Steve Haas, Senior Engagement Leader at World Vision US, shares his thoughts on “ripple effects” and how one particular ripple led to him befriending two Olympians.
4word: Tell our readers a little about yourself and what drew you to World Vision.
Steve: Before joining World Vision as a staff member, I had the privilege of seeing World Vision, what Christianity Today once called the “Behemoth of Benevolence,” in operation on several continents over a number of years. In each instance, I was quite taken with their commitment to the Jesus way of love. I was also drawn by their professional programmatic approaches and respect for the poor they came alongside. When they offered a job, I tried unsuccessfully to turn it down thinking that they would be better off with me remaining a giver to the organization than someone who raised resources under their employ. Delightfully, today I get to do both.
This year I am an official “empty nester” with our last child matriculating at Whitman College here in Washington. I love hanging with my now 4 kids (one was married earlier in July), endurance sports and the fact that I get to live in the Pacific Northwest.
4word: When you say that “all of us are under orders to live out loud,” what do you mean?
Steve: There is this general misunderstanding that all aspects of our faith need to be private. It is as though there is an unwritten social rule that politics and business can be public conversation but, for anything pertaining to faith, this thing that connects to the core of who we really are, that needs to be kept under lock and key, consigned to the closet. Really?
Certainly, this can be true with reference to one’s own, often deeply held, spiritual convictions. I spent a number of years leading a national faith-based movement in support of a person’s right to exercise their conscience in the face of very real government persecution, predominantly on behalf of international Followers of Jesus experiencing persecution because of their faith (think government crackdowns on Chinese House Churches, imprisonment of Iranian pastors, arrests of Evangelicals in Myanmar, etc.)
At the same time though, our faith, in the normal expression of daily life, was always meant to be lived with a watching world in view. As Jesus followers, we are supercharged by an active divine presence (the Spirit) and directed moment by moment by a living Lord. Jesus was clear that what people see in you being uniquely you, which is what happens when led by the One who made us, they see that One more clearly. Jesus said it best when he compared the public outworking of our faith in service to others as lights that were never meant to be hidden, but well positioned so that people can see more clearly (Matthew 5:16). When the world sees this, they see God’s creative handiwork in action. The object of that handiwork is “YOU!”
4word: Share with us your thoughts on the “ripple effect” of leaving ourselves obedient to God and His plans for us.
Steve: There is no such thing as an empty gesture when we become objects of God’s choosing. We in effect put resources in play that are then used by God that are far beyond our control or ability to totally comprehend. Following his prompt to act is like tossing a stone into a still pool. You might be able to control whether the stone is released from your hand, but once it makes it hits the water, little can be done to control the resulting ripples. The fact that none of us truly knows the impact of this other-directed lifestyle, nor controls how this process actually works, is both humbling and awesome at the same time. What is equally sobering is that our lack of action and obedience can also have an effect, often taking us out of communion with what God is doing in a certain place and with certain people.
God’s Plan A is using the ordinary likes of you and me in joining Him in his activity in the world. It really matters little as to a person’s relational, political, religious or ancestral pedigree, as God uses any and all willing to avail themselves to do his work. Some of God’s best work is using those no one would expect to be of use and infusing them or their actions with his power. It is one of the hallmarks of his activity, using persons often overlooked to serve as leading players in his work in the world. I see this practically every day in our work with the poor in the ministry of World Vision.
4word: With the Olympics about to begin, talk to us about your relationships with a couple of athletes familiar to the 4word family.
Steve: I remember vividly our World Vision International president asking if I might follow up with Diane Paddison and a young Olympic Track runner, formerly from South Sudan. Representing an organization that is heavily indexed developmentally in Sudan, and with a background in endurance sports myself, made the connection to Lopez Lomong a natural. I oversaw our organization’s design of a series of promotional tools so that he could both tell his story well and raise funds for those suffering in his birth home. You could call that initial stone dropped into the pond the call with Diane.
