A pastor and a teacher in Loudoun sees what lies beneath U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf’s work in Third World countries and how that work can be carried forward.
"Looking at the legislative work he was doing, I quickly found out that being aware of and helping people suffering in the world is a passion of his," said Pastor Chip Giessler, who moved to Leesburg in Wolf’s district in 1999. "Jesus calls on us to care for people who are suffering. It’s not always the case elected officials carry that value."
Giessler said caring for people, especially those in other countries, often is not "politically rewarding," though Wolf "also is very active and concerned for the issues that affect Northern Virginia. I would like to think he’s elected for his response to people worldwide."
In 1984 after serving four years in Congress, Wolf (R-10) received a call from a friend who had just returned from a trip in Ethiopia. The friend described the famine there and told Wolf he ought to go, so he did for one week and lived in a feeding camp operated by World Vision.
"IT WAS A LIFE-CHANGING experience," Wolf said about seeing people dying every day, some with bloated bodies and others with limbs too weak to lift. He helped feed people and went on rounds with a doctor who examined those close to death. "Up to that time, I really didn’t have much interest. If you see people dying … young kids carried away … it would affect anybody."
Wolf said most anyone seeing misery like he saw it would want to help. After that trip and others like it to places such as Sudan, the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Sierra Leone in Africa and Afghanistan, the Balkans and Lebanon, Wolf did what he could to raise awareness.
Following his trip to Afghanistan, Wolf visited Broad Run High School in April 2002, along with other schools in his district. "[He] was quite devastated by what he had seen," said Donna Rock, government teacher and co-sponsor of the school’s government history club. "He said he wished the students would do something to help Afghanistan. … He really inspired the kids to get involved."
The club sponsored a fund-raiser and encouraged students to collect money by going through the lunchroom with cans and buckets and ended up collecting other donations. The club sent the donations through Kids Can Save the Children in Canada to separate girls’ and boys’ schools in Afghanistan for the purchase of school supplies.
"Congressman Wolf always comes to the school and talks to the classes and speaks about his trips. He’s willing to do that," Rock said. "He’s bent over backwards to do things with kids."
"Frank Wolf is a fierce defender of human rights who has the compassion and energy to vigorously pursue human rights violations around the globe," said U.S. Rep. John Porter, former co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, according to a statement. "He has witnessed the devastation personally, spoken with victims and intervened on their behalf."
IN DECEMBER 2002, Wolf took a second trip to Ethiopia, not able to believe that famine had returned exacerbated by poor economic policies, a population increase and a record draught. "You wouldn’t think the world would stand by and watch it happen," he said about the 30 million people at risk of malnutrition.
Wolf said he believes in the Bible passage in Luke that to whom much is given much is expected.
"The U.S. is blessed and has a responsibility to help those who are not as fortunate as we are," said Daniel Scandling, Wolf’s press secretary. "He wants to be able to come back and raise awareness."
During his trips, Wolf meets with governmental entities, non-government organizations and aide groups to find out what he can to better explain the atrocities he witnesses in Third World countries. When he returns to Washington, he involves his constituents at the local level and sponsors policy changes at the legislative level to provide assistance to those in need.
Last year, he sponsored the Human Rights and Religious Freedom Forum in Ashburn to bring together human rights advocates on the subject of people of faith being persecuted in Vietnam, China, Sudan and Egypt.
"Because of Congressman Wolf’s interests, he has close personal connections to people who are both survivors and experts on situations where people are being prosecuted or are suffering in all parts of the world," said Giessler, who attended the forum and is a pastor at Evergreen United Methodist Church in Leesburg. "It even further increases my appreciation for Congressman Wolf for using his position and influence to increase people’s awareness and to enact legislation that offers compassion and help to people who are suffering."
THIS MONTH, Wolf called on United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan to appoint a special envoy to respond to hunger crises throughout the world and mobilize the needed financial and material resources.
"African countries in particular are suffering from donor fatigue and a lack of attention," Wolf said in a letter he sent to Annan, dated March 5. "The flood of international news has kept the reality of this situation away from people in many western countries."
Earlier in the year, Wolf had language inserted in the Fiscal Year 2003 omnibus spending bill to create a special panel assigned to examining U.S. policy on Africa, as signed into law on Feb. 20 by President Bush. The Africa Policy Advisory Panel will be tasked with developing a strategy to address the issues facing Africa and with submitting a final report to the Secretary in one year.
"Whatever is being done in Africa is not working," Wolf said. The stability of Africa is critical to the success of the war on terror and a key supplier of crucial resources, including oil, he said.
Wolf is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-State (CJS) appropriations subcommittee and a member several other committees. He lives in Vienna and is a graduate of Georgetown Law School. Before becoming a congressman, he worked as a lawyer and for the Secretary of Interior.
"We’ve gotten letters thanking him for what he’s done. People have been supportive," Scandling said.