Rich Stearns is president emeritus of World Vision U.S. He joined World Vision as its president in 1998 after working for several Fortune 500 companies, including serving as president of Parker Brothers Games and Lenox. Donations tripled during his first decade as president, making World Vision U.S. a billion-dollar organization. He is the author of “The Hole In Our Gospel,” “Unfinished” and “Lead Like It Matters to God.” Stearns holds a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Poverty-focused international aid addresses a host of public health, disaster relief and food security issues, and promotes religious freedom and human rights. Though it is a very small portion of the U.S. budget, it is often on the chopping block.
In this podcast, you’ll hear NAE President Leith Anderson and Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., discuss:
- What is included in foreign aid and how the U.S. program got started;
- How foreign aid furthers the ministry of World Vision and other Christian organizations;
- What roles the government and churches should play in helping the poor; and
- How U.S. foreign aid compares to programs of other developed countries.
Rich also shares about his background in the corporate world — how it prepared him to lead World Vision U.S. — and his heart for mission.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Leith: I’ve had people say to me, and I’m sure you’ve had people say to you: “Well the United States has a huge debt. And we have continuing deficits, and so the debt’s getting bigger. Wait until we pay off all of our debts first, and then we’ll help somebody else.” How do you respond to that?
Rich: First of all, I think as we’ve said already, foreign assistance is such a small part of our budget and really a very vital and necessary part of our budget. We are not going to get out of debt by cutting back on foreign assistance.
So, this would be like if you had a family budget crisis, and you said, “We’re living way above our income. How can we solve our family budget crisis?” And you said, “I know, we’ll cut out toothpaste. We won’t buy toothpaste anymore, and that’ll help solve the problem.” Well, it wouldn’t really help solve the problem. It’s too small and too insignificant to really make a difference. And you’d end up with higher dental bills, because you’d start to get cavities, and there would be unintended consequences.
And I think the same is true of foreign assistance. It’s a vital program. If we severely cut it back, it would lead to other consequences in the world that would have far more expensive solutions to them, namely involving our military.
And I don’t think it’s good policy to balance our budget on the backs of the poor. There’s other ways that we can cut back on our government spending that don’t literally take the lives of innocent people around the world who have been helped by our U.S. foreign assistance. So, I just think there’s a little bit of fool’s gold there thinking that we can balance our budget by dramatic cutbacks on foreign assistance.
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Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Fuller Theological Seminary.