When you follow your God-given passion, there’s no telling the adventure you’ll have.
Back in the early days of our marriage, Reneé and I were attending Park Street Church in Boston. I was working at Gillette selling razors and shaving cream. At the time, I couldn’t have dreamed of leading an organization like World Vision in the second half of my career. But Park Street Church’s focus on global missions kindled a fire in my heart for what God is doing around the world.
Park Street Church gave more than half of its budget to missions, and we often had missionaries visiting. We heard the stories of health clinics in Africa, orphanages in Eastern Europe, and agriculture training in Asia. I was inspired by stories of people who had never heard of Jesus Christ becoming Christians after a church helped them. As a young couple, we committed early on in our marriage to generous financial and prayer support for God’s work around the world.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.—1 Peter 4:10
I might have known that when God places a passion in your heart, extraordinary things can happen. At Park Street, we met Pastor Emeritus Harold Ockenga, who spent a lifetime following his passion for engaging a changing world for the gospel. He was a leader along with people like the Rev. Billy Graham and Bob Pierce, World Vision’s founder who sought to help the church reach out beyond its walls. In his efforts, Harold helped found the magazine Christianity Today, Fuller and Gordon-Conwell theological seminaries, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Not a bad legacy and proof that God can do amazing things when we pursue the passion he gives us.
God did the same for me. Our heart for missions would eventually lead Reneé and me to World Vision. Here we discovered thousands of others serving out their own God-given passion. On one of my earliest trips, I met Virginia in the mountains of Peru. As a nurse, she chose to give up the well-paid positions in the city to live a Spartan existence high in the mountains. She hiked from village to village, providing medical care to children and families in poverty.
“This is my service,” she told me. “This is not a job. It is my sacrifice, my life that I give to Christ.” Virginia has been a powerful example to me. Giving her life to Christ in this way, Virginia was saving the lives of children with every new village she visited. Over the years, I met other Christians at World Vision who are passionate about clean water, community development, or Christian witness in countries where other religions are dominant.
Each of us can discover that God-given passion within. When I was writing my last book, Unfinished, this quote, attributed to the novelist George Eliot, was often in my thoughts: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” I believe that God has given each of us a unique passion — a special ability and a specific place to serve his great mission in the world. It is never too late to discover that passion. It is the very thing God created us to do.
God has given you and me a calling, and when we pursue it passionately, truly amazing things happen. I am blessed when I think of all the people who have decided to follow Jesus or received clean water or enjoy a community filled with God’s abundant life because of your support of World Vision’s work. And I’m astounded that God called me — just as he has called you — to play a role in his mission in our world.
World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns is the author of The Hole In Our Gospel and Unfinished. Follow him at twitter.com/richstearns.