Author Archives: Jane Sutton-Redner

About Jane Sutton-Redner

Editor-in-Chief of World Vision magazine in Federal Way, Washington.

The “Real Africa”

By Tom Costanza, on assignment in Zambia.

A hotel courtyard in Lusaka. Real crocodile, unreal experience of Zambia. (Tom Costanza/WV)

The Southern Sun was cold when we got to Zambia. People were walking its hallways in hats, scarves, and down parkas. To a guy from the Northwest, it was just a little chilly.

The Southern Sun is a fairly upscale hotel in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city. Its restaurant courtyard surrounds a pond filled with crocodiles (really!) and these beautiful yellow birds called weavers that spend all day building elaborate hanging nests. It’s a wonderful place to sit with a cup a coffee and just watch.

Tom films volunteer AIDS caregivers. (WV)

Zambians call their country “the Real Africa.” But if you only saw the Southern Sun, you’d never come close to seeing the real Africa. To see that, you need to head out to where the pavement gives way to red dirt and dust devils and the sky is deep blue and filled with billowing white clouds. It’s the Africa of laughing children and hardworking adults. That’s where you meet people like Richard, a home-based caregiver who walks seven kilometers several days a week to tend to his ailing friend, Nickson (I couldn’t help but chuckle at the name coincidence—Richard and “Nixon”). Or you meet Pastor Crispin Varruth, who, before becoming a pastor, lost three brothers, two sisters, his wife, and four of his five children to AIDS.

Now Pastor Varruth runs a support group in his congregation to help lift up those living with HIV. They call it “living positive.” I love the dual meaning of that phrase. Thanks to anti-retroviral drugs, these days people who are HIV-positive are no longer condemned to a slow but sure death. They see people like Pastor Varruth, who’s HIV-positive himself and living a happy and productive life. He is the embodiment of the term “living positive.” If he can do it, they reason, so can they. Here, community members, churches, and even whole villages reach out and support each other.

That’s the “real Africa” I know.

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Memories of Cambodia

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Carl Harris, former World Vision Cambodia director. (Paul Diederich/WV)

World Vision’s 60th anniversary has provided an opportunity to look back and take stock. For history-lovers like me, it’s deeply satisfying to retell the old stories and connect with people who helped shape the ministry through the years.

I want to tell you about one of those people. Carl Harris served with World Vision in Cambodia in 1973-75, as the country descended into chaos. Unbeknownst to many of us at headquarters, Carl lives right here in Seattle, on a boat on Lake Union. A few weeks ago, he and my boss, Milana McLead, crossed paths at a church neither of them usually attended. They struck up a conversation and quickly discovered their mutual connection to World Vision.

The timing was serendipitous. My colleague, Paul Diederich, was working on the 1970s chapter of the “60 Years of Vision” documentary. There was just enough time to get Carl’s story on tape.

Minh Tien Voan, deputy director for World Vision Cambodia in the 1970s. (Eric Mooneyham/WV)

An Episcopalian priest and former Marine, Carl was working for the U.S. State Department in Vietnam in the early 1970s when World Vision’s president at the time, Stan Mooneyham, pegged him to fill one of several open positions in Southeast Asia. Carl became the director of a brand-new office in Cambodia. Calling himself “more of an Indian than a chief,” Carl relied greatly on his second-in-command, Minh Tien Voan, a U.S.-educated former executive of Shell Oil, to oversee relief operations for the refugees flooding into Phnom Penh and the construction of the first-ever pediatric hospital in Cambodia.

A photo Carl treasures of the Khmer staff at World Vision's nutrition centers in Cambodia. Many of them died during Pol Pot's reign.

In January 1975, the Khmer Rouge’s offensive on Phnom Penh began. Carl and his team endured three months of constant shelling and rocket attacks. In April, just ahead of the city falling to Pol Pot, expatriates were evacuated, with Carl among the last to go. Voan sent his wife and children out, but he stayed behind, believing that his country needed Christians. Soon after, Voan was killed as he attempted to distribute Scriptures to terrified refugees.

