Q: What positions have you held with GAiN since you started 20 years ago?
A: I’ve been with GAiN for just over 20 years. I started with GAiN as the Director of Operations. That was back in July of 2001. My role was not very different to what I was doing recently but the difference is GAiN was very small at that time, basically a start-up. With a change in leadership at GAiN in 2003, my title was changed to Chief Operations Officer to better reflect my role in relation to the new CEO and organizational structure of GAiN globally.
Q: What drew you to GAiN and what keeps you here? What motivates you to continue?
A: I loved the vision of GAiN, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and demonstrate the love of God in ‘word and deed’ to hurting and needy people. When I stepped into the role, I knew right away that God had prepared me for it. My relationship with Jesus Christ has shaped me into who I am today and all I do flows out of that relationship. My cultural background (having grown up as a third-culture kid) and life experiences have prepared me well to serve cross-culturally. I know first-hand what it means to be displaced and to be a refugee (having lived through an invasion). I’ve always had a heart of compassion to reach out to people, whether it’s in the context of home and hospitality or beyond. My experiences in the corporate world equipped me well to oversee and manage the operations of a business. GAiN seemed like a natural fit! I got to use my skills, live out my faith, serve God and people and daily see lives being touched through simple acts of compassion and the redeeming power of Jesus.
Q: How did growing up in Kuwait shape who you are today and give you the experiences that brought you to where you are now?
A: When you’re in it, you don’t think about it. You reflect back on your experiences and then you realize the handprint of God on your life. I grew up in a loving church-going family in Kuwait. Life was good but because we were from India (with a Western ‘Christian’ name), and Christians living in a Muslim country, I noticed that there were subtle racial prejudices and discrimination. My experience, growing up in a large expatriate society and church community, gave me a deep appreciation for people of other ethnicities, religions and cultures. After living in India for five years, through university and a successful business venture, I returned to Kuwait. I started a career in a multinational company and it was during this time that Kuwait was invaded by Iraq.
Moving to Canada was a journey of faith. My wife Madhvi and I sensed it was time to leave our comfort zone in Kuwait and move on to other things, not knowing what the future had in store, but knowing that He held our future in His hands. God does allow anything to go to waste. If you are willing to follow Him and be used by Him, He will use every experience and lesson to equip you for ‘your good and His glory’. Every experience that I’ve had in life has shaped me to be used by the Lord in ministry and have a deeper understanding and empathy for people living through crisis and calamity.
Q: How has this experience helped you relate to the people that we work with in the field?
A: Fast forward to November 2014 in the country of Jordan where GAiN was working with its local partner to support Syrian refugees who were escaping the violence from the Syrian civil war. In a small border town, at the local church, we had invited 100-150 families to receive a hot meal and care packages.
So we’re sitting at the front of the church and our partner leans over to me and says, “Aaron, you have to get up and talk to these people. If anyone can reach these people today, you can because you have lived what they are living today as a refugee. They need to hear your story about redemption and restoration.”
That was the first time in 24 years that I publicly shared my story of being a refugee. I shared my story, and tried to relate it to what they were going through and how I understood what they were going through. You could see the body language of some of the men, how it was changing. They were sitting up and leaning forward in their chairs to listen closely. I was, of course, speaking through a translator. I shared my journey of fear, despair and then hope and how today God restored me so many times over. That day, I believe God used my story to give a measure of hope to people who were desperate. Many men and women – mostly men – shook my hand, some of them hugged me and thanked me for the hope that I gave them that day.
Q: Can you share a lesson you’ve learned from your international humanitarian work?
A: If I could say one thing, I would say, don’t use the word ‘proud.’ We have stayed on the straight and narrow to help fulfill the mission we believe God has called Global Aid Network to, that we helped develop back in the early days. Because we stayed true to that calling, God has blessed our ministry and continues to bless it. We have stayed committed to ‘demonstrating God’s love in word and deed’. Today, we use new language like ‘revealing hope and restoring life’ in the context of Integral Mission but the mission has not changed. God’s Word is our guiding light and scriptures like Matt. 22:36-40, 25:31-45, 28:18-20, Isaiah 58, James 1:27, 2:14-26, Micah 6:8, 2 Cor. 5:11-21 and Col. 3:17 are our marching orders.
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing with GAiN?
A: If I could say one thing, I would say, I would not want to use the word “proud,” but I believe in my heart that we have stayed true to the mission that God has called us to. We have stayed true and on the straight and narrow for the vision and mission God has given Global Aid Network, that we helped develop back in the early days. Because we stayed true to that calling, God has blessed our ministry and continues to bless it.
I am always blown away and amazed at the generosity of people. We are not a perfect organization, we have our challenges. I was talking to a potential donor yesterday and I said to him, you know there are many organizations out there that are probably doing much better work than us. But what you have to decide as a donor and investor is what are your values? If one of your key values at the end of the day is to make Christ known, then that is one of our distinctives. We don’t do just do word or deed, we do it together. And so, when you look for organizations that do that together, very quickly the playing field narrows down. Sometimes it’s very easy to just focus on the one, which is the deed part because it’s so much more tangible and easier to do. But I believe that GAiN has stayed true to what we believe has been the calling that God has given us as an organization and that is why He has continued to bless it. You know what, I feel proud about that. I really do.
Q: What can we expect for the future of GAiN?
A: The pandemic has affected us in many ways. During this season, in-person meetings and events have been very restricted, which has changed the ways we connect with ministry partners and donors. We know the importance of connecting with ministry partners and donors, so this is a top priority. Our desire is to continue to build strategic partnerships to have an even greater impact for the kingdom.
We are also focused on
- implementing our Water for Life Initiative 2030 Vision and adding even more Community Ministry Teams to work alongside villages
- expanding into new geographical locations so that we can reach the unreached and unengaged people groups
- providing even more opportunities for women to live dignified and redemptive lives through income-generating activities through our Economic Empowerment strategy
- growing our resources and systems for our Disaster Relief and Preparedness strategy
We want to move forward, staying committed to the vision of GAiN, to see ‘a world with flourishing communities, where people are physically, spiritually and emotionally thriving’ while keeping our eyes and ears open to where God will lead and direct us.