat—they are the heroes.”

Ultimately, this means that another child will not be forced to sit on a cardboard box or another church member will no longer have to sit on a lawn chair. This is the vision shared by both the local GIK donors, volunteers and the global partners.

Last year, seven containers were packed and sent overseas, including a 40-foot container that was sent to Costa Rica. Materials sent to Costa Rica included 150 student desks and chairs from Stevenson High School; seventy computer desks from Corrigan Moving Systems; sixty computer monitors from the Computer Connection ministry at the Care Center; four pallets of Educational Montessori materials; and a playground from Bright Hope International that will be installed by volunteers from Willow’s North Shore Campus.

And in the last four years, GIK volunteers have packed 15 containers, three having been sent to Costa Rica. This is only possible with the continued dedication of donors, GIK volunteers, and global partners all working together. Like those transmission parts, they each make up a part that allows the entire ministry to keep going.

Dental Care in Guatemala


El Palmar, Guatemala is a small municipality best known for its coffee trade. Dental care is a rarity for many living in El Palmar, and residents have gone years or even a lifetime without ever visiting a dentist. All this changed recently, when a Willow mission team traveled to El Palmar to provide dental care.

Dental Team Drills Down
What do two dentists, two nurses, one Northwest Community Hospital program director, and one Willow staff member equal?  A make-shift dental clinic serving 235 patients in three days.  The team turned several rooms in a local Presbyterian Church into their work space. Willow’s local Church partner, Saq Be, spread word of the team’s arrival by networking with the local Health Center and Red Cross. Before the doors were ready to open at 10 a.m. on Monday, a long line of patients had already formed. Despite waiting for hours to be seen, patients, ages five to sixty, were grateful to receive dental care.

Each patient was greeted by a Saq Be volunteer, who took a medical history and administered a blood pressure test. Volunteers also handed out a printed guide describing the basics of good oral care, which was explained to the patient while they waited for service. Overall, 15 Saq Be volunteers helped interpret, check in and counsel patients, dispense medicine, and review follow-up instructions. Afterwards, the patients received a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Getting to the Root of the Problem
The team performed primarily tooth extractions, extracting 342 teeth in all. Because only one side of a patient’s mouth could be anesthetized at a time, several patients who came on Monday returned on Wednesday to have the other side treated.

Brushing Up on the Basics
One of the nurses on Willow’s team also gave a demonstration to approximately 60 children and adults on maintaining good health habits. The demonstration emphasized the importance of good hygiene in preventing the spread of germs. Posters from the nurse’s demonstration, which contained easy-to-understand graphics, were left behind for future teaching.

The team also left $3,000 worth of dental instruments that Saq Be will utilize for outreach events. Saq Be plans to host events like these at least five times per year, and the donated dental instruments will allow more dentists to volunteer.

Maybe this explains some of the bright smiles in El Palmar.

For updates on each trip and news from our global partners follow the Short Term Teams Facebook page.

Health care professionals looking to volunteer their skills should email healthservices@willowcreek.org for more information regarding the dental and eye care clinic coming with the new Care Center facility and the many volunteer opportunities available.

The Bible – Access to God’s Spoken “Word”


Easy access to Bibles is something most Americans take for granted. In the United States, 92% of households have an average of three Bibles on their shelves. But the converse is true in many areas of South Africa, where Bibles are hard to come by. Entire communities and churches in South Africa may have access to only one Bible, and in some cases they may be forced to go without. For this reason, Bibles are one of the most requested items from Willow’s church partners in South Africa.

Unfortunately, the solution is more complicated than simply delivering a stack of Bibles. First, it is necessary to locate Bibles translated into the local South African language. Second, many churchgoers in the rural communities have never had the opportunity to learn to read. Finally, a significant number of people do not see well enough to read or are not well enough to read. Despite all of these obstacles, Willow has found a solution – the Audio Bible.

Audio Bibles
Willow has partnered with Faith Comes by Hearing, an organization that has translated the Bible via sound into more than 600 hundred languages. Costing about $100 each, these unique audio Bibles allow individuals to listen to God’s Word recorded in perfectly clear voices. Calculated pauses, music, and sounds provide hearing “cues” that set the stage as the speakers make their way through each book of the Bible. The audio Bibles are powered by three different methods – electricity, solar power, and manual wind-up, making them conducive to any environment.

