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Wherever you are, you have an opportunity to serve. My “life verse” is 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” When we meet the calling on our life right where we are, powerful and life-changing waves are set in motion. My guest on the Business with Purpose Podcast today is Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, and I can’t wait for you to hear how the waves of his experiences growing up in seven different countries and being an Olympic athlete lead to fulfilling a calling to serve the church and become the President and CEO of Compassion International.
Compassion International is one of the oldest, largest, and most reputable Christian Humanitarian Aid Child Sponsorship organizations in the world.
Their mission is dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty. If you’ve ever considered sponsoring a child through Compassion International, today is your day! Jimmy and I will talk more about sponsorship during the show, but you can also go to compassioninternational.com/molly for more information.
Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado was born in El Salvador and grew up in seven different countries due to his Jimmy’s father’s career in development building roads, powerhouses, and dams in developing countries. The faith of his parent’s created stability while they moved around different parts of the world.
Jimmy’s mother grew up in Mexico and her parents were migrant farmers. Jimmy’s mom didn’t realize she was poor because she grew up with joy and dignity, as well as a heart for the poor.
Jimmy’s father joined the US army at 18-years-old and served in the Korean War for three years. After Jimmy’s parents got married, his family traveled around the world for his father’s various engineering jobs.
Both of Jimmy’s parents served the poor in their roles, whether with his father’s engineering projects bringing electricity to people who’d never had it before, or his mother educating her children to care for the less fortunate.
Jimmy’s travel and love of athletics grew into a fascination with the Olympic games and their power to bring people and nations together. He went to college in the US and competed in several colligate sports, but he dreamed of competing in the Olympics. In 1987 he received a letter from his birth country of El Salvador asking if he would compete for them in the Pan American games.
The next year, Jimmy went on to train for the Olympics during a civil war and ended up competing in in the 1988 Olympics as the only male track and field competitor from El Salvador.
Before Jimmy left El Salvador to come back to the United States, the President of the El Salvador Olympic committee told him that most of their athletes leave for the US or Europe and never come back.
For a few decades, Jimmy was more focused on being successful in the US and forgot about the world he came from for a long time.
During a church meeting, his pastor reminded the staff of the lack of diversity in leadership and in their congregation. Jimmy spoke up about his heritage, but his colleagues associated him with being an American rather than his Hispanic heritage. It forced Jimmy to ask why he was running away from his identity, heritage, and culture.
Jimmy helped start Spanish services at that same church, which kickstarted his journey toward leading at Compassion International.
22:48 – Revival in a country, Redemption in a calling
Compassion had its start in Soul, Korea, where Jimmy competed in the 1988 Olympics. The country experienced a huge revival right after the end of the Korean War.
Jimmy was invited to a church to be prayed over before his competitions, and he heard the stories of revival. He wanted to be a part of a movement like it to start serving the church.
After Jimmy finished business school in the US, he made a career out of serving local churches but mostly worked in the well-resourced world. It wasn’t until many years later that he felt the call to serve churches in areas of poverty.
When the baton was literally passed to Jimmy in a ceremony to become the new leader of Compassion International, his mom couldn’t get any words out, so she simply hugged her son and told him in Spanish, “We’ll talk later.”
Jimmy’s mother’s experience of coming from poverty was fully redeemed in seeing her son coming back to serve the developing world.
The revival in Korea started in the North. As the Korean War began, many believers fled the North and went South. When the country was split into North and South Korea, South Korea was ravished by the war with poverty, orphans, and no economy.
Various countries came together to help South Korea get back on its feet. An evangelist named Everett Swanson went to preach to the troops in South Korea.
Swanson noticed how many orphans there were, and so many of them were freezing to death in the rough winter without any resources. When he went back home, he had a vision to help the orphans of the war.
In 1952, a man in Swanson’s church signed a $2,000 check, praying for God to show him who he should give it to. When he heard what Swanson was doing, he donated it to the efforts to help war orphans. That was the start of Compassion International.
Jimmy became the CEO of Compassion International in 2012. He’d been friends with the former president, Wes for many years before Jimmy’s evolvement.
Wes let Jimmy know that he felt God might be calling Jimmy to succeed him, but Jimmy thought the job should go to someone with more experience, but Wes reassured him they were looking for someone who was already serving the church.
