Interview with World Relief's Sammy Mah

God works in mysterious ways, and this can be seen in the story of Sammy Mah, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals’ World Relief. Mah, who worked as an executive of General Motors for 27 years, joined the World Relief team after he felt a calling of God. Bringing with him the skills of the business world, Mah has worked to integrate best business practices into the humanitarian field.

CP: A full year has passed since you began leading World Relief. How would you summarize the developments during that time?

Kingdom Collaboration

Mah: I came from almost 28 years of General Motors. In the auto industry, you will hear things of joint ventures and mergers happening all the time, even between people you might consider competitors.

This all happens because they want to improve their bottom line. However, in the humanitarian Christian world, this kind of collaboration is difficult to find. As I think of the Lord looking at His big Kingdom, I sense that He must be disappointed in us because we seem more concerned about our “little k” kingdoms than about the “big K” Kingdom.

We have been embracing the thought that this is the time where we must collaborate and work together as a true body. Until we figure that out, I can’t sense that the Lord can do more with us. Perhaps this is the richest Christendom that has existed in history, but because we are looking at our “little k” kingdoms in isolation, we are not able to do more. If we can put our act together, we can take on the job He has put on to us to give hope for the hopeless. We can do this a lot better if we do not worry about whose T-shirt is being worn and who gets the credit.

I think that’s the strongest thing that we’ve taken in. This is something we need to work on.

World Relief Work – Past, Present, Future

A key part for us and our ministry is working with refugees and immigrants. This dates back to World World II, where, at that time, World Relief worked with immigrants. We now do this across 23 cities across the U.S. And our desire was to make sure our voice on behalf of these people were heard. That is how we drafted our position paper and offered it as a thought document to those who may be like-minded.

In the next coming few years, the baby boomer generation will be entering where they are thinking about what they really want to do. I forsee that more and more of those people will come and join in humanitarian work.

Integrating the Business Model

This will be such an exciting time because we will be able to integrate what we did in the business world in this humanitarian work. It will help us use the skills the Lord gave us to expand His Kingdom.

In the business world, there is a thing called metrics that help measure what we are doing. The humanitarian world is filled with good people, but there is no system to measure how you are doing. Without the business thought process, this measurement system does not enter.

The final piece is in financial responsibility and tracking. This system allows you to measure your financial tracking data from month to month, so you can look at where the organization is going financially on the monthly basis. These are things that are not of second nature to humanitarian organizations because, let’s face it, the leadership has been risen from the ranks of the people in the field. While those wonderful people know their programs, their natural inclination and skill set does not include business management. So I think that in the next few years more and more of baby boomers will enter the not-for-profit world, and this will serve us well.

Empowering the Church

I really have a great appreciation for the distinctive work of World Relief as an organization for empowering churches to be the Church. We work in concert with churches in the U.S. and indigenous churches by bringing those churches together to do the work that they do. It’s amazing, and I think it’s the way the Lord intended it to be.

We are really working on empowering the church to be alive and to be a part of this ministry, and it’s just exciting to see. I listen to some of the things that our church partners do, and their congregations come alive with a fervor to do more…. They see how integral they are to the real mission of the church.

A Tool for The Kingdom

I want to reinforce that the Christian humanitarian side is a different industry than the business industry. I don’t want people to think that we just need to copy the world of business, but I think it’s God-honoring to the Lord when we blend, because it provides a sense of doing things with more integrity and accountability. So my thought is that every day, I want to bring in the systems and processes that advance the Kingdom without forgetting that this is a business where we care so greatly about the people that we serve.

Immeasurable Support

When I was in General Motors, I rarely got a call from someone saying they were called by the Lord to encourage and pray for me. But now, I have some many staff from around the world saying that they received a call from the Lord to call me and send me a note of encouragement. Usually in the business world, it is something where you have to fix. But here, I can’t tell you the number of times where a brother or sister sent me a note just to send encouragement. This is something that I cannot measure, and something that I’m so thankful for.