Monthly Archives: January 2014

Three Myths About Global Poverty

January 31, 2014 | Janie

Bill Gates’ positive perspective on issues of extreme poverty

Microsoft magnate, philanthropist, and billionaire Bill Gates, in his recently published 2014 Annual Letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, describes three myths that he believes hinder progress towards ending world poverty. I think you will find the condensed form of his letter worthwhile if you are short on time. But I would like to encourage you to read the letter in its entirety, not only because of what you will learn, but because it is quite fascinating, extremely well put together, and much of it relates to Africa. Be sure to check out each of the videos embedded within the letter. One that I especially enjoyed is narrated by Gates’ wife, Melinda.

And, if you happen to read all the way to the bottom, you will be rewarded by a special surprise. Please make a comment and let me know if you find it!



The Kids on the Hill

January 25, 2014 | Janie

Ask any member of the teams that have travelled to Rwanda, “What was the trip highlight?” Many of them would say, “Meeting my sponsored child!”

When the 2013 team went to World Vision’s Area Development Project for Kivuruga (otherwise known as the ADP), they were met by their sponsored kids, clean as a whistle and dressed in brand new clothes paid for by sponsor dollars. All the children, the parents, and staff were singing loudly and clapping.

kids sponsored through World Vision

One by one the kids’ names were called and they stepped forward to meet their sponsors. It’s a bit scary for them! But after gift giving…



feasting at the ADP

…and, yes, lots and lots of fun with soccer balls…


Shaun Johnson plays soccer with the kids

sponsored child with soccer ball

…everyone was definitely feeling the joy.


But there were some on the hill just outside the walls of the ADP who were merely onlookers.

kids on the hill

The team that travelled to Kivuruga in 2011 saw a similar group of kids.

ADP onlookers in 2011

One can only imagine what was running through the minds of these children, youth who maybe live nearby or who came to observe out of curiosity.


But this time Steve was ready for them! Children like these were why the 2013 team brought over an additional 50 soccer balls!

Steve and Clint meet the kids on the hill

Steve and a number of the team members walked up the hill to make a trade: new soccer balls from the States for a couple of the kids’ homemade variety. Steve shared, “I’m not sure how many balls were given to those kids, but I think… [about 15]. We made an offer to trade a few soccer balls for their’s, which created mass chaos as they all went and got their balls (or quickly tried to make them) so they could trade. When we ran out of balls, they traded us for water bottles, jump ropes, or anything else we had. They would follow us in the van with their homemade balls asking us to trade.”

These children were also invited into the ADP to finish off the leftover food from lunch. Shannon  said, “… to help them not run each other over in a mad dash to dish up a plate, we asked them to line up so we could get them through the buffet line.”

Kids invited into the ADP from the hill


kids on the hill enter ADP to eat kids wait for food at the ADP kids from the hill chow down

But before Steve, Brad, Clint, and Shannon came back from the hill, they met a woman making a meal. According to Steve, “The woman showed us her cooking pot, which was near the pit latrine (basically a hole dug for waste)…

Woman at her outdoor fire

…and a fenced in cow.” 

fenced cow 


Look out, Brad!

Brad takes a photo

The woman at the fire was boiling sweet potatoes, a staple in Rwanda. Steve shared, “Clearly she was very poor, but yet very proud of what she had. It was one of those moments where we intentionally went off the beaten path to interact with people that were not part of the World Vision group.”

Boiling sweet potatoes

It was a very good day at the ADP.

Group shot of sponsors and kids

And it was a very good day on the hillside.

Brad with hillside kids

Clint and Shannon trade soccer balls with kids on the hill

And that’s the end of what I think is a very sweet story.


sponsored child with soccer ball

The Melody Behind the Annual Celebration

January 10, 2014 | Janie

Unfortunately, due to extreme weather conditions, the Annual Celebration was canceled. 

Melody assists with the Annual Celebration

Did you know that a special “melody” brings shape to the Our Response Annual Celebration each year? Melody LaBeau, that is! All corniness aside, this gifted and energetic leader has headed up this happy event since Our Response began in 2009. Scheduled for Sunday, January 26, 7–8:30 p.m., at the Cambridge-Isanti High School Performing Arts Center, our party will be a little different this time around. Typically, we look back on the previous 12 months and recall with joy the impact that the East Central Community is making in Kivuruga, Rwanda. I thought we would first get to know Melody a bit, and then let her share what will make this year’s Celebration unique.

Melody, tell us a little about yourself.

I was raised in the East Central area, the youngest of five, and graduated from Cambridge High School in 1981. I have worked at Medtronic, Inc. for 23 years doing Clinical Research in our Cardiac Division. Currently, I’m based out of our Santa Rosa, CA, office, but I am able to manage a team remotely from my home here in Isanti. I have been very fortunate to be a part of several strong leadership teams, which have richly contributed to my development as a leader over the years. One of the core tenets of the Medtronic Mission involves giving back to the community, which I have instilled in all the teams I have led. Each quarter my team spends a day volunteering at a local non-profit.

