Laughing WIth A President

I don’t know if they’re hiring, but I’d like to apply for the job of chapel worship leader guy at Compassion International headquarters.  On Friday I was honored to lead the folks at Compassion in some singin’ during a special chapel service celebrating the one millionth child sponsored.

Maybe it was the larger than usual crowd – at least 800 people.  Maybe it was having something so momentous to celebrate.  Or maybe Compassion hires a lot of Pentecostals.  I don’t know what it was, but these people were very loud and very fun.

So loud that I couldn’t hear my monitors over their singing.

So fun that I was far more sarcastic than usual. And before noon even!

It’s no secret I’m a bit of a fan of Compassion’s president, Wess Stafford.  I got to travel with him to Ethiopia a couple years ago and to know him better.  He’s an engaging storyteller – animated, witty, moved or amused as if he’s never told his tales before.  He’s an inspiring guy – very smart and with quite the resume but never self-promoting or behaving the least bit entitled or even aware of his own stature.  Best of all, he doesn’t take himself too seriously – or me either.

I can’t stand being introduced at a concert or other gig with a list of my so-called accomplishments, or by someone reading from a record company-generated bio that greatly exaggerates my abilities and worth.  It’s painfully embarrassing. Incredibly awkward.  It feels – and I don’t know why – wrong.

Wess knows this about me.  Or maybe he feels the same way sometimes. I was so relieved when, after introducing me with a few kind words, he unleashed his full wit with a solid sarcastic jab.  He told the story of how he spoke at Northwestern University a few months back – for a few days – and not a single child was sponsored.  Then I came the day after he left the school and over a hundred kids were sponsored.  He did all the work, he said, but I got all the credit.  He threw his hands up in feigned disgust with me and stormed off the stage.  It was much funnier in person than in text, I swear.

Of course, I retaliated, not sure how the folks at Compassion would like me taking a shot at their revered leader. But thankfully they laughed. They laughed hard. As hard as they sang.

I might be reading too much into all this but I wonder if it says something profound about the folks who gathered for chapel Friday morning.  Wess, even though he’s their president, was not the focus of celebration.  He said very little.  There was no standing ovation or tribute to him of any kind.  There was no credit given to him for one million children being sponsored.  Instead, everyone within Compassion celebrated one another and their God who is greater than poverty.  Obedient sponsors were cheered.  Marketers, spokespeople, donors, board members, project workers, every employee – these folks shared equally in recognition.  It was a truly egalitarian affair – no one and no one’s efforts more appreciated than another’s.

Oh, I know there are folks who revere Wess and other leaders at Compassion.  I know.  I know. But these leaders don’t seem to revere themselves.  And that’s astounding.  If ever there was a group of leaders who have accomplished something extraordinary, who would be given a pass for patting themselves on the back just this once, it would be these guys.

Instead, we laughed. At each other. With each other.

And we sang.  To the only one worthy of praise.


By the way, here’s the best Compassion-related video ever created…in my opinion – shown for the first time at the chapel service.

More from me on Wednesday.