Speaker 1 00:00:12 All of us want to be loved. We all want to be loved for who we are. You cannot be loved. Or let me say it this way. You can only be loved to the extent that you're no. And honestly, if I were to look back and think through how many in that circle knew my mom's background, how many in that circle in my background, along the way, my desires of wanting to be, I don't think anyone in that circle knew any of that. And we'd probably been serving together at that point, probably a decade or 15 years. So loving, which is what everybody wants to starts with knowing, knowing means not tolerating the cultural differences, but in fact, getting in touch with the differences in the truth is there are as many cultures as there are
Speaker 2 00:01:07 Welcome to the VR vineyard podcast conversations to help us grow in life with Jesus and each other. In today's episode, our host, Jay Pathak talks with Santiago, Jim Nieto, the president and CEO of compassion international let's listen in.
Speaker 3 00:01:32 Jimmy is great to be with you. This is going to be really fun to talk. Thanks for making time truly
Speaker 1 00:01:36 This, this was awesome that this window opened up and we could connect have this conversation. So Jay evidently we've had lots of points of good moments along the way. So that's been kind of fun to review a little bit of history on that front. And so while the
Speaker 3 00:01:49 Small it is, it is way smaller than we realize. So, so I'd love to hear just a bit of your story I noticed on the way in your name plate there. It's Santiago. Yeah. Jimmy. Yeah. Okay. So, so already we have a story like, so, so, so your, your, your actual name is Santiago. Yeah. It's
Speaker 1 00:02:12 Actually San Diego. 80 bed.
Speaker 3 00:02:14 Oh my God. Wow. That was you clipped into another mode there. Joy. Okay. So it sounds like you were either born elsewhere or definitely from a family that may be, has some background where, tell me a little bit about where you, yeah,
Speaker 1 00:02:31 Sorry. Probably, uh, as with everyone starts with your mom. So my story does start with my mom. She was born to migrant farmers on the, uh, California Mexico border. And they went wherever the work was. Uh, she grew up in poverty, was taught as a little girl, had to keep a dirt floor clean and level and had one toy or entire adolescence. And, but she was a real adventuresome spirit and she wanted, uh, see the world. And she loved going into town to see in the, in the, you know, the stores where products were made and dreaming someday, I'd like to go there. And then she met a young adventuresome young man who had similar kinds of dreams, also on the Mexico, uh, California border. Both of them grew up in a Mexican culture in Spanish as their primary language. My mother didn't start to learn English till she was 29.
Speaker 1 00:03:26 They married, they've been married 63 years now. And in that time they've moved 41 times. So they moved a lot. I moved a lot before I celebrated my first birthday. I had already been to six countries. I grew up in seven countries and, uh, throughout my adolescence, uh, 17 different homes and houses and apartments and whatever. We just moved a lot. And so I was born in El Salvador in Santana and Salvador. Um, my dad was there, he's an engineer. He raised his hand when they asked, who would go build a dam and a powerhouse in a tunnel and the jungle of El Salvador. So my dad raised his hand and as a 30 year old, uh, went into the jungle with two little ones through your own. And when you're old, uh, with my, you know, at that time 28 year old mom, and then while they were there, then I was born while they were building that project, no doctor natural birth.
Speaker 1 00:04:16 We moved from one project to another, to another, to another. That was kind of my upbringing and story of going to all these cultures. My most complicated question as a kid was, and even now, frankly is so where are you from? Right. And go, I don't know, you know, how much time do you exactly, because I really love a known really every place that we've been. I think of every country I lived in, in and appreciate them and love the fact that I've really come full circle in, in coming to compassion, to go back home to many of the places that I grew up in and to one of my sponsored children actually, uh, is from a church that's in the same exact neighborhood that I lived in when I was in third grade and he got out, I walked those streets. This little guy got close walks today.
Speaker 1 00:05:04 And just, you never know where God's going to take you and how he's going to use the experiences of all your, the good and the bad and the in-between experiences of your life to form you when you put your life in his hands. And you know, one thing you mentioned interesting, you would notice that Santiago is my name for those of you that don't know the translation it's actually James and James was my mother's favorite book of the Bible. My life you would think would be very unstable, moving that much. And it wasn't. And it wasn't because of my parents' faith in Jesus and walk, Jesus was a very real presence in our family life. I never knew anything other than that. And I look at my family and I go, well, they were my first small group. My family was my first church. So that provided a stable experience with Jesus as a part of it in all of these countries where it wasn't the same country, but it was always the same God.
Speaker 1 00:06:06 It was always the same savior. We brought wherever we went. And that really provided stability for me. And we were always involved in the life of the local church, my mom, because of her growing up in poverty, not because she thought it was special or whatever, she always had us involved in the life of the poor, because that was normal for her. Of course you will serve the poor. And sometimes they would pick the church too, in terms of where they would serve as often the worst part of town because of that. Right. And so here's a, you know, five foot, three lady walking with four kids, sometimes walking into these tough neighborhoods with her four little kids, sometimes alone. Cause my dad would be on a business trip or something and it was never scary to her. Wasn't scary to us. It was just normal.
Speaker 3 00:06:51 I mean, I'm not sure everyone that will listen to this, but my hunches, that's not the common experience of most people. Most people you meet were not raised. Did you say, I think I heard you say it seven countries before you
Speaker 1 00:07:04 No, I'd been to six before. I was one years old, but I was over my, over my Throughout, like, yeah. And that's quite a diverse four 18. I grew up in seven, seven different countries, seven different companies. And when we were in one country, because we moved from project to project, we kept moving. So that's why the 17 different houses, homes, apartments, whatever. We'd be in one country and we'd moved three times. Wow.
Speaker 3 00:07:30 And so were they similar? It sounds like they in a similar region of the world. I mean,
Speaker 1 00:07:36 Well, it was El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, all central south America. But then there was Philippines in Asia. Oh, interesting. So a little bit of Asia and then mostly central south America.
