I'm not much of a reader, but I have read Max
Lucado's Facing Your Giants probably the most times in my
life. It's the story of David, and usually I read it when I need to
get my priorities sorted out, and get my life centred on God again
rather than myself.
I was born in Inverness, in a Christian home. I
was the youngest of three children, and attended the gospel hall. I
gave my heart to Jesus at the age of 12, and was baptised when I
was 15. In 1987, I married my wife, Rona.
If you look at David, a shepherd boy who ended
up as a king, he had two ways of operating: God-centred - like in
the Goliath meeting - and times when he was self-reliant and made a
mess of things. He was a great king and warrior, wrote the Psalms,
was known as a man after God's own heart, and had eight wives, 19
sons, and a daughter - yet on his deathbed, he was all alone. That
struck me in the last six months. If he'd stopped and looked back
at his life, did he invest it well? Did he live wisely? And I asked
myself what I was doing with my life.
I was 50 when I was made redundant, and we
asked each other at home, do we want to do the same things again?
We prayed, and . . . you have to be careful what you pray for.
I wasn't sure I wanted to go back to industry,
but rather invest my energy in practical Christianity. I've ended
up in Mission Direct in a role that directly helps those less
fortunate than ourselves.
Mission Direct is a Christian charity. Its
vision is to free people from physical and spiritual poverty. It
runs relays of two-week, self-funded volunteer mission trips in 13
of the world's poorest countries, and assists in providing clean
water and building new homes, classrooms, and medical clinics. Over
ten years, 3000 people aged between seven and 89 have volunteered.
It's had a massive positive impact on the lives of thousands of
people around the world.
I joined this incredible organisation as the new chief
executive, responsible for growing the number of people we
serve, delivering and sustaining support, and being a good steward
on behalf of our supporters.
If you were going to go on a trip, you'd meet
the team before for an orientation day. When you got there, you'd
typically spend the mornings on a building project. In the
afternoons, we'd take you to see some of the partners - orphanages
or clinics - and also we'd have a time of relaxation: going on
safari, for instance. We want you to meet the communities and do
some work, but you also need some holiday as well.
This is practical Christianity with its sleeves rolled
up, helping those in need with the minimum of bureaucracy.
It has a double impact: a huge, positive impact on people that are
helped overseas with homes, health, water, and education; and also
on those that help. It opens their eyes to a world-view. So the
more people we can get involved in volunteering, the more people
One thing that changes lives and cultures is
education. We do a lot of work in building classrooms
overseas. We also take teachers out to help train teachers there. I
visited two schools in Uganda, and asked the local government
people who look after education what help they need. They sent us
to a new school we hadn't worked with before. I saw 203 children in
one classroom - and 42 happened to be absent that day.
I'd never seen anything like that. That means
education by rote, because there's no space for books. The children
could only listen. They were hugely well-behaved: they always stand
up for visitors and say: "You are welcome." In Primary 5, there
were 275 kids. The headmistress said she needs staff accommodation,
because "it's a rural school, and there's no point giving me
classrooms if I have no teachers." Termites had eaten the beams
holding the teachers' house roof up. There are 1400 children there,
and no water in the school either; so this summer we're going to
build her some staff accommodation, and dig a well.
I bring my engineering and business skills to the
organisation. I was the vice-president and managing
director of Lockheed Martin's business in Ampthill.
I read electronic engineering for eight years at
university, and intended to go into industry for ten
years, and then back to academia. But I went to the Isle of Wight
for my first job, where I started work as an antenna-design
engineer, and I loved it. My career broadened, and I took on
It's about ten years since I've done hands-on
engineering work. In 1997, we moved to Essex, where I
worked for both Marconi and Raytheon Engineering. We moved back to
Edinburgh for a year, and then back south again to St Neots, where
I worked for both CurtissWright and Lockheed Martin, running their
I did most of my school education in Inverness and
Edinburgh, and had the privilege of Scottish university
for eight years. I'd urge anyone to get a good education. I've also
reinvested back in education, creating visiting professorships in
I worked in the defence and aerospace industry
since I started my engineering career, 25-plus years ago. I guess
it was natural to want to run a company that provided great
equipment to our Armed Forces.
When I look at the men and women who are willing to risk
their lives for their country, I'm proud to give them the
best equipment I possibly can. We've seen so much about the First
World War on TV recently, when nearly a million UK citizens were
killed. In Afghanistan, where our forces have been for ten years,
it's less than 500 UK citizens, and a lot of that is down to
We live in a democratic country, where our
Government makes the decision to send our forces to fight, of
course. The defence industry has no say in that.
A variety of business and Chris-tian leaders have
influenced me throughout my life. It is hard to pick just
one, but the Bible character that has a big impact on me is King
I like the sound of the sea and the waves
breaking. It reminds me that we are not in control, and
that God is. Yes, I guess CEOs are in control of things. As human
beings, we like to think we're in control - but when I stop, I know
that God's in control.
We've moved away from believing in God - look
at the debates over Cameron's comments about being a Christian
society. But I also believe that God is a God of order, and expects
us to work, to make plans, and get on with things.
I've travelled a lot. I like visiting new
places and new cultures.
I don't get angry often. Usually it will be
associated with someone being bullied.
Yes, I pray regularly. Asking me what I pray
for most is a hard question: it's like asking, "What do you talk to
your dad about most?" But probably requesting wisdom and
I'd choose to be locked in a church with King
David, and I'd ask him what advice he would give about how
to live. He lived a colourful life.
Alan McCormick was talking to Terence Handley