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Richard Stearns Left His American Dream to ‘Stand with the Vulnerable’ |

Richard Stearns Left His American Dream to ‘Stand with the Vulnerable’

What’s it like to make a decision knowing that countless children may live or die based on what you decide? The question may sound impossibly weighty—but as president of the humanitarian relief organization World Vision, Richard Stearns faces it almost every day.

That wasn’t always the case. Before serving at World Vision, Stearns held a series of high-powered executive positions at such companies as toy and game manufacturer Parker Brothers and luxury dinnerware company Lenox. When the position at World Vision opened, he was sure it wasn’t for him. But that’s when he says God started to “lay down tracks” that would lead him toward his calling.


On today’s episode of The Calling, Stearns took time to sit down with host Richard Clark and discuss making the leap from business to non-profit work, how he deals with the weight of his responsibilities, and what joining World Vision taught him about the relationship between vocation and obedience.

On feeling underqualified to lead World Vision: “I said, ‘You’re looking for somebody who’s part CEO, part Mother Teresa, and part Indiana Jones. I don’t think that’s me’….God developed in me skills and abilities I didn’t think I even had. There were a lot of things I was lacking. But it was almost as if God was saying, ‘I got this. You were obedient. I’m going to work this. Watch and see what I’m going to do with your obedience.’’

On shouldering the weight of such high stakes: “It was the stakes that helped me make the decision to go to World Vision. I was in my kitchen with my wife where I just broke down. I said to her, ‘If there’s one child somewhere in the world who suffers or dies because I didn’t have the courage to say “Yes” to this job, I don’t think I could live with myself.’ I didn’t want to live with the doubt that my failure to obey had consequences beyond my own life.”

On the church’s response to humanitarian crises: “It is a frustration to try to provoke the church and Christians to care about certain issues. Today it’s the refugee crisis: It’s the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet, and by and large, the American church has not only been disengaged; they’ve been relatively hostile toward helping refugees who are largely Muslims….But most Christians are good-hearted people. When they hear the real facts and actually understand the real human drama and dimension of an issue like refugees, they do respond. They do the right thing.”

On where obedience leads: “God uses people who are willing and who are submitted to His will….If [you] are faithful in a series of smaller decisions, that’s when he reveals the ultimate calling he has on your life. You’ve been faithful in a few things—and now he gives you more responsibility.”

Subscribe to The Calling on iTunes.

The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Jonathan Clauson.

Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.

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