Speaker 3 00:07:51 Interesting. Yeah. And so at what point did you or your family sort of become state side is a more regular way of living?
Speaker 1 00:08:02 So that was kind of a, I mean, interesting story because living in all these developing world countries, we would always come to visit my grandparents and they lived in Mexico and the Tijuana, uh, that California Mexico border, right where my parents were from, they were still there. We'd go visit my grandparents. And they always wanted us to give us a kind of a great experience. So they would take us across the border and we would get to see the United States and they'd take us to the best of the best. We went to San Diego zoo regularly, see world that is quite as Disney land magic mountain Knott's Berry farm when it actually was a farm and he could pet animals way back in the sixties. And they would take us to these places called malls. And I thought malls was like, heaven. I mean, there wasn't a single thing you would want that you couldn't find in a mall.
Speaker 1 00:08:52 And then we would have that amazing experience in the United. And then we would go back to where we were like in Bolivia, there wasn't electricity, 24 7. That's what my dad's project was there to provide. And they didn't have the products and they didn't have all the things that you enjoy in the United States TV. We wouldn't have TV as a kid. Sometimes you're like, how's the kid grow up without a TV? You know, you did life. And we lived through two coups. We lived through the son, Denise, the Contra Nicaragua. Wow. We lived through a coup in Bolivia earthquakes, hurricanes typhoons in the developing world. And for a little kid, when we would come visit the United States, you just have to see from my perspective, it looked like this country was perfect. Yeah. Like it had its act together as opposed to the countries that I was living in.
Speaker 1 00:09:41 And so I always dreamed of wanting to come to the United States and my parents because they wanted us to learn English. Spanish was my first language, but they would always take us to American schools and whatever country we were in. And I wanted to be American. I wanted to be seen as American. I always was embarrassed the first day of class at school. And I was in a lot of those even sometimes year. And, uh, the teacher would try to say my name, Santiago de Beto Mayo. And it usually get butchered when they would do the roll call early on. They'd get to the middle of the alphabet and then there'd be a pause. And I go, oh man, she's stuck on my name. You know, it's not John Smith. And so we're getting towards the right. You can just call me Jimmy. We're good to go. Just call me Jimmy,
Speaker 3 00:10:31 Jimmy, wait, wait, hold on. That feels like a jump. So how, how does
Speaker 1 00:10:35 Jimmy get pulled out of the air? So Santiago is James. James came from, you know, the nickname Jimmy came from James, but it really came from Cynthia. So when I think my dad was the one that started that, uh, we'll just, you know, tell him to call you Jimmy. And so, and so I did. And so I was Jimmy and all the schools and w but what was interesting to me is always wanting to be American. I was never considered American. My skin was darker, uh, brown hair, brown eyes, you know, looked Hispanic, am Hispanic. So you'd think I would look Hispanic. But if I was in Bolivia, the Americans thought I was Bolivian because in Panama, they thought I was Panamanian. If I was in Nicaragua, I thought I was Nicaraguan. And I was like, no, I just want to be American. So I dreamed of the day of being able to leave that world behind and come be a successful in the United States.
Speaker 1 00:11:33 That's what I wanted as a kid. And so I was in for a bit of a rude awakening when it came to the United States. At the end of my high school years, at the end of my junior year, actually high school, we came to Texas. My dad's company was stationed in Dallas. I was excelling in track and my dad thought it'd be good to maybe come. The United States might be able to get noticed by college, maybe get a college scholarship. So I came to the United States at the end of high school years. At that time, I was, it, it was like a repeat of everything I was growing up with. So I thought, finally, I'm going to come to the United States, the melting pot. They accept everybody for who they are. And that's awesome. I can't wait. And when I came to Texas, yet again, I was not American.
Speaker 1 00:12:18 And in their minds, I was, um, a Mexican, even though I never lived in Mexico, my grandparents and parents did, but in Texas, like everything was Mexico. If it was south of Texas. And so it was one guy that would call me by different Mexican food. Every time he saw me. So it was, Hey, taco, how you doing? Hey, burrito, what's up today? You know? And that was in the church. Like that was a youth group in the church. So I, I was not even seen as American in the United States. And that was really disappointing to me. Wow. Cause I was like, wow, I guess I'm never, I'm always on the outside looking in. And so,
Speaker 3 00:12:59 And it's the funnel. I'm sure you know this, but the phenomenon, it, your story sounds like the way a lot of missionary kid stories sound right? Like travel culture kids. I was going to say that. That's what I was just about to say, because I call myself a third culture kid. Yeah. Because like right now we've never, we've never really hung out, but I mean, it's a fun game. If you want to, if you want to play, we can play right now. You can guess. Do you want to guess what, where, where my family's from. Do you want to guess you won't offend me no matter what I promise. Do you wanna guess grease? It's a good guess. No. Uh, it's a little unfair to tell the truth. It's unfair. My father's from India, Western India. Good drop. And he's five, seven Indian guy. Oh wow. Yeah. My mom, both her parents from the UK and some Nordic in her. She's six feet tall, blonde hair, blue eyes. Are you kidding? White woman? No, I'm not kidding. Oh my. So if you put those two together, you get this. Yeah. But much like your story anywhere I travel in the world, literally anywhere people think I'm from there. Yeah. Or they associate me to the closest version of this look. That's exactly right.
Speaker 1 00:14:22 And Mexico was the closest version for them precisely.
