“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once, but over time the small changes add up and change lives.” -Beth Clark
I spent my childhood in a small farming community where I cared for animals, rode horses, and enjoyed the beauties of nature. Some would consider that my life was sheltered and that I had limited understanding of global issues or cultures. Fortunately for my siblings and me, my parents had a global outlook – even in that small farming community. They valued the dignity of people regardless of race, economic disparity, or religious beliefs different than their own. They served others because they had empathy and understanding for the struggles people endure and they did what they could to alleviate their suffering.
Because of their example my eight siblings and I also reached out to those in our community that needed a boost or extra help and we did what we could, however small, to alleviate the suffering of those around us. Never did I imagine that decades later I would become president of Rising Star Outreach, whose primary mission is to lessen the suffering of those affected by leprosy in the distant land of India!
Four years ago Rising Star’s founder Becky Douglas asked if I would step in as president while she was serving in the Dominican Republic. With great trepidation I accepted the challenge and with the support of an amazing board of directors in the USA and India and all those committed to Rising Star we moved forward. As I look back I realize that I am the lucky one, because I have had the opportunity to serve with incredible people in a remarkable cause!
I’ve experienced emotions similar to Becky’s when she first traveled to India and saw unbelievable suffering from the leprosy affected: beggars dotting the busy streets, the differently abled struggling for daily survival, and the hollow eyes of those suffering from the poverty of love. These images haunt the heart and the desire to help becomes an insatiable sort of thirst. This desire compels the inner soul to move into action and somehow reach out to those individuals that are in desperate need of God’s love.
The work of Rising Star IS reaching individuals, families, and communities on many levels. I am grateful that I have had the privilege and honor to be involved in this beautiful work. This month I will step down as president of the organization, but I will never step out of being involved in Rising Star because there is still so much to accomplish for those affected by the physical disease of leprosy and the social stigma attached to it.
Tyler Vigue, current Executive Director at Rising Star, will be become the new president of Rising Star Outreach. For the past year and a half as I have worked closely with Tyler, I have observed not only his leadership skills and his fine intellect, but also the way his heart is drawn to help others. He will work closely with Dr. Susan, Managing Director in India, Ms. Padma Venkataraman, Chairman of the Board of Directors in India, and with Becky Douglas, Founder of Rising Star Outreach. Together this team of dedicated leaders, with the help of all of us, will continue the work of blessing those affected by leprosy.
One of the mantras of my tenure has been, “It’s not about someone doing everything. It’s about everyone doing something.” When I think about the many hands contributing to this work I am humbled to have played a small part in it. We strive to help those affected by leprosy — seemingly forgotten by society, and yet when we experience first hand their grateful hearts and the love reflected in their eyes, we give thanks to have connected with them and to have felt the power of their spirits. I too believe that individuals are extremely important, that “every life matters,” and “small changes add up and ‘truly’ change lives.” I am thankful to be part of that change.
It is my deepest desire that we all may continue supporting the incredible and life changing efforts of Rising Star Outreach.
With gratitude and love,