SPRING LAKE — He wasn’t even interested in changing jobs.
But when a recruiter called last January wanting to know if he knew of anybody who might be interested in moving to West Michigan to run a Christian relief and development agency, Myles Fish began to listen. He later met with the recruiter while on a business trip to Grand Rapids.
From that meeting, which ended up lasting three hours, Fish concluded that perhaps the open position at International Aid in Spring Lake was for him.
“By the time it was done, I realized this was a situation I needed to look into. I just kept warming up,” said Fish, who early last month was named International Aid’s new president and chief executive officer.
Fish begins his new position later this month, coming from Prison Fellowship Ministries in Washington, D.C., a worldwide Christian outreach where he served for 17 years in a variety of positions, most recently as senior vice president of ministry services.
Although he wasn’t looking to leave Prison Fellowship Ministries, Fish found International Aid as offering a new professional opportunity in a Christian-centered organization whose needs matched his background, skills and interests.
“I just saw how closely aligned their mission is to what I’ve done my whole life. One thing led to another,” Fish said. “It ended up being a real positive for me, and hopefully for them.”
International Aid provided emergency relief, missionary assistance and medical aid valued at $83 million last year through its global outreach efforts. The agency this year alone has responded to earthquakes in El Salvador and India.
“It really is a way for West Michigan to reach out to the rest of the world,” Fish said.
The son of a Baptist minister, the 45-year-old Fish grew up moving from town to town, going through his high school years in New Jersey, before entering college. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in marine biology and immediately entered the Peace Corps, fulfilling a desire to help others through development work.
Fish was sent to Guatemala, where he worked for three years teaching people how to set up and cultivate fish farms. The experience, he said, had a major impact on his life.
“I developed a strong desire for working with the poor,” Fish said.
After leaving the Peace Corps, Fish enrolled in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., where he earned a master’s of divinity degree. It was during his years in the seminary, in 1984, that Fish became involved in Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Fish, who was ordained as a minister by the American Baptist Churches in 1986, traveled around the world during his 17 years at Prison Fellowship Ministries, which has operations in 88 countries worldwide.
While new to the area, Fish isn’t a stranger to Michigan. During a period when his family lived in Ohio when he was growing up, they vacationed often at Crystal Lake, near Frankfort.
Once he settles into his new role at International Aid, Fish’s initial goal is to broaden the agency’s support base around West Michigan, particularly within the business community, a source of support that “we’d be lost without,” he said.
He wants to assure that businesses and individuals that offer their support to International Aid continue to get something in return.
“I would hope we can increase the benefit to them, however they define ‘benefit,’” Fish said. “I like to think that everybody who has contact with International Aid is going to have a life- and spiritual-enhancing experience.”