Speaker 3 00:14:25 That's right. Yeah. And so I, you know, my dad, you know, I grew up a lot of my Indian family in my home, but I'm in a white suburb in Ohio. And so at no point, do I feel like, oh, well this is where I fit in because I'm not Indian enough to be Indian that's. Right. So even like the Indian folks are like, you're not actually an Indian kid. That's right. So even in a subculture, I don't fit and I'm definitely don't fit into a white world. So it wasn't until I started getting a missionary kids that I learned this idea of a third culture kid. Right. Which has incredible advantages. There are a lot of advantages and there's a lot of difficulties. So anyway, I only say that to say that when I asked you that and you beat me to it, I was going to say, you're a third culture kid, but
Speaker 1 00:15:16 Well, and for those that don't know what a third culture kid, it's just, you're not of the culture of your birth and you're not, you're not living in the culture of your birth and you're not living in the culture of your parents. That's where you're always in that third culture, a third space. And I wish my, I showed the book to my mom before, as you, oh man, this would have been helpful. You know, back then, why didn't they write this book sooner?
Speaker 3 00:15:39 You have an interesting story in that your family was the stabilizing factors. Right. Other people find other things like, it sounds like maybe even athletics help. Like, so for me playing sports help, like I always had a world where I knew how it worked. Yeah. I played tennis. I played basketball. I know how the, uh, the rules work like this in this environment. And I can find a tribe there. Well,
Speaker 1 00:16:02 And sports for you as it was for me, sports was a way of being appreciated and being able to be wanted because every time you're the new kid on the block, you want to be accepted. You want to be loved. You want to be appreciated and valued. And you know, when you walk into something new, everybody has their established relationships and you're the loner. Yup. So for me, sports was a way of achieving being noticed and being wanted. Yup.
Speaker 3 00:16:29 And it works. Yeah. Well it works and it doesn't work. It works until it doesn't work. Right. Because they still got to go home. Right. You still got to get a job. You still got to make friends off of the field or off of the core. Yeah. Yeah. And so those things made a huge, and for me, which is a little different, your story, the church became family. I wasn't raised in church. So when I came to Christ and I suddenly realized I have affinity now with people all over the world in all through time that I've never, I mean, I never thought about church. I wasn't raised in church, but suddenly it occurs to me, wait a minute. So now I have like aunts and uncles and I have brothers and sisters now, of course there's disappointments in that, like you're describing like your, your experience coming to America of like, oh, now I'm an American now
Speaker 1 00:17:20 Be accepted.
Speaker 3 00:17:21 I'm American. Well, and I had a similar experience coming to Christ in the church like, oh, well, these people at the gospels, what makes us who we are having a horrible experience of like, oh no, everything that's messed up in the world also lives in the church. So racism and classism and any number of other things live in the church the same way they do outside. There's some work at it in a way that maybe there's an ethic at least, but it's still a mess. Well, that's really interesting. So Dallas, you're doing track, you're realizing, wait a minute, this isn't how it's working. You're experiencing different kind of racist things. Then did you go to university in the U S
Speaker 1 00:18:00 I did actually SMU, which is in Dallas back before the death penalty. For those that remember the death penalty, then late eighties, of course. So this was before that at the second ranked team in the country and really good athletic program. And so they noticed what I was doing with track and they gave me an offer and I went to SMU and I ran track there for years. And the other thing that ties into my story was what happened in the summer of 1972. We were in Nicaragua and that summer I was watching the summer Olympics and I was smitten. I mean, I was sold on the Olympic movement and believed, oh, to someday be a part of the Olympics would be an amazing thing. And that was very moving to me to have the whole world coming together and peaceful competition. And if you recall, that's when the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage and kill, they all ended up dying.
Speaker 1 00:18:55 The whole thing of the Olympic movement and what got disrupted there at Munich, uh, mattered to me. And that's when I saw track and field and fell in love with track and field. And the decathlon in particular and Bruce Jenner was in the top 10 there in Munich and trained another four years and broke the world record in 76 when the gold in Montreal. So when that happened in 72, I just started doing track. And now there wasn't a track team at school. Right. But I'd organize long jump, uh, races, reassess. Yeah. I mean, I was just inventing it. We started doing the high jump and we literally started with a tree limb was our high-jump bar, no mats, you know, just any way you can get over that tree limb land on the grass. The other side is, but by the time I was in sixth grade, I was able to jump over my head.
Speaker 1 00:19:47 And, um, we moved to Panama and because of the United States presence in the canal zone, uh, their schools were great and they had equipment and they had coaches and they had teams and things like that. And even though I didn't live in the canals and we lived in Panama, uh, my parents paid for us to go to school there. And that was really developmental for me. And that's when it started to Excel on track. And my dad thought, oh, let's go to the United States. I save, you'll get noticed for a scholarship. And that happened. So by the time I graduated high school, I had comparable scores to Bruce Jenner in five of the 10 events. So it was all record performance. And so I needed to learn the other five events cause I was, had been wanting to do the together. Totally. So we had some really good athletes at SMU and we won the national title there in 83 and I learned the other events and was seeing the dream come true.
Speaker 1 00:20:43 Behind. I wanted to leave Latin America
Speaker 3 00:20:45 Behind you on the podium right now, in my mind,
Speaker 1 00:20:50 I didn't want to be sent Thiago. I wanted to be Jimmy. I wanted to be American. I wanted to represent the United States, you know, in the Olympics. And, and a lot of my buddies at SMU, uh, were Olympic caliber athletes that represented their own countries. And so that was the dream. And that dream for me was really shattered by, uh, uh, a terrible injury that occurred four times in a row. Uh, and they said it would always be a weak spot. So that dream died. And it was really El Salvador that opened the door that started my journey back to embracing all of who I am and coming back home to my Hispanic heritage. After I graduated college, I got a call in 1987 out of the blue, from the head of the track Federation of El Salvador asking they'd heard my marks and they'd heard I'd been born there and said, would you be willing to represent us in the 87 Pan-Am games night, the serious injury?
Speaker 1 00:21:49 I wouldn't training a year of not training after college graduating in 85. And so I started training again, got married in 86 and, and it was, you know, the priority early on in our marriage of going after trying to get healthy again and compete in the Pan-Am games, which I did. And I got fourth, but I tore the leg again in the eighth event and taped it up. And they, I was able to get through the last two events, javelin 1500, but retain my fourth spot. And that's when they said, Hey, would you be willing to try to go to the Olympics? Now we only have six spots for all sports. It's all the money. We have swimming and boxing and track, and we just have six spots and we can't secure assuring. You you'll get a spot, but if you're willing to train, then we'd be willing to, um, put you in consideration.