The Impact of a Recent Delivery
Willow recently delivered four audio Bibles to a holistic church partner in Port Shepstone, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Called the Genesis Care Center, it features two wards with forty beds for stroke survivors, HIV/AIDS patients, and individuals with TB and cancer. Patients at the Center receive medical, physical, spiritual, and emotional care 24 hours per day. Using the audio Bibles, the nursing staff encourages patients to sit outside in the early winter sunshine and listen to the “Word” spoken in their own language, IsiZulu. Because many of the patients lack the ability to read, hearing the Bible offers much needed inspiration and healing. The audio Bible gives new meaning to the power of the “spoken Word.” Due to the great work of the Genesis clinic, the percentage of patients who get well enough to return to their families has increased from 20% to 48%, and that number continues to grow.

The Power of One…Small Group


“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me—-For the Scripture declares, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  John 7:18

Everyone has heard about the Power of One; but what about the Power of One Small Group of Women? They were searching for a service project, when one of them heard about making mittens out of boiled recycled wool sweaters.  Mary presented the idea to her group, and Paws for Pure Water was born. Their purpose would be to make mittens throughout the year to sell mainly during the Christmas season. The results have been mind-boggling. Last week, they presented a check, for over $20,000, to Scott Pederson, global connection specialist for Willow’s efforts in Africa. The money will be used to drill two boreholes in a village in Malawi, Africa. Now 1356 residents will have access to pure water. “Our small group of nine women had no idea that within a year’s time we would learn so much and be so successful,” said Sue. “Only God could do this.”

The Story Unfolds
The fleeced lined mittens are artistically made. Every pair is original and reflects the artistry and skill of the individuals. The group functions much like the body of Christ. Each member does their part, and in so doing contributes to the whole.  Some cut out the mittens, some stitch, while others work on the business end. “Once people hear our story, they buy mittens and then ask how they can help,” said Dana.  “These mittens are just beautiful,” said Michele who bought four pairs.  She had tears in her eyes knowing that her gift would help someone half a world away.

More about the Village
“The drilling has already started in Mwambenje, Malawi,” said Scott. “There is no single source of clean and safe water in the village and as a result mothers get up early in the morning to go to a borehole which is 5 kilometers away.”  The well, maintained by the local church, will be a life-saver for the 269 families living in the community, a community where fifty percent of the children do not make it to age five.

How You Can Participate
Paws for Pure Water is in need of fleece, buttons, thread and wool sweaters 60% or greater. Check their website to learn of future opportunities to participate in this ministry.

A Gift that Keeps on Giving


My name is Gift Kabwe . I am 26 years old and the second born in a family of four boys. My father died when I was 10 years old. From age 16-18 I could not attend school because my mother was sick and we didn’t have the support to continue with our education. Shortly after my mother died in 2004 my church (New Hope Christian Church) put me on their monthly sponsorship program which enabled me to complete high school in 2006. This program is done in partnership with Jubilee Center.

My pastor, Chris Mubanga saw my devotion and identified my gifts in teaching and worship. He gave me responsibilities as a youth and worship leader. In 2009 my church selected me to attend the “It Takes Courage” (ITC) training hosted by the Jubilee Center in partnership with Willow Creek and Kerus Global Education of the USA.

The training confirmed God’s calling on my life. I immediately put into practice what I learned from ITC at the army residence where I was living with a Christian family. I reached out to a few young people and began sharing my ITC training. The message spread like bush fire. In a short time there were 200 people per meeting. The Military Police got concerned thinking I was starting a youth rebellion and I was detained for two days. Realizing that I was in real trouble I had no option but to ask the military authorities to call Pastor Temfwe the Executive Director of Jubilee Center and the host of ITC program.

Thankfully it worked! Pastor Temfwe came and shared with them that ITC was not a ‘youth revolution against unemployment’ but an initiative to develop godly character in youth. Pastor Temfwe shared about ITC with one of the Army Chaplains and invited him to attend the next ITC training.

The following year the Chaplain attended the conference and has continued to teach ITC to youths in the army community. After this ordeal I thought Pastor Temfwe was going to abandon me for making him go through such a humiliating situation. As we left the offices Pastor Temfwe looked at me and said, “Gift we are in this together, as long as you walk humbly with God be assured of my presence in your life.”

