Don’t forget to smile and have fun. It is easy to get caught up in either the big picture or in the details and miss the joy of what you are doing. This will affect the people around you.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Stewart.
Christina Stewart founded Impact Nations with her husband, Steve, in 2005. Based in Albuquerque, NM, Impact Nations is an organization committed to partnering with leaders in the developing world to rescue lives and transform communities through practical and supernatural expressions of the Kingdom of God.
With a passion for teaching, empowerment, and unleashing people’s potential to make a global impact for the Kingdom, Christina dedicates her energy to pastoring international partners and uplifting disadvantaged individuals by providing opportunities for lasting change.
In recent years, Christina’s focus has shifted towards rescuing women from prostitution, offering them restoration, healing, and a newfound sense of purpose in Jesus. She has been the Director of Journeys of Compassion since 2008, facilitating journeys to approximately 20 developing nations. These journeys empower others to make a difference by rescuing lives and transforming communities through initiatives such as medical clinics, water filter distribution, evangelism, and healing prayer. Christina has led teams into diverse and challenging environments, including prisons, garbage dumps, tribal villages, and urban slums.
In 2022, Christina assumed the role of Director of Women’s Development, further emphasizing her commitment to uplifting women in vulnerable situations and guiding them toward a brighter future. She welcomes any questions you may have regarding their mission and the transformation they are bringing to communities across the globe.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
For the most part, I would have to say that my career path chose me! I trained as a musician and teacher, but when I was focused on raising four boys, I assisted my husband Steve in church planting and pastoring, raising up volunteer leaders and releasing healing. When we started Impact Nations, I continued this pattern of helping where I could and discovered more about my organizational and leadership skills. In the current stage of my life, I feel called to empower the younger generations to lead in the rescue and restoration of people, which really is a core life value.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
In 2019, I was unexpectedly speaking to thousands of prisoners at Naivasha Maximum Security Prison in Kenya. I spoke to their regrets and hopelessness. The testimony from the chaplain the next day was that 984 men had made a decision to follow Jesus, and 543 said they believed that their battle with suicidal thoughts was won.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of our first Journeys of Compassion had a team of 60 people. A group was doing a construction project that arrived several days before the rest of the team. When I arrived at the hotel, the construction crew had finished their day’s project and were seated at a table that was entirely covered in beer bottles. Some of the new arrivals took offense to this party-like atmosphere. We learned that it was best to set a requirement that no drinking is allowed on JOCs, both for the sake of the team and the host, as this can be quite a divisive issue. (But we did allow ourselves a laugh behind closed doors as the optics were pretty funny).
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
The current leadership training I am doing in various districts in Uganda is changing how community leaders value and champion women and girls, affecting their protection, education, and future opportunities.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I have probably rescued thousands of women from prostitution. Each one of them is given the opportunity to heal and to learn new skills, both life skills and job training. I don’t always hear their stories of how their life was changed. Salome was rescued in Kenya and received training as a hairdresser. A year later, she had opened not only her own salon but had personally rescued 20 other women who opened eleven more salons. These women now had dignity, could pay their children’s school fees and were realizing their dreams for the future. When asked about the changes in their lives, one woman asked how you describe the difference between hell and heaven.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1. The biggest issue is men not valuing women and particularly using women’s bodies for their own satisfaction. The justice system criminalizing this behavior will change any society where it is enforced.
2. Exposing this criminal behavior and highlighting the consequences will enable women to feel safe to report their abusers.
3. Communities where girls feel safe to share their abuse and where there are safe houses to protect them, to help pregnant and poor women to birth their babies safely, and to enable them to continue their schooling will change future generations.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the ability of an individual or an organization to inspire, influence, guide, and empower others. A leader must be able to articulate a vision, set goals, solve problems, delegate, and help others to realize their best accomplishments. At this stage of my life, I find that encouraging those I am leading to ask me questions and draw out the wisdom from my life experiences is probably my most effective tool.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1 . At any stage, we can face our fears and learn new skills. When I became the Journey of Compassion Director, I was sure that I was not qualified to do the job. I had to learn to use the computer, speak in public and manage money, and I did.
2 . Be willing to admit you don’t know something and willing to ask for help. I had to choose not to feel ashamed and acknowledge that even if I had been taught something, I still needed help.
3 . Be willing to admit your mistakes. I realized that as a leader if I would acknowledge when I had been wrong, it gave permission for those I was leading to try, to make mistakes, to own them, and to try again.
4 . At the same time, don’t get overly confident; if you just rely on your track record, then you can become less than careful with details. Getting details wrong can cost time and money!
5 . Don’t forget to smile and have fun. It is easy to get caught up in either the big picture or in the details and miss the joy of what you are doing. This will affect the people around you.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Every single person is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value. If we could treat every person we encounter with this kind of acceptance, the world would be a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve been told at different times and by different people that “you don’t know who you are.” It helped me to expect more of myself, to aim higher, that being content didn’t mean I had to stick with the status quo, that I could accomplish greater things and have a lasting influence.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Christina Stewart of Impact Nations Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.