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GiANT Experiences!

Here is a story that ran in the Oklahoman on July 25, 2006.
It covers some of the fun things that Stephanie and I are doing with a close group of friends.
GiANT Experiences is an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit with a mission to awaken influential leaders to the difference they can make in the lives of people and causes as they discover a life of success and significance.
In 2002, GiANT Experiences founder Ray Sanders went on a trip to Malawi, Africa. There he became exposed to the needs of the developing world and discovered he wasn’t mean to just exist, but that he was created for a greater purpose, he said.
“The warm heart of Africa wrapped around me like a warm blanket, and I became a different person,” he said. “There were some very special people who had much less than I had, and I began to realize that I might be able to partner with them to make a difference in their communities.”
In a recent interview, Sanders described how a GiANT Experience is far from a simple adventure and more of an opportunity for extreme impact.
Q: Why did you decide to start GiANT Experiences?
A: For me, it’s motivated in my faith and the desire to make a difference; to love others as I have been loved. I’m a firm believer that, to whom much is given, much is required. That might be through finances, education, spiritual insight or a lot of other things.
My experience in 2002 kind of set me on a personal mission. Success without significance isn’t really success at all. A lot of times, people will ask what it is I do. Well, it really comes down to this. I wreck and I ruin. I’m motivated to wreck individuals and ruin the way they look at their lives and their companies and who they are, so that they won’t be so focused on themselves. They begin to learn that their life has purpose and meaning beyond just them.
Q: How did your initial experience change you?
A: It kind of fashioned my personal mission statement. My goal is to mobilize leaders to use their influence to impact the world for good — it drives me every day. Anybody that I meet or anybody that I get involved with, I want to be an encouragement. I want to help them get beyond themselves and to recognize that no one can do everything, but everybody can do something. It’s not about being a do-gooder. Once you begin to get into the lives of others and get outside of yourself, you begin to realize you have something to offer, and they have something to offer to you. I was sitting on a porch on a little hut where we had a group of folks and a woman nursing a baby. I was just overwhelmed with the simplicity of life and how happy these people were with much less than I. Even though our financial situations may have been separate, our spirits, our hearts, our desires as human beings were very much the same. Now I found that to be true whether it’s here in America or on a dirt road in India or Africa or some of the other crazy places I’ve been around the world.
Q: What is a GiANT Experience?
A: There’s a group of us who run together and make up what is called GiANT Experiences. The vision of GiANT Experiences is to mobilize leaders who use their influence to impact the world for good. From time to time, we will take a group of leaders with us to different places where we have found a cause we believe in and want to get behind. I would say 90 percent of what we do is rooted in taking an experience into the developing world. The world gets very quiet when you’re there with 10 other people. I ask leaders to come see the world with me. The word SEE really outlines the GiANT Experience model.
S: We want people to think about ways that they can serve others.
E: The first “E” is to participate in an exchange of ideas.
E: The last “E” is explore new places.
Q: How many people have gone on a GiANT Experience?
A: We’ve been doing this since 2009 but really got fully started in 2010. We’ve taken about 150 leaders — everyone from athletes to surgeons to business leaders to couples and even to college students. It’s catchy. One person talks to another person who talks to another person.
When you have this realization or this awakening, it kind of gets into your DNA and becomes a big part of what you’re doing.
Q: Why the term “GiANT” Experience?
A: The reason that it’s called a GiANT Experience is that all of us think we want to be giants, but there’s a story a lot of us know about David and Goliath. Everybody thinks they want to be a Goliath, but at the end of the day, what we really want to be is a giant like David. David was a man who believed in faith, family, and friends. He stepped up at a time when he was small and did great things. We’re really trying to raise up giants, who together, want to slay a bunch of social ills and a lot of problems in the world.
Q: What do you hope someone gets out of one of these experiences?
A: So many of us go about our daily lives and clock in and clock out. We strive for a certain level of comfort, and before long life just gets into a rhythm of mundane. When you get to my age, you begin looking back over your life, and you think, “What did my life really matter for?” It’s not that what we did day in and day out didn’t matter or have purpose. However, if we went about doing those things and didn’t realize we were there to make a difference in the lives of those who were brought our way, then we probably missed the reason why we were clocking in, in the first place.
I often tell people it’s easy to talk about impacting the world or making a difference and miss the one person right in front of you. In this process of trying to mobilize leaders to impact the world for good, the world is right in front of us as well.
Q: How are you funded?
A: We’re not an organization that has a lot of overhead at all. Any donations are tax-deductible. We are a 501(c)(3); we have that capacity. We developed the nonprofit for that purpose, so if people felt compelled, we could give them a vehicle to give so that they could get the tax benefit.
Ultimately, we find causes and really connect people to those causes. We’re a bridge for funding, if you will, but it’s much more than trying to put money toward a cause. It’s about the person getting engaged. It’s not about writing a check; it’s about fulfilling your purpose in life.
Ray in Uganda


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