In 2010 Jubilee Center contributed resources to help my church send me to Theological School in Lusaka. I am now a full time employee at Jubilee Center serving as Child Development Officer. My work includes helping churches strengthen their AWANA programs, coaching the families in the child sponsorship program and advocating for orphans’ education. I am also assistant pastor at New Hope Christian Church. As I negotiate the streets in George complex, Chibuluma, Chifubu, Kawama, Pamodzi, Nkwanzi and Mapalo, the words of the Apostle Paul ring in my ears, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”


Extraordinary Results


No Ordinary Doctor
Mike Maraschke is no ordinary doctor. For the past 28 years, he has devoted himself to a unique part of the medical field–hospice care. Hospice care embraces a holistic approach by treating the patient physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Essentially, Dr. Mike takes care of people nearing the end of life, offering comfort to the dying. With this unique background, Dr. Mike jumped at the chance to lead a medical team to Africa on a Willow mission trip. In 2007, when he traveled to Samfya, Zambia for the first time, “God captured me out there,” he says.

No Ordinary Place
The medical mission team focused on Zambia because of its need. There are only two countries in the world where people have average life spans of less than 40 years—Zambia is one of them. Samfya is an extremely poor area in the African nation with 30,000 people living in a community that’s 10 kilometers in diameter. More than 90 percent of the population earns less than $1 per day, so sickness and poverty are a way of life. “It’s typical for families to have six children and attend five funerals a week,” says Dr. Mike.

Despite these challenges, Samfya is unparalleled in another way—its beauty. Sandy beaches, rolling waves, and blazing sunsets exist in stark contrast to the surrounding destitution. Even more captivating is the spirit of the people. “The people have so few physical necessities and material possessions, yet they have more faith than most,” says Dr. Mike. “They live on faith every day for the bare essentials.”

No Ordinary Mission
The 2007 mission trip focused on home health care, or “hut calls,” as Dr. Mike calls them. Travelling around the community, the team served orphans and people who were ill with curable diseases such as malaria. They also provided medical training to the locals who are in charge of hut calls.

For Dr. Mike, it was just the beginning. Since 2007, he has led five Willow medical teams to Samfya. Over the years, the teams have brought medical supplies to the local clinic, built relationships with the local government to combat disease, trained local medical staff, treated the sick, and distributed eye glasses.

On each trip, the team had a diverse mix of volunteers with different skill sets. During a trip in September 2012, a surgeon joined the medical missions trip for the first time. When Dr. Mike learned that the hospital in Samfya was finally complete after seven years, he called Dr. Eric, a highly specialized surgeon and asked if he was coming. Dr. Eric joined the team, got the hospital operating room up and running, and performed six operations with a local doctor.

Extraordinary Results

In five years, Dr. Mike says Samfya has been “resurrected.” With each trip, he sees new businesses, new jobs, and improvement in health care. He encourages others with medical experience, from therapeutic massage therapists to surgeons, to sign up for a trip and see for themselves. “But beware,” he says, “Everyone who goes, comes back changed.”

To learn how you can join a serving team and find a list of upcoming trips visit the short term teams page on the website.

Business Pioneers in El Salvador


Lilian is a housewife and mother living in a rural region of El Salvador. Like most families in the area, her husband relies on small-scale farming to survive. The traditional crops are beans and corn. Because they do not own the land, much of their income goes to rent. To make ends meet, Lilian works odd jobs. She is also heavily involved in the community, leading many local committees.

Recently, Willow invested in agricultural development in El Salvador through a partner organization called ENLACE, (pronounced en-LAH-say), which means to link, connect, or form a relationship. ENLACE equips local churches and community leaders in El Salvador to alleviate spiritual and material poverty. It transforms communities by training people like Lilian in business ventures such as home gardens. The benefits of home gardens are two-fold. First, a garden provides a nutritious diet for families beyond beans and corn. The second benefit is economic: selling produce means increased income for rent and other living expenses. But like any business venture, home gardens are not without risk.

A Leap of Faith
Lilian admits that, in the beginning, she was reluctant to take on her own garden due to the risks of insects, pests, and torrential rains. Another fear was the learning curve; some gardens are not profitable the first time around. In a leap of faith, Lilian agreed to let ENLACE train her in soil preparation, seed selection and planting, the making of organic pesticides and fertilizers, harvesting crops, and food storage. As part of its program, ENLACE also provided an agronomist who made weekly visits to the garden and provided technical advice. The result? A budding business.

