September - It’s that time of year again, a month full of celebrations! Well, at least over here at Lovelight stories.
The last two years, together, we’ve supported Charity: water - in 2017 as part of my birthday campaign (Yes! September is my birthday month!) and in 2018 as part of Charity: water’s own birthday campaign with the launch of Scott Harrison’s book, Thirst. If you’ve read last year’s story about Charity: water and Thirst, you know funds from the birthday campaign were put towards delivering water in Mozambique. Indeed they were! We just received reports of TWO water projects our campaign helped to support! Click here to see hot-off-the-press reports from Charity: water of both projects in Napera and Triangulo - detailing GPS coordinates, photos, number of people served, and more!
And as if that’s not enough to celebrate, this month, we’re celebrating two more birthday’s! Lovelight stories is officially 1 and MAP International is celebrating 65 years of bringing life-saving medicines to the world! In fact, MAP is the focus of this month’s story and is very much deserving so.
MAP International is a Christian organization providing life-changing medicines and health supplies to people in need around the world. While they’re Christian based, they serve all people, regardless of religion, gender, race, nationality, or ethnic background.
In many areas of the world, access to basic medicines isn’t available. Many families can’t afford to pay for medicines, but even if they could, the medicines they need simply aren’t on the shelves to be purchased. This was explained as one medical professional in Haiti said, “Medicines in Haiti are more valuable than gold, because even if we had gold, you couldn’t find medicines available to buy”. Doctors don’t have access to them in their clinics, and therefore, we see epidemics of children dying from very easily treatable and preventable diseases. According to MAP’s website:
“Nearly 1.6 million children will die this year for the lack of simple antibiotics that are used to treat acute respiratory infections.”
“More than 525,000 children under the age of five will die from diarrhea, easily treated with Oral Rehydration Therapy.”
“In Africa alone, one in five children will die needlessly before their fifth birthday from a disease that, in the West, would otherwise be cured with basic medicines.”
This is where MAP steps in:
“Where Disease is endemic, we work with partners to restore health by providing basic medicines and health supplies where there is little or no access for those living in poverty.”
“Where Disaster strikes, we send Disaster Health Kits (DHK), essential medicines and medical products and other critical relief supplies needed to treat injuries and prevent the spread of illness.”
“And where Despair threatens humanity, we bring reach through our extensive network of partners to support their development efforts where our supply of medicines and health supplies extends their reach and offers hope into the darkest of conditions.”
I’ve known of MAP International for a few years, but I’ve come to know MAP in much greater depth over the last year and a half. In that time, they’ve quickly become one of my favorite organizations. Here’s why:
MAP International is one of the nation's 100 largest non-profit organizations, having served more than 13.6 million people in 2018 across 104 countries.
In 2018, they delivered half a billion dollars’ worth of life-saving medicines and $39MM in disaster relief.
They’ve received GuideStar’s 2019 Platinum Seal of Transparency, the highest level.
For those curious about the numbers, 99.5% of their budget goes to program expenses, 0.1% to administrative expenses, and 0.3% to fundraising expenses.
43 staff members make all of it possible…YES! Just 43 people!
How do they do it?
I believe it all comes down to their people, partnership with others, and genuine care for those they serve. The facts above are enough for me to want to support their work. I mean, they’ve achieved nearly the best standards possible in the industry! However, having come to know the people behind the work has sealed the deal. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of coming to know many staff members at MAP, and while their job is to steward the organization, their heart is in the “business” of stewarding God’s mission, purpose, and gifts with every individual they meet.
I’ve had many phone calls and email exchanges with multiple staff members at MAP, including meeting them in person and receiving many written notes too - some for the purpose of becoming more involved with the organization, but others simply just to connect, learn together, and build a deeper relationship around God’s work. They exhibit professionalism and utmost excellence in everything I’ve seen them do, which I believe is shepherded in part, by their great leader, Steve Stirling. Steve’s story and how he came to be President and CEO of MAP is a story worthy of its own book! In fact, his story will be officially published later this month, as his book, The Crutch of Success: From Polio to Purpose, Bringing Health & Hope to the World hits stands on September 17!
You see, Steve contracted Polio as a Korean baby in 1957. Unable to care for their son any longer, Steve’s father abandoned him at an orphanage at the age of 6. He was later joined by his younger sister, so he wouldn’t be alone (yes, a reason Steve explains further in the book). They were well cared for in the orphanage, but had little hope of being adopted with three strikes against them: they were no-longer babies, they came as a pair, and Steve had polio. Even so, they were miraculously adopted by a couple from America and soon found themselves on a plane from South Korea to Alaska!
Throughout the book Steve details his experiences growing up, earning degrees at Cornell and Northwestern, and joining the corporate world. He worked as a marketing executive for more than two decades across multiple different pharmaceutical, nutritional, and vitamin companies (a bit of foreshadowing if I must say!) before transitioning into the nonprofit world. Since 2001, he’s held executive positions at organizations like World Vision, Heifer International, and more. What’s even more remarkable is how all of this, as difficult as some of it may be, has uniquely positioned Steve to lead MAP International.
His story has come full circle. He’s now leading one of the world’s largest organizations providing medical supplies and medicines to the world - supplies like he received as a young orphan in South Korea. I’ve already read the entire book and it encases an inspiring testament of God’s orchestration in one’s life, a story of a faithful servant who’s overcome abandonment and disease for the good of helping those in need around the world.
