Tag Archives: leadership

A legacy of change

Ten years ago, families in impoverished communities in southern Peru like Cusipata were focused exclusively on agriculture and ways to earn money to survive. In their struggles against poverty, parents were distanced from their children, who became last in receiving attention and love.

But thanks to World Vision’s work, this community has changed, and now parents put their hope in their children for sustainable development.

A cooperative Congress can save lives

Most will agree that Congress does not have a sterling reputation these days -- in fact, it bears the worst public perception of any of our branches of government. Some words you may hear used to describe the deliberating body: dysfunctional, divided, self-serving, broken.

The most recent approval rating for Congress (as of the publication of this post) is a dismal 14 percent. Has it always been this way? Does it have to be this way now?

The power of one person's obedience

I am continually astounded by the power of individual people to make a difference.

After The Hole in Our Gospel was published, readers started sending me letters, telling me how God has used them to do remarkable things. Sometimes they took in foster children or became adoptive parents. Others changed careers or sold vacation property so they could be more useful to the kingdom of God. All of them are changing lives, spreading hope, and making the Gospel tangible to people in need.

The power of individuals to change the world has been a theme in our culture over the last year. It was a single person who launched what became the Arab Spring. Protesting corruption and inequality, a street vendor set himself on fire, galvanizing demonstrations that toppled the Tunisian regime, and setting off a protest movement across North Africa that continues even now.

Dear G20: Remember the real 99%

Cannes, France, is world-renowned for its glamor, beauty, and opulence. This week, the playground destination for the rich and famous is filled with politicians, media, and NGO representatives, as the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies gather for the annual G20 Summit. And as the Eurozone crisis deepens and the U.S. economy remains unsteady, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

These issues must be discussed, and the G20 is a crucial forum to have these discussions. But there’s much more to this story. Right now, in cities around the world, there is a growing protest movement putting the issue of inequality squarely on the public agenda. Regardless how you feel about the movement, I believe there is another 99 percent whom we need the G20 -- and other global leaders -- to remember and prioritize.

What our nation’s top leaders have to say – My notes from the FWD campaign live stream

Yesterday I tuned in to the official launch of the FWD (Famine. War. Drought.) campaign following the White House live streamed video web chat. As a representative of World Vision but also as a private citizen, I was interested in what some of our nation’s top officials had to say about the U.S. response to some of the greatest crises yet in the 21st century.

I captured some highlights from the discussion to share with you, and have noted the minute mark for many of the questions asked. This is not an exact transcription, but a paraphrased overview.

The state of play in the Horn of Africa: -- Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council

The people in the region are experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. That means that farmers have very little to fall back on. People are literally dying as we speak. Without assistance, they will in fact die.

The importance of acting now:, Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator

There are 13 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Already more than 30,000 children have lost their lives from starvation or the consequences of severe malnutrition and the disease that accompanies it. The UN estimates that number could grow to 750,000 over the course of the next six months.

Now is the time to act. This is also a moment to acknowledge that when we do these actions, it is an expression of American values. The more Americans that can engage in the response, the better off we will all be in saving lives today and putting in place the systems that can help prevent these tragedies in the future.

Should U.S. give a free pass to countries that use child soldiers?

As a humanitarian worker, a child protection expert, and as a U.S. citizen, I have certain expectations -- some call them naive ideals -- that the U.S. government will work to reduce the vulnerability of children around the world and here in the United States.

Laws like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the PROTECT Act, and the Child Soldier Prevention Act have all set in place strict policies that made America the global leader in working to prevent and respond to vulnerability among children.

That’s why, on October 4, I was angry, and, to be honest, feeling slightly betrayed. On October 4, the Obama administration announced the latest round of guidelines outlining how, for the second year in a row, the federal government will provide military aid to countries whose armed forces recruit and use child soldiers.

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves?

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves? When praying for our elected officials, what should we be praying for?

These are the questions I ask myself every year around this time in October as the first of the month marked the start of a new fiscal year for our federal government. That means some reflection on the past fiscal year, including major accomplishments and major deficits regarding federal policies. In my position at World Vision, these are especially important.

October 1 is also the first day of a new fiscal year for World Vision offices. To appropriately honor the day, our staff members, volunteers, and World Vision supporters from all around the world commit the day to prayer for direction, encouragement, and renewal in the fiscal year ahead. It's an important tradition that World Vision looks forward to each year.

