Q&A with Kelly Miller

How are you feeling about taking the reins of this 18-year-old organization?

Excited! There is a great God story to how this came together and truly a calling for me. It’s an honor to be asked to provide leadership into the next season of Cross International’s life, to learn from and grow the tremendous impact that Jim and the entire team here at Cross International have been leading all these years.

How will your background help you in meeting the challenges of your new role?

With God’s help, very well, I believe. This is such a good mutual fit. When we first began conversation about this position with the folks at Cross International, the alignment of both where and how Cross International has worked and where and how I have worked in international development leadership was so close. As we grow into the future, the experiences and dynamics of work that I’ve had in the for-profit sector will also be tapped into. Also, and most importantly, the desire to serve the poor in Christ’s name in ways that build up the local Church with our ecumenical partners is paramount. I love being a tool for God to use, to help our local partners achieve the mission God has given them. Cross International has that purpose, as I have had in the work I’ve done. We will continue this focus as a core value to our work.

You’re just getting started, but what are your priorities as you begin your work?

Foremost is to ask and listen. First and always is to seek wisdom from God for His continued direction for this ministry. From day one I want to get a good feel from our staff, our field partners, and our supporters about why they’re involved with Cross International, what they believe we are doing well and what we can improve on and/or put focus on. We’ll work hard to develop a strategic plan for the next season for Cross International which will include continuing with our strengths and will also look at broadening our programmatic impact. That could be centered around an “issue” focus (such as child trafficking or HIV/AIDS impacts) or around a “program” focus (such as education or orphan care). It’s going to be exciting to see where God leads us as we ask these questions.

Strengthening and broadening our partnerships will be critical too. That ranges from our many field partners around the globe, to our partners who support us financially and in prayer, and a strong emphasis to tell our story to new supporters asking them to partner with us in this exciting ministry and work. We have a unique opportunity to help many thousands of supporters here in the west not only provide financial and prayer support, but we also have the privilege and responsibility to be a bridge between them and those we serve abroad. We realize that people crave to “help,” but they also want to learn. Too often people who are interested to help just don’t know where to turn to and which organization they can rely on and trust. Cross International is a wonderful vehicle to be that bridge across cultures to impact lives in real and tangible ways, and for the sharing of the Gospel in Word and deed.

How will your faith impact the way you approach the challenges you’ll take on?

My faith is central to my why. As it is for all of us, each day is part of the journey to understand God more and to live for Him. I hope at age 58 I’m starting to learn more about “letting go” and letting God lead… He does it so much better than I do! My tendency is to be a fixer so I have to make a continual, daily, conscious effort to seek His direction rather than “just do it.” I think after experiencing many bumps in the road over the years, that the need for God’s leadership in all things at all times is simply the way to live.

What scripture verse helps and guides you in challenging times?

Galatians 2:20 is my home-base. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

This verse is so grounding for me, in the good and not so good. These words remind me of how transformational the Holy Spirit is in me and each of us who receive Christ into our lives. They remind me who’s in control (it’s not me!). They remind me that faith is trust and assurance of those things unseen. These are soothing words for me.

What is your general philosophy in serving the poor. In other words how do you approach such a massive problem in a meaningful way?

Mutual respect. Those two words have been embedded into my thinking about coming alongside the world’s poor for almost 30 years. I was in Bangladesh in early 1990 and while meeting with the leader of a local Christian organization he asked me “Kelly, truly, why are you here?” I was taken aback a bit by the question and responded with something like, “well, to help you all…” He smiled and gently grabbed my arm and said, “You know, yes, we appreciate and need the money that you all send as we cannot exist without it, but, really, what we really want is mutual respect. Not to be seen as needy beggars, but as God’s creation with talents and skills, and lives of possibility just like you.” I was stunned by his words. I just hadn’t thought that way. My mind-set had been in the “those poor people, I’m here to help” place. His words changed my view of the poor and how we with resources should interact with them. Indeed, we must view those called “the poor” with eyes of equality. Certainly, we with resources are called by God to share and help, but we should lead with a view of reciprocity. What can we learn from the world’s poor? Well, quite a lot. Especially about things like family, like values, like relationships. I can say without a doubt that every time I’ve worked in a developing country the people I’ve spent time with have taught me so much, and usually it’s been centered around the quality of relationships… the very reason God created me and you!

A second foundational aspect is to “be faithful.” Years ago when Mother Teresa was asked in the midst of overwhelming numbers of destitute people how she felt she would make an impact and be successful, she answered: “God doesn’t call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful.” And from there, you work one at a time. And at the time of that interview, back in the later 1980s, the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta had been “one-at-a-timing” tens of thousands of people! We at Cross International, are just one thread in the tapestry of His work around this world. We need to be faithful to that call and to impact lives one at a time.

A third foundational perspective is to avoid the “donor-receiver” mentality (this fits the mutual respect approach) and to structure our work in ways that not only take care of immediate needs (such as disaster response) but to build the ability of local partners to be self-sustaining in their ministry. It’s about them, not us. We don’t want to create a dependency model, but rather one that is based on partnership and migrates effective local control and capability.

How do you see Cross International as distinct from other organizations that serve the poor?

One of the main reasons I was first attracted to Cross International was its dedication to the idea of partnership, and how deep and wide that is in the organization. Now let’s be real, there are many Christian relief and development organizations which serve the world’s poor through partnerships, but Cross International has a depth and dedication to this that is rarely seen. First is its commitment to our local partners. We strive to work “in partnership” rather than simply providing some funds and then asking for a report. Second is our commitment to our supporters. One of our goals is for our supporters to not just feel, but to know that they are partners with us in ministry and impact. We strive to share information back and forth so each one knows they are connected to not only Cross International but also to every life this organization touches. We’ll continue to put a strong emphasis in this area.

What is your general philosophy in serving the poor. In other words how do you approach such a massive problem in a meaningful way?

There is a lot to be hopeful for! When we work with a mindset of being faithful (see Mother Teresa above) rather than being “successful” and trying to fix it all, that is very freeing. It allows us to dive into our work with our local partners and participate in work that is transformational for one person, one family, one village, one area at a time. I’ve experienced it so many times in places like Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, Jordan, Kosovo, Cambodia, and many others. It’s just simply being faithful to the call. When God allows you to do that, there is great joy and great hope.

We at Cross International are blessed with thousands of supporters who love our work and over the coming years, we hope to have many thousands more join us in this journey. Who wouldn’t be hopeful with all this!

As you came to learn about Cross International and its work, what made the deepest impression on you?

That we are one Body working together to serve the poor in the world. The ecumenical nature of Cross International in service, both abroad and in the United States helps lift the Lord on high. We are created to serve Him by serving others. I’m humbled and proud to be part of an organization that places these values so high.

What else is important to you that Cross International supporters know about you or your plans for the organization’s future?

Just how much I appreciate each and every one of our supporters. We simply cannot do this work without each one of you. You are an equal partner in this ministry. Also, if you have feedback for me, feel free to reach out to me directly. I’d love to hear from you. You may contact me at (954) 657-9000, extension 201.

In terms of the future, it’s exciting and bright. The fact is that our work will be needed well into the future and God is leading Cross International into its next season of life-impacting ministry. Over the coming months, through seeking His direction we will define how that work will look and continue to grow how we engage with all our partners. Please keep us in your prayers and join us in this ministry!