Mark Yeadon, senior vice president of Compassion International’s global program, grew up in a family of 15 children. Of those, two were adopted. Those two were disabled and biracial, which was “NOT cool” in the 1970s, Yeadon said. He has been married 31 years, and he and his wife have four grown children. Yeadon shared his feelings on faith and his personal mission with Compassion with the Business Journal this week.
How did you get started with Compassion?
I’ve been with Compassion 30 years. I actually started in finance, and only lasted two years there. I went overseas after two years. I lived seven years in South America, Quito, Ecuador, with Compassion. Came back here 20 years ago and have been leading the global program for 20 years. Everything that’s design, development, evaluation of Compassion’s programs around the world, running the operations, fixing the messes when they blow up around the world.
Describe your relationship with God.
I grew up in a Catholic home, with very strong believing parents. Everything in our family was about the local Catholic church, which also had a school, so I had 12 years of Catholic schools. You’ve heard all the horror stories, but they weren’t that bad. I was probably worse on the nuns than they were on me. I really was struggling with my own sense of — where is my faith? I joined the Air Force, and I met my wife there. We got married in Denver, and about 18 months afterward, we were pregnant. Both of us came back to this question: When you’re a parent, what do you do? We were drawn back to the church. Now we look back and say that was the Holy Spirit doing work in our lives. We came back to faith.
Since then, the church has been an integral part of our lives. Not only the church, but more than the church, it’s been our own ongoing sense as followers of Jesus. As a follower, you grow, and you grow in ways of the one you follow in a faith journey. We have four kids and nine grandkids. They’re all followers of Jesus. The whole ethos as a family is followers of Jesus. We’re also called as followers of Jesus to be a reflection of God’s love, and love is only found in tangible ways. When you manifest that love, it’s always tangible. It could be a kind word. It could be a cup of cold water. A note of encouragement, reaching out to the homeless, volunteering at the food kitchen. It’s always tangible. We work in all those tangibles.
What drives you?
I grew up in a family of 15 total, 13 natural, two adopted. Same parents. Our parents have always very much given to the poor, children and the local church. What drives me is that — that’s what I grew up with. It’s what we did. To those that were given much, much was expected. There’s always somebody needier than you, and it’s always helpful to reflect on the needs of others. It somehow makes you feel better. Maybe somehow your problems aren’t as bad. Basically, that was our lifestyle, the richness of it, the sense of fulfillment. We were a crazy household, always had kids.
Your family also hosted foster children.
We were an emergency foster household for the state of Indiana. Any time there were kids in high risk abusive situations, we would get a call, and they were typically teenagers. They all had one thing in common — they all had gone through some form of trauma. We had an autistic 8-year-old boy, to abused teenagers. Any sort of abuse — physical, emotional, sexual — they’d get dropped off in our home and they’d stay anywhere from two weeks to 18 months. That was on top of the ongoing child-rearing.
Tell me about your adopted siblings.
Ultimately, we got two kids my parents wanted to adopt. They thought, who would be the most needy? Who would be how Compassion describes it — who would be the neediest within our reach? This was in the early ’70s, and my parents adopted two biracial kids. And back in the ’70s, that was NOT cool. And they both had physical handicaps. So within our context, that was the neediest within our reach. The youngest and the third-youngest are adopted and they’re biracial. But they’re in the family.
Tell me about your relationship with Compassion.
Compassion is an outstanding way of manifesting that love of Jesus. The other part about Compassion is that it’s our biblical mandate. All of what Compassion does comes from a biblical framework — our strategies, our beliefs, our principles, our values, would all be a reflection of a biblical framework. Everything we do — why we work with children, why we work with a local church, why we engage sponsors and donors, to engage them in developing world countries, all comes from a biblical framework.