Jim Mellado, President of the Willow Creek Association

Jim Mellado, President of the Willow Creek Association

Talks About Why Sponsorship Is Important to His Family

Jim Mellado (far right), president of Willow Creek Association

Jim Mellado is president of Willow Creek Association, responsible for providing overall leadership to staff and volunteers and helping accomplish WCA's purpose of maximizing the life-transformation effectiveness of local churches. He has been with the Willow Creek Association since 1992, and has served as its president since 1993.

Why was it so important to you to teach your children about other countries and cultures?

Because my father was involved in engineering and construction projects, I grew up living around the globe, mostly in the developing world. I lived in seven different countries, surrounded by poverty. My perspective from childhood was very global, very diverse.

But my children are growing up in a very different environment than I did. They’re growing up in suburbia, in a nice house, with nice schools, malls, access to technology. Not only have they never known what it’s like to be hungry, but they’ve never really even seen suffering and pain in their daily lives. Frankly, that’s a bit of a liability to overcome. I don’t want my children to grow up with a sense of entitlement.

How has Compassion helped you to foster that global perspective in your children, including your daughter Elisabeth (Bizzy)?

My wife and I did a lot with our children to help them think globally. We made sure they each learned another language, and we took them on trips to other countries. Bizzy even did an immersion program in Chile, and loved it.

But one thing that was lacking was any kind of relationship with someone from another country or another culture. So when I ran across Compassion through my work at Willow Creek, I remembered that my family used to sponsor children. And I just thought, My goodness, why haven’t we done that with our children?

One night, I got together the family and each of our children picked out a child to sponsor. I wanted them to choose their children, to find that child to have a relationship with. I didn’t want it to be something that my wife and I were responsible for. I wanted this to be something the children ran with, something they could have a level of ownership over.

How has sponsorship affected your children?

It’s been amazing to see each of my children take responsibility, to build these relationships and care for their sponsored children.

My son’s Facebook picture is a photo of him and his sponsored child. My daughter Esther has taken over the monthly sponsorship, as has my daughter Bizzy. I’ve never had to be on them to write letters or pray for their sponsored children. They have owned it, and I have been so proud of them for that.

It was amazing to watch them each interact with their sponsored children when we were able to visit them in Guatemala. Bizzy, specifically, had a heartbreaking situation with her sponsored child, who had a terrible situation at home. I watched Bizzy carry a burden for that child and for her family. It broke Bizzy’s heart, which was difficult to watch, but amazing to see her care so deeply.