Sorry I Missed the Big Announcement
News reached me in Los Angeles that your chief executive has accepted an invitation to lead World Vision's work in Eastern Europe and the Middle East
Fortunately, this was not news to me. I regret that I was not present at corporate devotions to say a word myself.
Our policy has always been that people most affected by a decision should hear about it first. Thus, you needed to hear about it as soon as the decision was made. It might have been nice to wait until I got back from Los Angeles, but I put your rights first.
We'll have the chance to talk more about it later, but by way of personal explanation here is a Trellis from out of town.
After eight years as your chief executive I have been invited to serve World Vision as regional director for the Middle East/Eastern Europe Region.
I shall take up the appointment on the 1st January, 1997 and my last day with World Vision Australia will probably be 29th November which is the day of the Board's annual general meeting.
World Vision Australia will second me to this position for a period of three years.
Judy and Richard will be going with me to live in Vienna, Austria.
Your Board will soon begin a process to find and appoint a person to replace me. The proposal is to engage a Christian executive search firm which will consider both internal and external candidates. It is one of my pleasures that quite a number of internal candidates are likely to be considered.
Every now and then an opportunity comes along that has everything going for it. Such opportunities are not to be missed, no matter how challenging or risky.
When the President of World Vision International, Dean Hirsch, put to me that my "name had been mentioned" as someone who might lead the Middle East/Eastern Europe region, I said, "Great idea, but forget it."
Too many obstacles. Too much to overcome. The Australian Board would not like it. Judy would hate it. It wasn't in my Five Year Plan...
Funny how God works, eh?
On the one hand Judy started to make strange noises. Not literally. Her voice didn't suddenly sound like she'd swallowed helium or anything like that. It was that she started talking about "our time in Hong Kong" in that nostalgic way that suggested she might be being prepared for another adventure. God was at work.
Also on a parallel track was a conversation Peter King and I had been sharing for many months. Peter has a vision that one day World Vision might be a truly international organisation, led by people who really do have a "world vision." These days there is much emphasis on nationalism. I discovered that Peter and I have similar ideas about the limitations of nationalism as a criterion for choosing for leaders. Our leaders, especially, must be people who are comfortable in many cultures. Not only that, we must have worked, lived and experienced life outside our own cultures.
Perhaps soon, a working assignment outside of one's own culture for more than two years will be mandatory for all World Vision leaders. World Vision Australia is already well populated with leaders and potential leaders with such qualifications.
In the course of one of these discussions Peter asked me something like "Where might you go next?"
I replied that I had already done that. I worked for four years in Hong Kong.
"But in the kind of organisation we have been talking about," Peter continued, "you'd be thinking about this always."
I promised to think about it. And I always keep my promises.
I put two and two together. Actually, I put the words of Dean and Judy and Peter together. And then I put them all before God.
The result is now known to you. From 1st January 1997, Judy, Richard and I will be in Vienna (someone has to live there).
I believe the average temperature in Vienna in January is one degree celsius!
Will He Be Back?
Secondments imply returns. In theory when a person leaves World Vision Australia on secondment, the intention is to bring them back to the same position, or better.
Will it really be possible to bring me back to the same position or better in three years time? I mean it is one thing to think about bringing back a middle level manager. There is a range of possible positions that might be available in three years time.
The options are not so numerous for chief executives. Last count there was only one of these positions.
This is the question I put openly on the table in discussions with the Board. It is the sort of issue that has to be dealt with sensibly and frankly.
The answer depends on us both. It depends on what you do with World Vision Australia: and it depends on what I do with me.
Or perhaps we should properly say, it depends on what we allow God do with each of us.
It depends on me to the extent that I allow this experience to shape and mould me into a more effective leader. The sort that World Vision Australia might want in three years time.
It depends on you to the extent that you allow the opportunity created by my departure to release creativity and change in the organisation, so that World Vision Australia is the sort of organisation that I might want to return to in three years time.
In the end, of course, we neither know nor care to predict the future. Much of this is in God's hands. Or should be. As long as we have clear understandings that protect people who have the courage to leap out in faith, the organisation is acting with responsibility.
I'll be praying for God's grace to continue to work in my life. I hope you will earnestly pray for Him to be allowed to work within World Vision Australia.
In any case, to be perfectly honest, I am not thinking too much about what will happen that far in the future. And it's essential to think this way if one is to be serious about throwing oneself whole-heartedly into any new assignment.
Peter says, "You should think as if it is forever, even if you know practically it won't be."
And that's the way I am thinking. I shall go whole-heartedly to this new assignment. Not second-guessing the future, but earnestly seeking to discover how God is working in this new assignment to reveal more of his amazing Kingdom to me and through that experience to point others towards that same Kingdom.
We ask for your prayers. And we shall pray for you too.