Speaker 1 00:22:38 So I went back to my college coach at SMU and said, Hey, could I train with the team again? And there was a guy that ended up being ninth in the Barcelona games decathlete. So we became training buddies there. And Billy Olson was in the world record holder in the pole vault. He was training there. And so it was just a great group of folks that were training there to SMU in 1988. So I joined them and was able to qualify. And then wait, I mean, El Salvador is in the middle of a civil war and I'm sitting there waiting, wondering if they'll pick me or not. They did and competed in the 88 games and, and, uh, place 26 was healthy. Wow. And no injury, no injury. So it was like the first time I had a healthy run and, uh, with absolutely no injury in like five years, other than qualifying right before the Olympics.
Speaker 1 00:23:27 So that happened, but there was something the president of the El Salvador track Federation said before I came back home, I was about ready to leave after the Olympics were done. And he literally kindly, but he puts his finger in my face. And he says, you know, Jimmy, all of our high potential young people never stay. They go to Europe, they go to the United States, Canada. They never stay and life doesn't get better here. And then he puts his finger in my face and he says, don't forget us. Come back. Wow. And now he's talking to a kid who dreamed of leaving that world and wanting to not identify with that world and go to the United States yet. It was that world that gave me the gift of my Olympic dream. I had this tension going on inside of me, this amazing gift that they gave me, but I want to have anything to do with that world.
Speaker 1 00:24:21 So that tension came to a head in an experience at this time, I was serving as the leader of Willow Creek association. And we were very tied with Willow Creek community church, obviously. And the senior pastor there, bill Hybels had just read a book called divided by faith. And in that book, we read some things that were very convicting. And at that time, Willow Creek was only about 3% diversity in its community was growing massively in diversity. And we weren't reflecting that. And so, you know, someone said, oh, we don't have diversity in our church congregation. We don't have diverse in our vocalists and singers and staff, and then says, and we have no diversity among our leaders on the executive team. And I'm sitting in the circle. Yeah. That's exactly what I did. Excuse me. That is exactly what I did. I slowly raised my hand and I said, now just check in.
Speaker 1 00:25:13 I mean, y'all know my real name is, not Jimmy and you know, I'm Hispanic. Right. And everybody laughed. I did too. It's kind of what you do. And then the person next to me, honestly, not wanting to hurt me in any way. In fact, this person had a great relationship with them to this day. I know what they were trying to do, but they put their arm over and said, oh, and pointed to me. And it says, oh, but you don't count. And I thought two things when that person said that the first thing I saw was thought was I finally made it. I'm finally not that third culture kid. I am finally now on the inside. Wow. I'm not that outside person wanting to be on the inside. I'm in, they're telling me I'm one of them I'm in. So that was the first thought.
Speaker 1 00:26:05 The second thought was more holy spirit haunting in a good way. And that was the holy spirit just saying, and that's not you at least not fully you. Why do you hate how I ordained you to be born and raised? I'm the one that sovereignly chose your mom who speaks broken English to this day, growing up in poverty. I'm the one that had you be named Santiago because of her love of the book of James. Yeah. I'm the one that had you born in El Salvador, natural birth. I'm the one that had you live and grow in all these countries that you've been wanting to run away from and wanting to be something I didn't create you to be. What is it that you're running away from? That question was a more deeply profound question. It is. And I thought about that Olympic president, who said, don't forget us, come back.
Speaker 1 00:27:02 I went back to that. So I helped Willow Creek start their Spanish service and served on the board there and, you know, help bring in a pastor that I knew to lead that congregation still, uh, going today. And we started expanding the global leadership summit into Latin America and thought that was it. And my calling has been always to serve the church. That's been my calling. Actually it came in 1988 in the Olympics. I went for an athletic experience and I came home with a calling to serve the church. And that's because while I was there, the pastor of the world's largest church, Paul Yonggi Cho had a prayer meeting at the Olympic village. And I went there about a hundred of us athletes out of the 5,000 in the village. And he prayed over us and he invited us to his church and went to the church and then invited us to a seminar that was basically telling the story of the church revival of South Korea from the early 19 hundreds to the war.
Speaker 1 00:27:58 And what a story. It's unbelievable, unbelievable story. It's like reading acts too. Like it's like right now our time and it's totally transformed the country. They went from a handful percentages of Jesus' followers to almost 30% Jesus followers in a matter of less than two generations. And so I just felt this sense from the inside. I want you to serve the church. I want you to help the kingdom of heaven move and create and be a part of joining me in creating movements like this around the world, where the church is the church and it's, and it's behaving biblically and functioning biblically to bring the redemption and restoration that Jesus wants for all of the world. So that's when I got my calling. Wow. And so I was doing that at Willow Creek and serving the church, but then we started partnering with compassion as we expanded around the world.
Speaker 1 00:28:51 And God's calling on from compassion, really came through Wes Stafford, the former president. And we became dear friends in the early nineties and been in friends for decades. And he's a dear brother to this day, still serves at compassion to this day as president of Ameritas and a beautiful calling. And he's known as Papa west all around the world. Uh, dear brother, he's the one that approached me actually in this office where we're standing right now and said, Jimmy, I'm going to retire next year. And I've been praying about who might succeed me. And in my quiet time, I'm getting some impressions that you might be the one to succeed me. Would you be open to a conversation? And I was like, oh man, well, I'm kinda, you know, fulfilled where I am. And I think I'm living my serving
Speaker 3 00:29:41 The church. Yeah. But
Speaker 1 00:29:44 The more I learned about compassion and realize that we may look like a child sponsorship organization. Cause that's how people know us, but you would know Jake, as you've seen it, you've been to the field. We're really a church equipping ministry. We only do ministry through the church. And so for me, that was like, yes, I was fulfilling my calling at Willow Creek to serve the church. But then the next iteration was yep. But I want you to do it and go back home. I want you to build a bridge of the church where you grew up. That's more under-resourced with the church you've been serving and as an adult, more in the well-resourced world. And I want you to help build a bigger bridge between the two. So coming home to compassion is really like the most congruent thing in my soul. That's how I would describe it. It's congruent in my soul. And it's brought me back home, full circle to unite my calling with all of my life, not just a part of my life. And so I don't have any need at doing anything else in the future. You know, the Lord would allow me to keep serving in this way. I'm good to go.