Although our federal government isn't tied to the same Christian mission as our organization, my role working in government relations calls me to reflect on the previous federal fiscal year, too. This includes the bills enacted with the support of World Vision's advocates and campaigns -- like the Child Soldier Prevention Act, the Sudan Peace Act, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to name a few.

Mission above mammon: Charting a course for success

As the president of World Vision U.S. and the former CEO of two for-profit corporations, I have spent all of my professional life trying to manage organizations to achieve success. Every organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, must have a successful financial model to succeed, but long-term success doesn’t come from just managing numbers. The most successful organizations are mission-driven.

In Christian organizations, this truth may be even more compelling.

At its core, this is the question of the means versus the ends. In a secular corporation, the goal is to create profits for the owners or shareholders; the means to that end might be selling automobiles, or books, or delivering a service like air travel or lodging. At the end of the day, the bottom line is profit.

But in a Christian business or non-profit, the role is reversed. The activity, selling books or providing a service, is the end; it’s the missional impact. Profits are simply a means to that end. We are called to put “mission above mammon.”

Rethinking America's place in the world: How 9/11 changed me

Christianity Today asked me, as an evangelical leader, to reflect on how I've changed since 9/11. It was an appropriate question and one worth considering, as we approach the 10-year anniversary of that fateful day in which many lives were lost and many more were changed forever.

* * *

The September 11 attacks jolted Americans into realizing that our nation was no longer, and never again would be, an "island" protected from the senseless brutality of terrorism. The world became smaller that day, and the person who could not find Afghanistan and Pakistan on a map suddenly wanted to learn more about those and other Muslim countries.

From the standpoint of international development, the attacks were a catalyst for renewed interest in and commitment to helping address the underlying problems that prompted 19 men to hijack and crash four jetliners, killing themselves and nearly 3,000 others.

International Youth Day: 6 youth changing our world

Change our world -- that's this year's International Youth Day theme. It seems more than appropriate in a year of ongoing economic struggle, debt ceilings, radiation leaks and famines. And there are issues of injustice that fail to make headlines but distress so many people -- child abuse, abduction and trafficking, school drop-outs because of forced labor or need for income, neglect of children and youth, and an apparent lack of youth voice.

But there are youth out there advocating against such injustices, making real differences in their communities, and changing our world for good. This post is a reminder, on International Youth Day, that youth are to believed in because through them, great things are possible.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. -1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Your role in changing our world

Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were on a different planet in a different part of the universe without any idea of how you got there. Imagine what you would feel and the questions that would rush into your mind.

Well, I have news for you – that exact thing has happened to every one of us. Sometime in the past 100 years, we were all born on the third planet from the sun in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, in a universe that is incomprehensibly vast. We had no idea how we got here, all we know is that we were born into the middle of a story that started long before we arrived and will continue long after we are gone.

It’s our own mystery story -- one that began millions of years ago and one that will continue into the future.

Lessons from 'Three Cups of Tea' controversy

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. --2 Corinthians 8:21 (NIV)

Most of you reading this blog may have seen or heard about the April 17 60 Minutes story concerning Greg Mortenson, author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea, and allegations that he received substantial financial benefit from the non-profit organization he founded, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Those allegations include:

  • Only 41 percent of the funds donated to CAI in fiscal year 2009 went to schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan;
  • Mr. Mortenson personally received all honoraria from his speeches; and
  • CAI spent more than $1.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to promote Mr. Mortenson’s books and his speaking engagements, for which he reportedly was paid $30,000 each.

Since the story was broadcast, many of the charity’s supporters have expressed shock and dismay at the allegations. The Montana state Attorney General has launched an investigation into the organization, and Mr. Mortenson is currently under the care of a physician due to a heart condition.

None of this is good news for Mr. Mortenson, or the Central Asia Institute. I only have the CBS News story, so it is not my intent to pass any further judgment on them. But a caution must be raised to all charities: Once a reputation is damaged, it may take years to restore it, if that happens at all. One of Ben Franklin’s most familiar comments comes to mind: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Are you an ‘ageist’?

Any of us would be horrified to be accused of being a racist — someone who has a hatred or intolerance of another race. But I actually think that many of us are ‘closet ageists’ — people who discriminate against persons of a certain age group — especially when it comes to children and youth.

Most often, the term ‘ageist’....