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What is World Vision's role now that even modest-sized churches (given e-mail and inexpensive travel) can make direct connections to do relief and development around the world?

There's a tendency to say, "This ain't rocket science. People are hungry; feed them." Well, the deeper you get into relief and development, you realize it is rocket science, because you are dealing with all kinds of social, cultural, political, and religious landmines. What have you really accomplished if you haven't gotten beneath the surface and started to wrestle with the root causes?

How can we limit the inevitable mistakes?

World Vision made every mistake you could possibly make in international development three times before 1965. I urge megachurches to get that expertise on their teams—hire it, partner with it—so when you begin your development programs, you're going to avoid many of those mistakes.

What's your opinion of the Global Fund?

Imagine if you're little Rwanda and you've got 15 funding nations all coming to you with different protocols, different reports required to get their AIDS money. It really overwhelms developing governments. The idea of the Global Fund was to better coordinate the aid. Now it's become a 16th institution, but it's pretty significant among the 16. President Bush's plan is only allocated to 15 countries. Global Fund is working in more than 130 countries.

Where do you stand on free distribution of condoms to fight HIV/AIDS?

We take the view that abstinence and being faithful are critically important, especially for youth. Condoms are kind of a last resort, but they are not the answer. We differ sometimes with some of our evangelical colleagues on the Religious Right who imply that condoms have no role to play ...

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Q&A: Richard Stearns
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October 2006

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