Speaker 3 00:30:52 Can you still throw javelin?
Speaker 1 00:30:53 You know what, if you'll go to a high school field in the summertime on a good weekend, I like going out there and messing with the javelin or the disk or the shot and hurdles and whatever, just for the sake of now, the goals are different. See the goals. Yeah. I would say the goal is now don't get hurt.
Speaker 3 00:31:11 Yeah. Don't injure yourself. Totally. No, but I'd, I'd love to see throw a javelin. Actually. I feel like, I feel like that could be a good fundraiser. So, so when I hear everything you're saying, what I hear you saying is in each phase of your life, you were faithful of what was in front of you. And there were components where you're wondering actually you're having identity crisis. That's right. And this thing doesn't fit. I got to be this other thing. And you're trying to figure out how to be something else when you don't know how to get things to fit, but you're being faithful each step. So, Hey, I have these athletic gifts. I can use these over here, but then all of a sudden you have this encounter with the president of, you know, the Olympic committee. And then you also have the moment in the church because you're also doing this other thing. And then that dot connects and then full circle, you come into compassion, just helping out through this other thing. And then it all fits together. And this whole thing, my story fits together.
Speaker 1 00:32:16 And what's cool about that, Jay, is that it includes the effect of freewill along the way. Yeah. And because we have free, will we make bad choices or we're driven by dysfunctions on the inside. I was driven by achievement and wanting to be successful in a successful country. One of the other things after the Olympics, because I needed to end my athletic career for, for many reasons. But my drive that wasn't always pure for achievement just found another expression and I wanted to be successful in leadership, uh, in the United States. And so competing in church. Exactly well, and even before you're right. But before that, my dad had been encouraging me to get an MBA in business. And, and I actually, after coming home from the Olympics, wanted to serve in a church because I wanted to fulfill that call. Right. And our church tried to change and become more evangelistic and outward oriented and it went terrible.
Speaker 1 00:33:19 And there were mistakes that were made in that church, you know, doesn't exist today. And so that vision died and I thought, oh, now what do I do? Well, along the way, almost a humor. My dad, I applied to one school when business school. But again, you think back to wanting to be successful. I thought, well, why not Harvard? So yeah, if you're going to do it, I only applied to one school. I thought I'm not going to get accepted, but why not? You know, I'll just, you know, go ahead and throw the application in. After the vision in that church died. Literally the next week I got my acceptance letter to Harvard. Wow. And I felt like God, you know, a door was closed and God opened another door over here. So then I walked through that, even though it had some unhealthy dysfunctional motivations.
Speaker 1 00:34:04 And that's a part of the story. Every time you put, even your dysfunction, your mistakes, your wrong drives, you put them in his hands, God even redeems those part of your story. So even the Harvard thing or the Olympic thing, achievement, orientation, even the imperfect parts of that, the broken parts of that. When you put it in his hands, somehow he is the expert at redemption and making it into good Romans 8 28 into your life. And so it was at Harvard that a Jewish non-Christian professor asked me to write a case study on a church Willow Creek community church. Wow. Are you serious? Bob Buford had connected bill Hybels with sure. With Peter Drucker and Peter Drucker wrote an article that became an HBR article and assignment to a students. While I was there, I've read that article, what companies could learn from non-profits. And we highlighted the girl Scouts, the red cross and Willow Creek.
Speaker 1 00:35:04 So this professor found out I'd been to Willow Creek because I visited there after the Olympics and, and says, well, tell me about this church. Why in the world would Peter Drucker think that someone, any company could learn from a church? So I give him my best spiel and he goes, this is great. He goes, what should we do with it? And God just planted the seed in my mind. Why don't we make it a case study? You talked about the case study method at Harvard 800 cases over two years. What more different a setting to learn the same transferable principles than a church, because all these others are unaccompanied. And he goes, that's a great idea and we'll never get past. And then, so he said, here's what we'll do. I'll create a class, it'll have one student you and you and me are going to study the church quote industry, right? The teacher's note in the case study on Willow Creek. And once it's a real thing, I'll get it approved. I can't get an idea approved ahead of time, but I think I could get it approved after the
Speaker 3 00:35:58 Fact. And so that's what a teacher,
Speaker 1 00:36:00 A believer, no, he's a Jewish guy. So he
Speaker 3 00:36:05 Believed
Speaker 1 00:36:07 He one, he believed in case study method, different situations to learn the same principles, right. But he saw what Peter Drucker saw it, the intentionality of doing church life, uh, with a strategy and intention and focus. And there were a lot of things that are just general leadership principles that are good in any organization, right. That he saw there at Willow Creek. And so that became a case study became a part of their required curriculum. And for years that's how I met Willow Creek. Wow. I graduated in 91 when they created the association 92, that's when I was challenged. Uh, in fact it was bill that challenged me and said, Hey, why don't you think about doing something really significant with your life and give yourself to training church leaders. And it fit my calling that I got, you know, a few years earlier
Speaker 3 00:36:52 The Olympics, because by then, I'm sure you're going. I don't know how any of this is going to fit back together. No.