Upon seeing how lucrative home gardens could be, Lilian decided to take on Tilapia farming, another venture in which ENLACE offers training. She has added a small pond to her plot of land and is amazed at how much her teenagers love feeding the fish. With a high demand and low supply, Lilian has even formed a Tilapia co-op. Now, other families reap the same benefits nutritionally and economically by selling 50% of the fish.

Throughout this journey, Lilian’s leap of faith has not just been material but spiritual as well. Though not previously involved in any church, Lilian is now described as “a great friend” of her local church. Lilian says, “After the church began helping the community, everything changed. I realized we’re not here with open hands simply waiting to receive help. God has given us each the ability and tools to provide for ourselves.”

Meet William
Another success story is William, a gang leader living in a neighborhood controlled by gang violence. With a murder reported nearly every week, the residents of this small neighborhood lived in fear. This was until an elderly woman, who belonged to the same church as Lilian, appealed to William to consider a home garden instead of gang warfare.

William listened and today, he has his own home garden and Tilapia pond and has enlisted six out of eight gang leaders to do the same. There has not been one murder since, and the church is growing.

To learn more about ENLACE, visit www.enlaceonline.org.


The photo above captures a tilapia farm in El Salvador, much like Lilian’s and William’s.

Pursuing Peace Together: Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians


Learn about a growing group of American evangelicals who are partnering with Israelis and Palestinians committed to security, freedom, dignity, and peace for all the people of the Holy Land.

From 7-9 p.m. on September 21, Lynne Hybels will share her own journey into the realm of peacemaking, and interview Sami Awad, a Middle Eastern Christian who has been her mentor on this journey.

Sami is a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem who is committed to focusing on leadership development and principles of nonviolence, thus creating the foundation for a future of peaceful coexistence for all the people in the Holy Land.

You are invited to come early and walk through a moving photo display by Andrew Shadid. Andrew is a student at Wheaton College who attends Willow Creek and who has traveled and studied in Israel and the Palestinian Territory.

Register today!

A Difficult Request & An Amazing Answer


Quest for Braille Bibles
Scott Pederson remembers the first time he learned of the need for Braille Bibles.  As a Willow staff member, he traveled to Zambia in 2009 help train pastors.  One of the pastors participating in the training stood out to Scott because he listened so intently and asked such thoughtful and articulate questions.  Because the pastor began each of his questions by restating verbatim what the training leader had said, Scott assumed he was taking copious notes and seeking clarification.  However, he soon learned the pastor is a brilliant scientist who lost his sight in a laboratory experiment.  As a result, the pastor’s questions and ability to quote Scripture were based solely on memory. “He loves the Lord so much,” says Scott. “He has not allowed his blindness to stop him from serving.” The man told Scott if ever there was a resource he hoped Willow could supply, it would be a Braille Bible.  Taking this request to heart, Scott began a quest for Braille Bibles.

A Bible that’s five feet high
As Scott and his co-workers searched for a source, they discovered the high cost of publishing Bibles in Braille. Then they learned about Lutheran Braille Workers, an organization that provides Braille supplies at no charge.

Lutheran Braille Workers prints the Braille characters on 8½ x 11 sheets of paper and due to the multitude of characters on each page, an entire Bible would stand four or five feet high. (The book of Psalms stands one foot high.) This created a new challenge for Scott—overcoming the hurdles of weight and delivery in order to distribute Braille materials to Zambia. Because the Braille characters are raised, the pages are fragile. And due to the excessive cost of shipping, Braille books must be hand delivered. “Books are packed very carefully and delivered by team members going on mission trips,” says Scott.

Just the beginning
To date, Willow church partners in Zambia have received six Braille books and partners in South Africa have received six or seven. These church partners make the Braille books available to the blind members in their congregations. No longer relying on others to help them “hear” Scripture, those without sight are empowered to read the Bible on their own. And as they enjoy access to the actual pages of the Bible, their feelings of isolation diminish.

“This is just the beginning,” says Scott. Three more boxes of Braille books have been assembled, which he intends to hand-deliver to South Africa next month.



Category : Global Connections