1) Pharmaceutical companies
A large part of MAP’s strategy is to receive donated medicines from trusted pharmaceutical companies that are of highest quality, meeting FDA and WHO guidelines. These medicines are then distributed to nonprofit partners on the ground who can provide them to those in need.
2) Nonprofits on the ground
I had the opportunity to meet with Steve in his office to discuss their partnerships in detail, and I learned that in the past, they had MAP offices in multiple countries operating medical missions on the ground. However, in 2015, under Steve’s direction, MAP decided to make a strategic change in the fundamental way they operate in order to scale their ability to serve more people around the world, efficiently. They now partner exclusively with organizations already working on the ground in the countries they serve - partners like: Food for the Poor, Love A Child, Hope for Haiti, and many more. Connections with local people are already formed through existing organizations, and thus, specific needs are known. MAP delivers what is needed and these various organizations are the means of distributing the medicines and supplies effectively. This excites me, because my long-term vision is to help non-profits better partner and collaborate around missions they share in common - and MAP is a beautiful representation of an organization who already does that! In essence, MAP is the conduit by which medical supplies get to the people and places who need them most, allowing for the most cost-efficient transport of medicines and supplies.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), “nearly 2 billion people do not have access to basic medicines”, and MAP is looking to increase their reach to these people around the world. Because there is a finite supply of medicines that can be donated by pharmaceutical companies at one time, MAP also partners with individual donors to purchase other critical medicines needed. For example, the purchase of antibiotics is a great area of opportunity to save lives with simple medication (such as treating the respiratory and stomach infections mentioned earlier).
Genuine care for those they serve
MAP stands out from the rest. They care about those they serve, and they also equally care about those who partner with them in their mission. They work hard to steward their resources well and to steward those who provide the resources. They want the experience of partnering with MAP to be life-giving, freeing, valuable, and spiritual. They’ve even made a point to serve me in a mentoring capacity as I’ve come to partner with them! They simply go above and beyond.
They’re also true leaders in global health, collaborating with some of the best organizations in order to not only serve their beneficiaries directly, but all of public health in general. This past June, my husband and I had the delight of attending Dr. Bill Foege’s Global Health Awards presented by MAP International, honoring those who’ve made significant contributions to health around the world - Ambassador Andrew J. Young Jr., The CDC, and Ted Turner all received awards. President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter received the award in 2018 and were the Honorary Co-chairs.
That evening, it was said, “Disease has no borders” and Atlanta, as a global health headquarters, is filled with organizations working tirelessly for all of us around the world: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Carter Center, Emory Global Health Institute, Task Force for Global Health, Georgia Global Health Alliance, American Cancer Society, MAP International, CARE, MedShare and others. These organizations are on the leading edge of public health safety and I’m so thankful for their collaborative work in serving all of us around the world. Yes, I’m proud to call Atlanta home! 💙
And even after I explain all of this, I’m still left in awe wondering, how do they do it all so well? The only explanation I can find is their commitment to excellence and willingness to follow the Lord’s lead in all they do. I can see the Lord’s hand in their work and I believe they’re blessed for it. MAP International is a true servant leader among non-profits and I couldn’t recommend them more.
Curious about MAP International’s history? There’s more to the story! Check out this timeline of events.
Want to get involved?
Pre-order The Crutch of Success! Now available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, to ship after the release date, September 17. Steve has been able to turn his seemingly grim start at life into good; help him do even more with his story by purchasing the book! Profits go back to MAP’s mission…We’re doing so much more than buying a book!
Join us at the book launch event! Location: The Carter Center, Atlanta, 9/25/19 at 6:30pm
Support MAP’s antibiotic initiative! A gift of $30 provides a full treatment for 10 children!
Want to win a free signed copy of the book? In honor of all these birthday anniversaries, I’ll be selecting one person from each social platform to receive the book! Rules to enter:
1) Follow @Lovelightstories on Instagram or Facebook
2) Sign up for monthly stories at Lovelightstories.com
3) Tag us in your stories to let us know you entered to win!
Entries close 9/25/19 at 8:30pm
What people are saying about The Crutch of Success
“Steve’s story is one of incredible resilience and the work of MAP International inspires many to join the global movement to bring critical medicines to those in need.” - President Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
“Do you believe God can use you to change the world? Or do you think you’re not gifted enough, exceptional enough, or good enough? Meet Steve Stirling. Crippled by polio when he was just a baby and abandoned at a Korean orphanage when he was six, Steve was an unlikely candidate to change the world. But when you read the story of how God has used this humble man to impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of children all across the globe, you’ll believe that God can use you too. Prepare to be amazed at what God can do with just one person’s obedience.”
Richard Stearns President Emeritus, World Vision US Author, The Hole in Our Gospel
“We hear that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. It seems remote as a saying until you meet a person with a purpose-driven life. Steve Stirling is such a person. To see him shrug off disabilities, as if they didn’t exist, and then focus on preventing others from suffering from disabilities of all kinds, is a lesson for all seeking purpose in their own lives. As the head of MAP, Steve is daily involved in providing medicines and medical supplies to health workers around the world. These are daily redemptive acts of a person who lives a life of gratitude. This inspirational book describes how he has achieved a positive attitude, despite abandonment and disabilities that could have left a lesser person bitter and unproductive.”
William H. Foege, MD, MPH Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University Gates Fellow, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation