Earlier this year, a contributor to Harvard Business Journal declared that the 21st century will belong to family businesses. These organizations often operate and flourish because of their unique characteristics, including values-based cultures, captive capital and engaged ownership.
This model sounds a lot like what ECCU embodies, too. After all, ECCU is a credit union for you, your family, your business, your ministry and your church. As a cooperative of Evangelical Christian individuals and organizations, we share our resources to grow and support ministry.
To Sean Lawrence, Executive Director of Giving Children Hope, the experience of aligning finances with faith is what sets ECCU apart.
“It’s been a great relationship,” he said. “I really appreciate being a part of the ECCU family. As a nonprofit – as with all businesses – we’re always counting our dollars and trying to strike a balance between acting on our faith and conducting good business. ECCU is a partner that understands this balancing act and helps make what we do possible.”
Most recently, Giving Children Hope credited ECCU with fueling ministry by restructuring a loan, saving the Buena Park, California-based nonprofit more than $5,000 a month. That sizable savings alone is enabling Giving Children Hope to expand its ability to offer wellness programs and disaster response in collaboration with local and global communities – treating people just like family members or neighbors by gathering and giving basic needs, nutritional foods and medical resources.
Nowhere is this need greater than among Syrian refugees, Lawrence points out. Syrian families by the hundreds of thousands have fled their homeland in fear of the political and cultural turmoil. They gather to forge new communities in small cities and villages throughout the region and seek shelter in United Nations-sponsored camps in Jordan and Lebanon. As the global community seeks to respond to this crisis in a variety of meaningful ways, Giving Children Hope has committed to providing sustainable hope to this community.
“We strongly believe in our mission and are confident our role is to treat these refugees as our neighbors in need,” Lawrence says, referencing Mark 12:30-31 as the foundation that guides Giving Children Hope. “Ministry in the Middle East never has seen an opportunity like this. God has given us a spirit not of fear but of love, and we thank Him for the privilege of serving the suffering around the world.”
Since the group began aiding Syrian refugees in 2012, Giving Children Hope has sent 21 40-foot shipping containers filled with food, clothing, bedding, hygiene and medical supplies to partners in the region serving refugees in the camps. These shipments serve families who have fled Syria with just the clothes on their back. They have no connections or prospects to begin a new life – and this part of the Syrian refugee story is what fuels Lawrence and Giving Children Hope.
The son of a journalist and missionary, Lawrence accompanied his father on humanitarian trips during his youth. After his first trip – visiting orphanages and hospitals in Vietnam – Lawrence’s dad told him, “These people invited you into their story. You are now responsible for it.”
Lawrence says he hasn’t forgotten this powerful lesson and believes that Giving Children Hope has been invited into the story of Syrian refugees. And no doubt, even before Lawrence joined the Evangelical-based nonprofit in 2010, family was integral to the Giving Children Hope story.
Giving Children Hope was founded in 1993 by John Ditty and Juliana Reasor, who committed their lives to helping the world’s most disadvantaged children after being exposed to extreme poverty while adopting their son in Russia. At that time, Russia was experiencing a devastating famine, and many people were struggling to survive. They also lacked basic medical necessities to treat minor injuries or illnesses – conditions often requiring a simple medicine to cure. John and Juliana were touched by the great needs of these children and began helping by delivering donated medicines, medical supplies and equipment to some of the most economically impacted parts of the world. Twenty-three years later, Giving Children Hope is still sending supplies to some of the world’s most poverty-stricken nations and also provides local families with immediate assistance in basic needs and health care.
Despite the enormity of need in the world, Lawrence remains optimistic that Giving Children Hope – supported by a network of volunteers and donors as well as the ECCU family – can provide sustained hope to some of the most disadvantaged people in the world by working with partners in developing countries and listening to their needs.
In working with these communities to understand what they need and prioritize projects, Lawrence remembers another lesson his father imparted: “These are whispering days. Don’t let the noise define what’s important.”
ECCU is proud to be a part of the community helping Giving Children Hope define what’s important and uphold Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors.