Willow Creek Celebration of Hope: Compassion, Justice, and Prayer Make a Difference


Beginning April 20, Willow Creek Community Church embarked on their annual “Celebration of Hope“, a three-week series dedicated to celebrating the local church both here in Chicago and in Willow Creek partner churches in Latin America and Africa. The Celebration kicked off with a 5K Run for Shoes that raised money to provide shoes for children, and continued this past Sunday with seed packing events at Willow’s campuses all across Chicago. For every pack of seeds donated to communities in El Salvador, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, approximately 1,000 pounds of vegetables are produced – and Willow plans to send up to 4 million packs of seeds by the end of the celebration next weekend to help eradicate extreme poverty.

The church’s Sunday services are dedicated to sharing stories of how God is moving in churches around the world. This past Sunday, we sang South African worship songs and heard from three speakers who had compelling stories of how we can be making a difference from our homes here in America. You can hear the full sermon at this link, download a Willow CD of international worship music here, and read my rewarding synopsis of the speakers’ sermons below:


“Can prayer change the world?”

Gary Haughen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission, knows the answer is yes. He gave us an insider glimpse into corporate culture at this organization dedicated to prosecuting some of the leading sex traffickers and criminals in nations around the world. Three times per day, the organization stops everything to pray: once in the morning, once in the mid-afternoon, and once in the evening. “We’re called to seek justice and help the oppressed, and God is a god of incredible power,” Gary said. Indeed, the case study he used was unbelievable: in the Philippines five years ago, IJM set out to reduce child sex trafficking by 20 percent. At the end of their campaign, as a result of their fervent prayers and justice work on the ground, they almost quadrupled their goal: child trafficking had been reduced by a staggering 79 percent. “Talk to God about what it is we’re doing together. Ask him for help with good things, and don’t give up.”


“Dreams come true”

“Dreams can come true.” These words, spoken by 14-year-old Katie Stagliano from the pulpit at Willow Creek Community Church Sunday in front of thousands of attendees, floored me. This teenager who accidentally grew a 40-pound cabbage in her backyard at the age of eight has now founded a national nonprofit organization called Katie’s Krops. In addition to running over 60 “Katie’s Krops” gardens in 28 states, she runs a soup kitchen to feed hot meals to thousands of people in need. Oh yeah – she’s also the recipient of last year’s Clinton Global Citizen Award. Here’s her bio as stated on the Clinton Global Initiative’s website:

Katie Stagliano, founder and chief executive gardener, Katie’s Krops

Katie Stagliano is the 14-year-old founder and chief executive gardener of Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit organization that starts and maintains vegetable gardens and donates the harvest to help feed people in need, while also inspiring and helping others to do the same. Stagliano’s dream to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time began when she grew a 40-pound cabbage in third grade. She donated the cabbage to a soup kitchen, where it fed 275 people. Katie’s Krops currently maintains 51 kid-run vegetable gardens in 21 states, which are producing thousands of pounds of healthy food for families in need. Utilizing her harvest, Stagliano also runs a soup kitchen to provide healthy meals to those in need. She sits on the Youth Advisory Board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and is a Global Teen Leader for the We are Family Foundation.

What was I doing when I was 14, again?

Sacrificial living: “We are a generation in love with the ideas of certain things more than obedience to them.”

Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, gave up his $58,000 salary for an entire year to learn what it meant to live sacrificially. For he and his three children, this was not an easy thing to do, but as a result, he was able to launch nonprofit “One Day’s Wages,” an organization dedicated to encouraging others to give up their wages to support nonprofits all over the world. The organization has since helped provide power for hospitals in South Sudan, medical care for HIV orphans, and nutritional support for families in Guatemala.

“Mother Teresa said, ‘If you can’t feed 100 people, just feed one,'” Eugene said. “What is God calling you to do? You cannot advocate your responsibility to other people.”

As for me, I’ve decided to begin financially supporting three missionary friends in Chicago and Turkey. What is God calling YOU to do??

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