Speaker 1 00:36:58 Is this cool church? How does that work? And God used the business school write a case study on a church. In fact, uh, professor's name is, uh, Lynn's Lessinger uh, he said, no, the religion schools on the other side of the river, this is the business
Speaker 3 00:37:12 School.
Speaker 1 00:37:13 He was still intrigued. And he was the sponsor of that case study. And we had him speak at the global leadership summit a couple of times over my tenure, fabulous hearted individual, for sure. So that's what led me to serve the church at Willow Creek while. And then, you know, the story of willin to compassionate
Speaker 2 00:37:46 Each quarter on the weird venue podcast, we will focus in on a theme for all of our interviews for the first quarter of 2022. The theme is equipping the saints and every month we're going to introduce a new recommended book or resource to dig in deeper this month. We're recommending that everyone reads strung week by Andy crouch leader, the spend full interview, Andy, to hear a deeper dive on this book and much more struggling week is available through vineyard resources and wherever books are sold.
Speaker 3 00:38:21 And I'm also struck listening to you, which is a leadership lesson, which I'd love to hear your thought on that each of the dreams you had and continue to live out did have some painful moments, right? So I really want to be an American, right. And that's not what you thought it was going to be almost like
Speaker 1 00:38:41 Jonah, running away from what God was wanting
Speaker 3 00:38:43 For you. That's right. Then I really want to be this athlete. Right. And I have this dream and Bruce Jenner, whatever, and fourth is pretty good, but I bet it wasn't what he thought it was going to be. And then, and then, I mean, I mean, I'll T I'll take forth. Right. But anyways, but then there's a, another set of dreams around, oh, now I get to be in the Olympics and now this church thing somehow in your, okay, so I'm going to do the church thing, church thing falls apart. Okay. So now I'm going to Harvard. Yeah. Okay. So business saying, well, now I'm in a church thing and I know enough about the Willow's story to know, uh, to know, oh no, yeah, this didn't go the way we thought it was going to go. Or it did for a while. Yeah. For good long time.
Speaker 3 00:39:29 And now there is whatever amount of pain and challenge that now. Okay. So, but wow. This other thing opens up. So like, what do you think? Because what I noticed Jimmy with so many folks is any one of those things ends them and they tell some story from 20 years ago. Well, let's just say from your story, your story could be, I tried to help out this church and it didn't work. Yeah. And I've been, and I've been sound cars or whatever in the Dallas area, which wouldn't be a bad life, by the way. I mean, if you love the Lord and you're doing your thing, but I think we can say something in the way God has chosen lead you. And then also your decision, your decisions to say yes. What, what do you think has enabled you to keep saying yes to the next thing?
Speaker 1 00:40:22 Well, it really does come from my brokenness. Let's start there and connection with Jesus, bring healing to that brokenness. I remember a time when things were happening and I was hemorrhaging respect and that was a con become cynical, uh, in ministry. And I find that over time leaders get one of four different kinds of hearts over time, uh, a cynical heart, a hard heart, an apathetic heart. And I didn't want any of those three, but I was growing as cynical heart. I wanted to keep the fourth heart, which is a soft heart. And I even got some outside help and counseling to help me process some things that was difficult to process with anybody else in my circles. And when that's the case, sometimes you just have to pay someone to be able to process this kind of stuff. Yeah. Get help. And I remember spewing about all the things that I was seeing and, and I feel like, you know, the counselor was wonderfully gifted, said, you know, you know, gave me a different perspective.
Speaker 1 00:41:27 And the perspective is one where, and I felt this, you know, it was like Jesus walking along with me in the room's really. And one of the things that happens as you grow in Christ, you gain his eyesight to increasingly that's a good thing, but who sees all of sin at a hundred percent level only God, God's the only one that sees all of the sin, all of the shortcomings, all of the immaturity. So as you become more like Christ, why should we be surprised that we begin to notice shortcomings in others, shortcomings in that church, things that are immature or wrong or dysfunctional as we're going, of course we'll see those things. But see now our human strategy is to become cynical about that or to quit on that or to get a hard heart about that or to become apathetic. That's the human strategies that are often used.
Speaker 1 00:42:17 And I could see them welling up in my heart, the temptation to take one of those three strategies. And instead this counselor was helping me take the fourth strategy. What does it take to have full knowledge and full acceptance and understanding. And so as I'm in this dark room and Jesus has his arm around me and he goes, yeah, this room's pretty dark in it. Yeah. I see it too. But let me tell you what you don't see. There's light in here too, and you don't see it. I see it. So you have some growing to do so you can see the light that I see that's in this dark room. And by the way, I know you see this darkness outside here, but there are a couple of drawers and a couple of doors and rooms in your house that need to be opened up and pretty dark.
Speaker 1 00:43:07 And so why don't you and me go deal with those dark spaces in your life? Yeah. I'm working on the rest. That's not your job to redeem that as my job, but it is your job to invite me in, to redeem the parts of you that are dark. So let's go into those rooms. So I shifted my focus from judging and condemning and blaming and shaming the outside shortcomings to not doing that in my shortcomings, but to step into my shortcomings and allow grace to heal those. And there's a verse in the Bible. It's actually a verse fragment that is forefront in my mind, became forefront in my mind at that time. And that was that new Testament fragment of a verse that just says, I, Paul chiefest of sinners. I love that verse because for years I could not touch that verse. I'd read it.
Speaker 1 00:44:02 I couldn't touch it. I didn't get it. Cause I was like, wait a minute. This is Paul. Yeah. And he didn't say I was the chief center when I was persecuting Christians. He was using present tense as it hyperboles is, is he lying? Is it wrong? But Hey, this was the inspired word of God. So it can be that. So that would affect my theology and I'm not going to give him my theology. So, so then I'm reading this and I finally got in touch with it to understand that the writers of scripture, which I knew, technically, I just didn't know it in this practical sense. The writers of scriptures wrote and were inspired by God, but they did write it through their point of view from their perspective. And from Paul's perspective, he was so undone by his sin in his life. At that moment, he was more in touch with his sin than anybody else's sin.