One of the initial ripples was connecting with Team World Vision, which at the time was a budding endurance charity raising considerable funds for the purpose of providing clean water internationally. That ripple led to a connection with the leaders of the Hood to Coast (H2C) Relay and what many call the “mother of all relays.” From that point forward, you might call that particular wave from Diane’s initial call a tidal wave, as Lopez’s notoriety and that of some of his teammates and friends led many motivated relay runners to join us and raise over $1.5 million dollars for clean water in the last three years from that one event alone.
One of the athletes that he invited to join us at H2C was Decathlon World Record Holder and Olympic Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton. Ashton’s experience with some of our staff and the stories of communities impacted by our development model intrigued him. He and his wife Brianne Theisen, an Olympic Heptathlete for Team Canada, traveled to Africa earlier in the year. The publicity surrounding his experience, especially in this Olympic year, is unleashing an untold number of ripples around the world inviting others to join in the continuation of God’s active work with the poor.
It started with Diane sharing a dais with an Olympic athlete in Portland and doing what she does so well: meeting people, listening to their story and finding ways to connect others. In some sense, she was doing what is most naturally “her.” It was hardly extraordinary that she was being faithful to follow a prompt to call someone about her experience. That is what Diane is, a people connector. That is what Diane does. It’s obvious this ripple isn’t exhausted… God seems to be the only one who knows where this all will end up.
4word: Thinking about the “ripple effect” and living our lives out loud, what are your thoughts on mentorship? Is it something that’s impacted you directly?
Steve: The “grand” variety of life experiences I’ve been blessed with is a key indicator that the Lord was aware I love diversity and environmental challenges and changes. Should any of us be surprised when the Creator matches up experiences to match the personality of any one of his creations?
Because of that, I often reflect that I am the world’s greatest debtor for all those who have operated by these divine invitations to action and shared of themselves with me in some way. The list is actually too numerous to even enumerate. Coaches who shared not only athletic action plans and training schedules but daily lessons in obedience, most importantly when it was clear that no one was actually watching. Jesus followers who have served me when the results were not in their favor nor was there any clear reward of personal gain for doing so. Colleagues who have whispered wisdom or challenged me to take a different tact or recognize a shadow side to my character.
The investments in my life have been substantial and regular and it is this witness of God’s goodness that has seen me through a number of personal and occupational trials. The curious part is that many of these “mentors” would be confused if I stated that this is what they were to me. For them, this expression of faithfulness, either directly or indirectly touching me, was simply them living their lives in accordance with what they felt God was calling them to. For them, there was nothing special in their execution of any task as servants don’t typically make a big deal out of anything they were told to do. The sense that they are living out what they are meant to do and be has been fulfilling enough and a massive encouragement for me to do the same.
4word: What would you like to leave our readers with today?
Steve: Anyone can initiate a ripple. Too often we are stymied by a sense of fear or inferiority, the fact that we are unskilled or practiced in this form of daily obedience to the prompts God puts before any one of us. We miss incredible opportunities to be in the center of God’s evolving goodness because we think someone else will do something, another person will toss that particular stone into the pool when in fact it was ours to deliver.
Obviously, there are good actions and bad ones. The immobilization created by uncertainty can also keep us from acting, as each of us knows the impact of an abusive comment or conflictual action that unleashes a cascading set of debilitating actions down the line. That is all true, but if we don’t move and experiment in obedience we will never really know the experience of coming under God’s guidance and freeing ourselves to be an instrument of His creative plan both for ourselves and perhaps more importantly, for those other ripples, those extensions, the innumerable people down the line that God wishes to reach through you.
It begins with one… anyone of us can be that one.
Are you creating ripples in your life? Have you been on the receiving end of a ripple? As Steve said, anyone can initiate a ripple. Make sure it’s a positive one!
Do you feel called to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? The 4word Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the upcoming fall session. Visit the Mentor Program website today and submit your online application by September 2, 2016!
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Steve Haas is a spokesperson for World Vision’s worldwide humanitarian work, with a role that includes working with church leaders, organization strategic planning and communicating about global issues that affect the poor. His leadership has helped to engage and mobilize Americans on a variety of global crisis situations. He has addressed audiences of virtually every type, size, and denominational background. His expertise and zeal have won him interviews with CNN, Christianity Today, The New York Times. He makes his home in Tacoma, WA.