All these years later, Voan’s loss is still a bruise on Carl’s heart. Recently he came to headquarters to attend chapel, arriving early to tour the Visitors Center. I found him rooted in front of the memorial fountain honoring World Vision’s fallen employees. He gazed at Minh Tien Voan’s name, right the top of the list. “Murdered by the Khmer Rouge, that’s true,” he murmured, blinking back tears. “I’ve never seen it in black and white.”

Carl made this particular piece of history real for me. He put flesh on a man who was once a name on a plaque, a figure in an old photo. His still-fresh grief gives necessary gravity to the fact that some who walked before us sacrificed everything for God.

See Carl Harris in “60 Years of Vision: Part Three.”

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Our history channel

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Here’s a great way to walk through World Vision’s 60-year history (a good prep for the next anniversary-themed magazine). It’s the first of six documentaries available on worldvisiontv.org.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Like it? Watch the next two chapters on the site; three more are in production. See clips of the Korean Orphans Choir singing and dancing with the Muppets and Julie Andrews. Watch heart-tugging footage of Operation Seasweep, World Vision’s rescue ship that plucked “boat people” refugees from the South China Sea in the 1970s. Hear from the people who witnessed pivotal events (and me, although I wasn’t there—I just love our history).

Also on worldvisiontv.org, don’t miss “Back to Amoy,” a documentary of Marilee Pierce Dunker’s visit to China. This is a great preview for the article Marilee wrote for our upcoming Autumn issue, mailing in just a few weeks.

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Stuttering progress at the G8

By James Addis, Senior Editor

World Vision campaigners make the point that G8 promises on child and maternal health are overdue. (Henry VanderSpek/WV)

“Any problem can be rendered insoluble,” some wit once said, “if there are enough meetings held to discuss it.” If you enjoy that line as much as I do, you might be skeptical that last weekend’s round of meetings of the G8 and G20—involving heads of state from the world’s major economies—could possibly produce anything useful.

Nevertheless, World Vision has quite a big interest in the outcome of both meetings, which were held in Muskoka and Toronto in Canada. For a long time, World Vision, along with a number of other NGOs, has been lobbying governments to make humanitarian concerns a priority at the meetings, and in particular that they honor previous financial commitments to alleviate global poverty.

World Vision’s special concern at these summits was child health and the distressing fact that about 24,000 children die every day from readily preventable diseases. Would the G8 and G20 stump up with the funding necessary to reduce child mortality of under 5-year-olds by two-thirds by 2015? This was, after all, one of the Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders with much fanfare in 2000.  

Well, would they? I phoned my colleague Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s director for government relations, who attended the meetings, to find out. His answer: “No.”

Robert Zachritz

It might have been a rather short conversation, except Robert went on to explain that the news was not all bad. While commitments at the G8/G20 fell far short of the estimated $24 billion required to meet the above-mentioned Millennium Development Goal, the G8, largely thanks to the leadership of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, did make some headway by committing $5 billion over the next five years to child and maternal health—something now known as the Muskoka Initiative. Additional commitments from a handful of countries outside the G8, plus commitments from the U.N. Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, added a further $2.3 billion, bringing total commitment to $7.3 billion.

Robert says the fact that child and maternal health occupied so much of the agenda is significant given that there were so many other pressing issues to discuss—the global economy, security, and the environment. He also liked the Canadian government’s publication of the Muskoka Accountability Report, which candidly assesses the G8s past performance in honoring development-related commitments. Incidentally, the gist of the 88-page report is: some progress, but could be better.

Robert sees the emphasis on tangible measurement of progress as a helpful trend. It means nations are discouraged from making fanciful commitments to unrealistic goals. They know that whatever they do commit to will be tested—and it will be noted if their actions fail to match their rhetoric.

Despite such gains, Robert regrets the summits could not have showed more heart by committing more cash. “There’s been real progress, and lives will be saved,” he says, “but it’s disappointing so many will still be dying.” 

He says it points to the continued need for NGOs to maintain the pressure at these kinds of international forums, and especially to try to get the stuttering momentum toward eliminating poverty achieved by the G8 to spill over into the newer G20 grouping.