I recently returned from a trip to Guatemala with an organization called Hug it Forward. We helped build two bottle schools alongside members of the communities in Palo Blanco and El Refugio y La Rosa.

Melody Hugs It Forward

Bottle schools are made using “eco-bricks,” which are plastic pop or water bottles stuffed with paper trash until they are hard like bricks. The bricks are then strung between chicken wire and covered with cement to form the walls of the school.


I am also actively involved in a local camp for children with heart disease called Camp Odayin. It is such a joy to help make camp happen for children who otherwise would not be able to attend because of their heart disease.

One of my greatest passions in life is helping people see the greatness within themselves and walking alongside them as they discover the life they were purposed for. I recently became certified as a Life Coach, and I have enjoyed working with some amazing people as they have grasped the greatness in their lives.

My role at Medtronic has brought me all over the world and I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries in Asia, Europe and South America. It is fair to say that I have a passion for travel, and look forward to annual trips to Maui, Hawaii, where I spend quiet times on the beach and, of course, the golf course!

When did you become involved with Our Response and how did that happen?

I became involved with Our Response during its initial development while serving with Steve Fredlund on the staff of New Hope Community Church. It has been fun to watch the original vision play out, and to be a part of it as well.

Why is involvement with Our Response important to you and what does your involvement look like?

Working for an organization like Medtronic with such a strong emphasis on improving the lives of others, along with the spiritual gifts I have been blessed with, make me a perfect fit for an organization like Our Response. I have seen firsthand how Medtronic devices have transformed the lives of heart failure patients, children with diabetes, etc. Through the work of Our Response, I have seen a community with little or no hope be filled with hope through such things as child sponsorships and the Nutrition Program. To be a part of Our Response means hope, promise, joy and unity, all of which drive the passion within me to live out my life verse, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

Also, to have the opportunity to work alongside so many in the East Central Minnesota area has fulfilled a lifelong passion I have for promoting unity. From the start, Our Response has stressed the importance of not only making an impact in Kivuruga, but also in our own community, which has been very encouraging to me.

I have been a part of planning the Annual Celebration from the beginning. I have also supported several events such as Step Into Africa and other fundraising events. Steve is very familiar with my wiring and reaches out to me when he sees a need that I can fulfill, which has been great.

How will the Annual Celebration be different this year?

I am really excited about the Annual Celebration this year! When Steve first asked me about participating, and asked for my thoughts on what it should look like, I immediately thought of how amazing the Our Response story really is. In previous years we have had headliner acts (Sara Groves, the Asante Children’s Choir), which have been fantastic. This year the Celebration will be an inside view of how Our Response started and where we are now. We will reenact the Our Response story from the beginning, revealing the impact that we as a community have made. Those who have participated with Our Response will help tell the story! Many people aren’t aware of all that went on—and still goes on—behind the scenes, and how incredible the story really is. Those who attend will be in for a real treat, and should prepare to be blown away, as they watch that impact play out on the stage of the Performing Arts Center.





What you might not know about child sponsorship

January 6, 2014 | Janie

How to provide a direct gift to your sponsored child’s family

Smiling kids in Rwanda

Many of you reading this blog are sponsoring a child in Rwanda. Some of you are sponsoring more than one! On behalf of Our Response—and World Vision—thank you!

You probably know by now that your donations are directed to the community of Kivuruga in ways that significantly enhance the well-being of your child. World Vision believes that the best way to improve the life of a child is to improve that child’s community. Clean water, school uniforms, better health care, etc., are just a few of the benefits. But did you know that you can make a financial gift to your child, one where every penny will be used to meet the most pressing needs of his or her family?

Here’s how to make it happen: If you would like to make a gift above the amount of your monthly giving, simply call World Vision at 1.800.777.5777. It would be helpful to have your account number or child’s ID number ready. (If you can’t locate those easily, your phone number will do.) Once the transaction is complete, a field worker will meet with your sponsored child’s family to determine how that money could best be used. This WV staff member will then shop with the family to obtain clothing, grain, a farm animal, farming tools—whatever is most needed. You will be surprised at how far your dollars will go!

You will eventually (it can take up to six months) receive a photo of your child standing next to the newly purchased goods, with a very happy mom or dad standing nearby. A heartfelt letter of thanks from your sponsored child will communicate in a most rewarding way the delight that you have brought both the child and his/her entire family. Get ready to experience some serious joy!

This brief video says it better than I can. Please take a look and, if possible, consider this particularly personal method of making a difference in the life of an impoverished family. Because your donation must meet a minimum requirement of $100 (the maximum is $200), this type of giving would also make a great fund-raising project for a Sunday school class, small group, or even your own children.

You’ve got to love an opportunity to give where every one of your dollars will enable practical purchases, many of which, like a goat, cow, or a farm tool, keep on giving, and communicate caring and hope to a family in need.