Rend Collective band leader, Gareth Gilkeson, opens up about being chosen in Honduras, and their sell-out Australian tour.
I’m not a sentimental guy. That’s 100% true. Except I 100% cried when I participated in the Honduras choosing party. Late last year I travelled to Central America with World Vision Australia. I met Honduran leaders and discussed the issues that their community were struggling with; drought, land rights, poverty and exploitation.
One of the big issues I learnt about was the abuse and exploitation of people already impacted by poverty. This was the case in the first community we visited. Wealthy landowners rented land to struggling farmers. If the farmers had a bad year, they still had to pay the full rate. If they had a good year, the price paid by the wholesaler did little to alleviate their poverty.
There was exploitation at every turn. It made me so mad.
As an Irish man, there is something in me that really connects with that sense of being the underdog and being abused or used by a bigger person. Despite all the problems, there were good news stories too. World Vision had worked with the second community we visited for 10 years. The story of this community was vastly different. A functional irrigation system meant their harvest had risen from a hundred tomatoes two years ago to a crop of thousands now.
World Vision helped connect these farmers with an international supermarket chain so they could get a fair price and scale up. This sort of success meant more local jobs.
It wasn’t just adults’ lives that were changing for the better – children always benefit from their parents’ windfalls. These children weren’t looking at the older people and thinking, “there’s no hope”.
For me, these experiences felt like the real practical love of God.
It’s one thing to know child sponsorship money helps the whole community. It’s another thing to see it in practice. As World Vision celebrates its 70th year, for the first time, the organisaiton has flipped the script and put the power to choose in the hands of the children. For the past 70 years, the power has been in the hands of the sponsors. They have picked their sponsor children from a selection of pictures. But the tables have now turned – children will do the choosing. They will select their sponsor.
Fittingly, the new program is called “Chosen”.
Chosen resonated with me. People experiencing poverty are equals, fellow humans who have just been dealt a different hand to me. They should not be pitied or helped but empowered and supported. In an environment when so much is taken from children – even down to the ability to make decisions – they are restored the basic right of choice.
It was so moving to see them walk into the room and observe who they connected with. Suddenly it’s like, “Wow, somebody has decided that I’m important enough to choose!” It’s great to see the kids go in and look up at the pictures.
The Chosen party was a reality check for my ego. I openly confess I was in the last five to be chosen!
Different members of the band responded to the Chosen party in different ways. Our guitarist Patrick Thomas and his wife were the first to be chosen. They caught the emotion of it. Patrick kicked the soccer ball with his new sponsor children. The ceremony carried further weight for those like him and his wife, who are yet to have children of their own.
World Vision’s holistic approach is remarkable. I come from a secular world. Sometimes it feels like the Christian sphere is too aggressive at the front end. I love the way World Vision holistically works in the name of Jesus. It looks at the bigger picture. It allows World Vision to go into places most Christian charities can’t reach – places where they don’t want the Gospel. When Jesus said, “Go into all of the world,” he really meant it.
The Rend Collective Tour
This will be the band’s first trip to Australia. I’ve been invited numerous times but visited zero times. It just kept falling through with cancelled festivals and events.
So, last year I sat everybody down and told them: “I am fed up with waiting, we are going, so let’s figure it out”.
Because we are an independent band, we’re not part of a large church network. So, the whole financial risk of touring sat on our shoulders. It’s kind of daunting. But we are thrilled it’s sold out.
The band members can now put Australia on the list of ‘once-every-two-years’ countries.
The Rend Collective has partnered with World Vision Australia to launch ‘Chosen’ as part of their national tour.