History & Leadership

The Mission to Children began corporately back in 1963 in Canada and 1972 in the United States. Our charity’s mission: teaching and training others in the ways of Jesus Christ, was mandated 20 centuries ago by the will of God. Mission to Children began with Dr. J.D. Carlson, a dedicated pastor who utilized his enthusiasm for the Gospel and his pastoral teaching ministry as a platform to love and help orphans. The ministry continued through the faithful integrity and teaching of Dr. James Cunningham. Today, the light continues glowing brightly through the Mission to Children.

In 1999, Jan’s and my decision that I accept the responsibility of leading the Mission to Children was huge for us. It required that I step aside from leading a successful company.

On the other hand, Mission to Children would bring me back to my cross-cultural roots. I am a “third-culture kid” from Bolivia where my parents, Bud and Freida Garmo, served as missionaries with New Tribes Mission. Those years taught me to enjoy and move comfortably among various cultures and environments.

Back to my cross-cultural roots

My boyhood experiences in Bolivia were excellent preparation for today’s collaboration with people around the world for God’s glory. He also broadened me through study at and graduation from Moody Bible Institute, Biola University, California State University at Los Angeles, and University of Washington in Seattle.

Jan and I prayed and talked. We sensed that God wanted us to take this challenge. As John Shedd wrote (Salt from My Attic, 1928), “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Kingdom impact

One of the questions God seemed to ask was, “Which means more to you: size or impact?” We saw the Mission to Children as a strategic way to increase our direct ministry impact, and deepen our relationship with Him. It would also give us the privilege of helping to fulfill Mission to Children’s ministry goals and apply Hebrews 10:24—stimulate the upward & outward relationships and impact of thousands more around the world. It was an excellent fit with Jan’s and my spiritual gifts. In short, it was as if God had trained and equipped me over many years to serve as the next leader of the Mission to Children.

A difficult decision: pay the radio stations or help children in crisis

During my first several years at the helm, I enjoyed and embraced the radio ministry across North America begun under Dr. J.D. Carlson’s leadership several decades earlier. It was very sobering at the end of 2002 when we, the Board of Directors, voted unanimously to set aside radio indefinitely.

God honored that courageous board decision. Almost immediately we experienced two good results. First, without its privileged-but-demanding radio ministry in North America, Mission to Children became more focused than ever on international ministry, particularly to children in crisis. Second, Mission to Children’s financials went from red ink to black.

The root of transformation: cultivating Christlike character values

Just weeks after that decision, God began opening doors that gave Mission to Children the opportunity and the mandate to give significant attention to perhaps the most important factor in the life of a child (of any age): the values that take root in his or her heart. Those chosen values are what we mean by the word “character” and they are core features of “agape” as that term is used throughout the New Testament. (See, for example, 1 Corinthians 13.)

In 2003 God led us to develop what is now a subsidiary known as Character Solutions International. Our teaching team includes capable trainers from North & South America, Africa, Europe, and South Asia. By God’s grace we have team-taught Character Solutions in countries such as Bolivia, Egypt, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Lithuania, Romania, South Africa, and Thailand.

Our Cultivating Character lesson series has been presented to more than one million people on five continents. What a privilege it is to help leaders, adults who influence children, and those children themselves! Our vision for Character Solutions is to reach 1% of the world by 2020: 70 million children, youth, and adults.

To date, God has blessed Jan and me with 45 years of marriage, three beloved children, and six charming grandkids. Therein lies my own greatest character challenge: cultivating Christlike “agape” that honors our heavenly Father and inspires each member of my precious family to do likewise.

As I view the present, and envision the future God desires for the Mission to Children, I am thankful for the privilege of this responsibility. When people ask how I am, I often respond, “Up to my knees in challenges—and up to my heart in thankfulness.”

Alleluia—In all of our doing, may Jesus Christ be praised!

John “Skip” Garmo, PhD