Serving the church in the well-resourced world prepared Jimmy for serving the world he grew up in. He didn’t have to abandon his calling; he just moved his calling to a different part of the world.
Compassion is now in 25 countries around the world. They partner with local churches to help local people. This helps eliminate the “white savior” mentality that can come from Western influence.
In the 7,500 churches in the program, 100,000 workers, (about 15 per church) serve 250-300 kids per project. These are the people living in the communities who know what the community needs. The children are served holistically in their physical needs, cognitive, socio-emotional and spiritual development.
As children move through the program, they also have opportunities in higher education, and vocational, entrepreneurship, and ministry training. Many children go on to become leaders in the communities they grew up in and now sponsor children through Compassion.
51:13 – How to Start Sponsoring A Child with Compassion International Today:
It took 56 years to reach the first million children.
Then it took 11 years to reach the 2 millionth child served.
There has been huge growth in the last 11 years but compared to the number of children living in poverty today, the number is one billion children.
This means Compassion is still only serving 0.2% of the need.
There’s such need out there for children’s lives to be transformed, even in our modern world. With Compassion they can be transformed right within their own neighborhood.
One billion may seem like a lot, but as far as we know there are about 600 million people following Jesus who truly want to respond to the call to end poverty. Within the church, we have the capacity to serve the one billion in need, but we all have to play our part.
By connecting children in the well-resourced world with children in the under-resourced world (especially when they share the same name) we not only fight poverty, but the effects of plenty too.
There are so many tools now to connect with your sponsor child through letter writing, the Compassion app, and even trips to visit your sponsor child. You can change a child’s life on less than $40.00 a month. It’s a drop in the bucket for most of us.
1:01:06 – Be sure to listen to what it means to Jimmy to run a business with purpose!
Memorable Quotes from this episode:
19:05: “Having grown up in the developing world, lived more as an adult in the developed world and serving the well-resourced church, I think God has brought me here to be a bridge between the under-resourced world and the well-resourced world. That’s at the center of my call now. To link those two worlds better so we can heal each other on both sides.”
22:23 “God totally took that disappointment and wrapped my calling around it and then he took my failure athletically of getting inured over and over again and said “No I don’t want you to compete for the US, I want to bring you home and compete for the country of your birth.”
22:52 “In 1988 when I competed in the Olympic games in Soul, South Korea, I went for an athletic experience and I came home with a calling to serve the church.”
ABOUT Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, Compassion International President and CEO
Compassion International’s President and Chief Executive Officer Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado has a deep love and passion for the beauty and potential of local churches fulfilling their Jesus-given mandate to redeem and restore this world for His name’s sake. Born in El Salvador and raised in seven different countries, Jimmy has experienced firsthand the powerful impact thriving local churches can have on their communities, especially in under-resourced environments. Compassion’s church-based approach to delivering a holistic child development program resonates with Jimmy at a deep level.
Prior to joining Compassion in June of 2013, Jimmy was president of the Willow Creek Association (WCA) — a global ministry completely dedicated to helping local churches thrive. During his 20-year tenure leading the WCA, worldwide ministry income grew from $2 million to more than $20 million and membership grew from 860 churches to over 7,000 churches.
Beginning in 1995, Jimmy was instrumental in launching and hosting The Global Leadership Summit. The Summit is an annual not-for-profit event created to address the dire need for excellent leadership training in local churches and other people-centered organizations around the world. One of its highest values has been an insatiable desire to learn from many of the world’s top leaders and most gifted communicators. The Summit shares leadership insights from a variety of voices and disciplines — from corporate CEOs, heads of state, leaders in academia, leaders within the church, and leaders from the not-for-profit sector. By the time Jimmy completed his last Summit in 2013, the event spanned 100 countries and reached an audience of 170,000 attendees with this valuable training.
Jimmy’s educational background includes graduating cum laude with a mechanical engineering degree from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.
He is also an accomplished athlete. In college, Jimmy was a member of the 1983 NCAA Division I Indoor & Outdoor National Championship team at SMU where he competed in the decathlon and held the school record. After college, Jimmy went on to place 4th at the 1987 Pan American Games and 26th in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, competing for his birth country, El Salvador. He has continued to stay engaged with the sport he loves by serving as a volunteer track and field coach.
Jimmy married his wife Leanne in 1986. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.
Connect with Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado and Compassion International online: