After 20 years of tackling the “hole in our gospel,” World Vision’s most recent president is fine retiring from World Vision with some tasks unfinished.
You’ve grown World Vision US from $350 million to $1 billion over your two decades as president and CEO. Today 40,000 international staff serve children in 100 countries, and you just visited Rwanda to launch a five-year plan to make it the first developing nation with universal access to clean water. Why retire now?
I believe that everything has a season. Like Moses with the staff in his hand, I brought what I had to offer World Vision and made it available to the Lord. I’ve had a wonderful season here, but I don’t want to be that guy the board is whispering about: “When’s the old boy going to leave? Isn’t it about time?” I’m 67. It’s time for World Vision to have a fresh vision and a new leader who has new things to offer.
When World Vision first courted you, you said it was looking for a leader who was “part CEO, part Mother Teresa, and part Indiana Jones.” Is that who you’ve become?
I think to some extent [yes]. The Mother Teresa part is you got to have a big heart for the poor and a passion for the least of these. The CEO part is it’s a billion-dollar organization, and it’s more complex today than when I started. And the Indiana Jones part is sometimes you find yourself in places like South Sudan surrounded by AK-47s. You’ve got to have a certain amount of adventuresome-ness in your bones to do that travel and enter into the world’s heartbreak.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
AIDS, refugees, and WASH [water, sanitation, and hygiene] have all been major passions of mine. When tackling the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 2000s, my marketing VP said, “We’re a G-rated ministry, and this is an R-rated issue. …