Robert points out that the United States alone was able to find $1 trillion to combat last year’s financial crisis. In this context, finding $24 billion to save children’s lives shouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

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Then and now, in photos

By Jane Sutton-Redner

We’re putting the final touches on the Autumn magazine, which highlights World Vision’s 60th anniversary. So we’ve been doing some archival spelunking. When you look at World Vision with a long lens, it’s interesting to see what changes, what repeats, and what lasts. Instead of trying to explain this, maybe I’ll just show you what I mean.

Start with the obvious—how have publications changed? Here’s World Vision magazine from 1963 and today …

… and one of the first newsletters, produced in the 1950s, with its current counterpart.

Signs of the times: World Vision’s first headquarters sported a pretty jazzy neon sign, in contrast to today’s sedate look outside our office in Federal Way, Wash.

In the category of what’s old is new, Exhibit A:

In the 1960s and 70s, Americans gathered to assemble World Vision Viet Kits, packs containing hygiene supplies for families affected by the escalating Vietnam War (above, left). Today, groups get together to assemble Caregiver Kits for those caring for AIDS sufferers in Africa and elsewhere (above, right).

Exhibit B: In 1965, World Vision founder Bob Pierce started a radio show that aired on 130 ABC stations (below, left). Today, World Vision Report, hosted by former ABC News correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer (that’s her in the right photo below, interviewing World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns), airs on hundreds of radio stations across the U.S.

And last but not least … One of the key tools Bob Pierce employed was a film camera—his footage from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries moved people to give and pray. Today, the cameras are still rolling. You can see both old and new footage at worldvisiontv.org.

Interested in more of World Vision’s history? Stand by for the Autumn magazine, mailing next month—and plenty of web extras about the organization’s rich past.

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Man of passion

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Stephen Lewis at a World Vision conference in Bucharest, Romania, in 2004. (Rienk Van Velzen/WV)

One of the people I have most enjoyed interviewing for this magazine is Stephen Lewis, the former (and first) UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, in 2002. He was well-spoken, as you’d expect of a former Canadian politician, but he did not communicate in impersonal sound-bites. His heart was clearly engaged in his work; his passion came through clearly over the phone as we talked.

Recently I was happy to hear him again on World Vision’s excellent radio program, World Vision Report. Now the co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, Lewis continues to use his influential voice on behalf of a group greatly affected by AIDS—women. A major cause of the global AIDS pandemic, Lewis argues, is gender inequality, “the greatest scar on the face of the planet.” In many developing-world societies, women not only lack rights, but they are also victims of sexual violence. They cannot stop the spread of AIDS or effectively network to change their culture.

Listen to Lewis, and you can tell how deeply he feels these injustices. For example, on the topic of rape in Congo, he says, “I’m 71 years old … I never thought I’d reach the age where I would see such wanton malice visited on women with such indiscriminate brutality as to sear the soul.”

Wow. You get the sense that this man will use his last ounce of energy for this cause. That’s exactly the kind of person we need in the fight against AIDS.

After you listen to Lewis’ great interview on World Vision Report, stick around on the site and explore the fascinating stories this award-winning team produces every week.

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Goodbye, Art

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Art Linkletter with a member of the Korean Orphans Choir. (WV Archive)

A good friend of World Vision passed away today—radio and TV host Art Linkletter, 97. Over several decades, he publicly supported World Vision, traveling to some of the poorest countries in the world and lending his face and fame to the organization’s early TV specials, boosting fundraising efforts for children in need.

He was a man with a big heart for children, which came through on his programs such as “House Party” and “Children Say the Darndest Things” segments. He had been an orphan himself, abandoned by his Canadian family and adopted by an evangelist. And he experienced the heartache of losing his own children—a daughter to drug-related suicide and a son to a car accident. In interviews he spoke of how these tragedies made him realize it was “pay-back time,” and he certainly made good on that pledge.

Art’s name just came up today in our chapel service, when one of the early directors of World Vision’s office in Korea, Marlin Nelson, recalled Art visiting Seoul. Shortly after chapel, my colleague saw the news of his passing.

At World Vision, we will miss Art Linkletter, but we rejoice in his full and remarkable life … and his joyous homecoming in heaven.

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