Speaker 1 00:44:55 And that's why he couldn't imagine that anybody was at worse center than him, not to the shaming of himself, but to the healing of how Christ could, where sin, abounded, grace, abounded that much more. And then grace could provide healing for that part of Paul that he thought no one could have more sin than me. And every time I become more acquainted with someone else's sin than my sin, that's like a huge red flag. Something has flipped in my heart and I have stopped living that verse. I, Jimmy, I Santiago cheapest of sinners. That's where I want to live so that I don't ever step into that space. That's God's to step into, uh, fixing other people and just being a part of joining God in his redemptive work in me and then letting any ministry to others, flow out of fruit of who God is creating me to be a man.
Speaker 1 00:45:52 And you know, a lot of people in compassion would say that I repeat this a lot, but this is where it came from. And when I repeat a lot, is that the greatest gift that I can give to this ministry, or even the Lord is not anything I do. It's in fact, the person I'm becoming that's right, who I am, who I am and that my achievement orientation, where a lot of times it was driven dysfunctionally. And there was this counselor actually that met with me and reviewed my life and said, it seems Jimmy, that you're driven by the sprays, anything but surprising success will be defined by you as an excusable failure. And I've never forgotten that, wow, that was hauntingly convicting on many levels. I've left that form of motivation and personal striving and expectation and said, if I'm going to achieve anything, I only want it to be as a result of natural, organic fruit that flows out of the person I'm becoming in Christ period. Whether I lead just being every interaction, I want it to flow out of that kind of person.
Speaker 3 00:47:05 Yeah. In a, in a, in a shorthand way of saying that would be humility. You know, I, I hear you. I experience you as a humble man right now, solely because you're aware of yourself more than having to make sure everybody else has managed, but you still lead a big organization. So you still have to like, look at people and say, you know, this part didn't quite work the way we wanted it to, or here's, what's great. Or here, we're going to create this goal or we're going to challenge ourselves, but you're starting with yourself. So in that spirit, I want to ask you one last thing. Okay. Yeah. You mentioned being at the table. So you're at the table. People say, well, you know, we're all just white guys here anyway. And you raise your hand and go, uh I'm actually, maybe you don't remember. I'm still here too. And you said something interesting. He said a guy next to you kind of puts his arm around you as a, as a means of affection. You were very gracious bouncing. Oh yeah. But you don't really count like,
Speaker 1 00:48:03 Well, not it wasn't actually arm around me, but it's just put his hand on my chest and just kind of go. Yeah. But you're, you know, you don't count,
Speaker 3 00:48:10 You don't count which you have a series of emotional experiences. What would you want to say to that room? Cause I imagine people listening right now and part of the thing we're dreaming about in the vineyard is we're working to become more diverse on purpose, not on accident because we think it demonstrates the kingdom. What would you want to say to that room or those guys? Well, how should they have thought about you differently? How should they have interacted with you differently? What would you have wanted to have happened in that room? If you could just sort of whisper in the ear, like, Hey, you're about to have a moment. I'm going to tell you what's about to happen. And I want to give you some advice. You all are about to realize the Jimmy's with you. And w what would you, how, how do you, how would you want that room to behave differently in that moment?
Speaker 1 00:49:06 I mean, what you're wanting, what you're saying is, is really acknowledging the fact that what I was wanting in the moment was to be loved, but not just that moment, all of us want to be loved. We all want to be loved for who we are that you cannot be loved. Or let me say it this way. You can only be loved to the extent that you're known. And honestly, if I were to look back and think through how many in that circle knew my mom's background, how many in that circle knew my background, along the way, my desires of wanting to be American along the way where some of my achievement orientation went. I don't think anyone in that circle knew any of that. And we'd probably been serving together at that point, probably a decade or
Speaker 3 00:50:00 15 years. Fascinating.
Speaker 1 00:50:02 So loving, which is what everybody wants, starts with knowing. Yes. So, and, and, and the knowing means not tolerating the cultural differences, but in fact, honoring and getting in touch with the differences and the truth is there are as many cultures as there are people. We label groups to our demise instead of seeing them as people. But it's not that we want to remove the differences. No, I want to be known as a Hispanic. I want to be known as Santiago , but I also, we, you know, but now because of how I lived, you know, good part of my life is Jimmy. Well, I'm actually both. And that's why the name plate says Santiago, Jimmy Mayo, because I am both it's whether it came from a level of something that maybe wasn't as healthy, a motivation as possible still when you put it in his hands, God redeems it. And it's okay that I'm Jimmy now. And it's okay that I'm San Diego on both. And I am both. I have folks that call me both. So that's the power and the beauty of walking with Jesus, he redeemed at all, and he makes it as if that was the original intent. Yeah.
Speaker 3 00:51:18 Well, and the power of knowing, I think that's powerful language to know people. And it's also interesting. Well, and it's interesting to hear you tell your story, because it also requires you being willing to show those parts of you. Right. So for whatever reason, tech,
Speaker 1 00:51:35 I could've volunteered that information. Totally. And that was on me.
Speaker 3 00:51:38 Yeah. And you're walking through whatever you're walking through that makes that difficult. Okay. So one last, I said, one last thing, but I lied. I have one last thing here. This is actually, I, you know, I've worked with a ton with compassion. I've been to, I think I was saying we started, I think I was adding it up this morning. I think I've been to 16 or 17 site locations for compassion all over the world. That's cool. And as many times as I get a chance to, I tell people they should work with compassion, be a compassion church. Don't just think about compassion is the thing you can do on one Sunday though. You should do it on a Sunday. Okay. But I mean, you're going to start anywhere, start there, but don't think of just a Sunday, you know, in our church, we do sponsorship child sponsorship in specific sites.
Speaker 3 00:52:30 And then we've taken trips to see the kids in those sites with our church, which we usually partner with another experience, maybe a church planting training or something we do. And we can do stuff with the vineyard as well, or, you know, so we combined some things together, whether it's been in Ethiopia or in Haiti, or we've been in, uh, El Salvador or different places, if you were a pastor who is going okay, man, man, I'm listening to Jimmy seems like a good guy. And Jay says, I should do compassion. What would you want to say about compassion to a pastor or a leader? How would they begin into that journey of thinking about child sponsorship with compassionate?
Speaker 1 00:53:12 Well, I don't want to assume everybody has heard of compassion. Maybe many of them not. So, so let me just start with our mission. Our mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus name. So that's our mission. And if, if you could just walk away with three things about compassion, be number one that we're Christ centered, like everything was, do we do is in his name and in his way. And when we're doing it that way, if it's in his way, then we want to partner with his church. Yes, that's his way of redeeming and restoring this world for him. So we partner with his church. That is the only way we do ministry. Now that used to not always be the case. We used to do work with orphanages and schools and a lot other good things. But we thought if there was one thing that compassion was going to be really good at, it would be how to have a healthy long-term developmental relationship with an indigenous local church in a poor community that lives on less than $3 and 20 cents a day.
Speaker 1 00:54:08 That if there was one thing we were going to be good at, it's how to walk alongside a local church in a healthy, developmental way, over the long haul. So we become the silent equipping kind of partner to them to help them minister to on average, about 250 children that live within walking distance of that church impacting as many families as possible. So that's what it means for us to be Christ centered. And we say church driven Christ centered church, driven all of our ministry through local churches. And if we're going to do it in his name in his way, the local church, it's going to be discipleship. So holistic discipleship is the strategy. And so it's the development of that child to fully live out God's potential that got birthed in that child from inception. So we could start with the child when the child is in the womb of the mom with the prenatal program, all the way up to 22, when we're launching the young adult into life with skills and in a relationship with Jesus and confidence and emotional stability, be able to move into life successfully.
Speaker 1 00:55:11 So, and really step into that God potential that is in that child, in that young person, young adult. So those are the three things as Christ centered church driven child focused the child. Some people are trying to end poverty. That's not what we're about. I wish poverty would. And I hate what poverty does but as long as poverty exists, our goal is to equip young people to be released from poverty, whatever that poverty might be. It's probably start with those kids that are in economic poverty. So those are the, the three things that I'd like to share about compassion. The other thing I would say to pastors in particular, and I'll use it by way of an illustration real life story that happened this last year, got a call from a church in Texas, a small church in Texas. And they said, Hey, we want to double our kid ministry.
Speaker 1 00:56:02 And they told the congregation, you come on this weekend to church and we're going to double our children and youth ministry on that weekend. And everybody's like, how we're all going to show him for that it's to, you know, cause that's all he said, right? That's how he kind of communicated it. And they show up on that Sunday and they said, Hey, we have this many kids and young people in our children and youth ministry and out in the hall, there are that many packets that represent children in churches in, I can't remember which countries they were, but in countries that we care about and we want you to go out and sponsor. We want this church to sponsor as many children in youth, as we serve on a weekend, week out basis here, it's incredible. And they did that. So in effect, they doubled their child in youth ministry, both locally and this added a uttermost parts of the world piece to it. And so I, I hope in this kind of a setting United States that if the church would catch a vision to not only serve the kids and the young people that are there locally, but also step into that space. And maybe for every kid they serve locally, they'd serve a kid global
Speaker 3 00:57:14 That's great vision. Well, and again, I can give personal testimony having been, you know, we've had a compassion daughter that just now is aging out. Oh wow. She, uh, is HIV positive from her parents. So compassion gave her all the drugs to keep her alive. She's now finished a college course. No kidding. I've been to visitor three times in Ethiopia. And you know, these are the things that, you know, only if you ask and get into the program, you start to realize, but it wasn't just changing her life. It was changing her family's life. And her village now suddenly has opportunities. And the church itself has opportunities.
Speaker 1 00:57:59 You know, what's interesting Jay, over that time period, um, you know, uh, it was entry desk. You know, how many years you've been sponsoring this, this now young adult, but on average, you should know that in a very practical way, what a sponsorship does is provide 4,000 hours of loving contact discipleship kind of contact with that child, young person, young adult in the context of a local church during their most at-risk years of their life in a practical way. That's actually what a sponsorship is providing 4,000 hours of discipleship development kinds of interactions and interventions, whatever they may need to be. If it's HIV positive, providing the, uh, the, uh, medicine for that, to keep that child growing, if it's bad water, it doesn't matter what it is. We want to work with that church to bring help on that side of it.
Speaker 3 00:58:56 Well, and I've watched it, I mean, bottom line, I've seen it and I've gone with a bunch of our folks to different sites and I've watched it. These aren't like, I suppose there might be a kid named this. You get to go visit that kit. You get letters from that kit. You know, one of the things we do and our church has tried to create letter writing nights so that we write letters, you know, to the kids that we sponsored and you get letters back and you get to watch them grow up. And, and even starting to know some of the folks that have come through compassion, who then, you know, I think you have a few folks that are in government around the world now that came through compassion, people that running and leading businesses, pastors of the churches, where they were in the exactly that the pastor of the church.
Speaker 3 00:59:39 Exactly. Yeah. And so you've been around long enough to watch these things over time. And so, I mean, I've said it over and over every vineyard stage I can be on like, why would you not do this? And it really does fit with exactly what you're saying, what we think the mission of what it means to be a local churches, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. And so every tactical way of doing it, a missionary that's right. And you can do, everyone can play ball it's, it's accessible. You guys do a ton of the work. Um, and we get to partner with you to do that. So anyway, well, thanks for spending time with us. It's been a great time to sit and talk. I would love to spend another time with you. Maybe if you'd allow it, we can add back. Okay, great. Well, hopefully we can do another part, but this is really helpful. Thank you so much.
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