Everything Rises or Falls on Leadership
At the time of the biblical Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the people were living in disgrace Nehemiah 1:1-3. It is interesting to note that there were leaders in the city of Jerusalem at this time, or so they thought of themselves. There were the Priests, Levites, and administrators among other leaders – Nehemiah 2:16. But still, the people lived in shame, disgrace, and a broken community.
In Africa many communities live in shame and brokenness caused by great poverty, children not going to school, perennial famine, people dying from treatable diseases and sicknesses, poor infrastructure, and a people without a plan for self-development. Spiritually, most of these people are religious but generally not discipled in their faith, with most of their pastors not trained. Youth unemployment is high and the people’s human and physical resources are underdeveloped. Yet Africa, just like Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah, has numerous leaders. There are chiefs, government officials and people’s representatives, church leaders, and village heads among others. What would be the problem?
The premise which Possibilities Africa “PA” works with is that the greatest problem Africa faces is one of leadership! As many have said, everything rises or falls on leadership. A corrupt, self-seeking leadership has largely been responsible for failing governments, NGOs, Churches, and communities across Africa. The leaders have tended to use the people rather than building into the people. It is, therefore, necessary that we raise leaders for Africa who will have a vision for developing their people, and who are willing to serve their people. This is why PA invests in leadership development.
To find good, servant, visionary leaders PA has targeted to work through pastors who, in many African villages, have been seen as leaders. The poor largely run to the pastors when they are sick, hungry, facing family difficulties, or in the effort to address their numerous problems. To identify such pastors to be developed for this leadership responsibility, PA undertakes a vigorous recruitment and vetting process which starts with identifying one pastor leader, who we call a “champion” leader. This is an opinion leader who can rally and influence others to do the holistic transformation of his/her community. Through him, we then recruit an additional 5 or more pastors from his community. These are those we begin to empower to understand, appreciate and embrace a holistic approach to serving their communities.
The entire recruitment process is undertaken through 3 major stages that run for between 6 – 12 months. Each stage is intended to ensure that the recruitment is successful and that the recruited leaders are the right persons, who will be equipped to lead their communities. The first step is to ensure that the champion leader is credible and is accepted in his/her community. To identify the champion leader we rely on referrals especially from credible leaders known to us or those we have worked with previously. The leader identified is then taken through a series of questions to assess his ministry, leadership, and character traits. We further seek an opinion and testimony of the identified leader from others who come from the same community and who know him best. Most of these activities are undertaken through phone calls, community visits to meet with the leaders, and through an initial training in the vision of PA.
In the second step of recruitment, we work with a successfully recruited champion leader who helps us identify and recruit at least 5 or more pastors from his community. The involvement of the champion leader positions him as the main contact person for PA as we continue to work in that community. At this stage, we also bring together the recruited pastors for training targeting at least 5 from each county. Those who attend this training are helped to understand the holistic ministry and commit to partner with PA to implement it in their communities. They are further commissioned to go back and recruit more pastors in the holistic transformation journey. The whole process helps us to establish a critical number of pastor leaders necessary to initiate and drive the holistic agenda in any community. It also helps us to assess that those recruited demonstrate the ability to influence others. Success at this stage is considered a successful introduction of our work in a new county or country.
Over the past 5 years we have recruited 1,257 pastor leaders in 83 Counties. On average it costs $1,500 to conduct a successful recruitment in one county.
The third step seeks to build on the recruitment and vision casting successfully done for the community leaders at the second stage above. At this stage, we begin training the recruited leaders through 4 modules of training staggered over 12 – 24 months. Each module takes approximately 5 days of training between 40 to 75 pastors per module. As the leaders go through the training, we encourage and monitor them to implement what they are learning. We believe that bridging knowledge with practice is one way to help Africa transform.
Over the past 5 years 1,644 leaders have participated in our training programs. It costs approximately $600 to train one leader through the 4 modules OR $150 for one leader to attend one module!
At the core of the above process is the need to identify leaders who not only have passion and compassion for the poor but also have a clear God given vision for the community and have demonstrated a sense of leadership. We have intentionally designed our ministry so as not to have PA staff living and working in the community. This helps us to reduce the costs of operation as a ministry, empower the local people to do the work for themselves and be the leaders of their own destiny, and to ensure the work remains sustainable in the community long after PA has moved on. With this, we have seen great progress.
Although we have the established recruitment procedure, we have found that at this point in our work, recruitment is also happening by word of mouth from those pastors who have benefited from what we do. A case in point is a community called SoitaSambu which is located within a national park called Ngorongoro which is in Ngorongoro district (county) of Tanzania. It is worth noting that PA is not officially working in Tanzania. But one of the Kenyan pastors who we trained reached out to others in Tanzania where he invited a pastor Masago to attend one of our training events. Since training him, he has recruited over 18 other pastors from his county of Ngorongoro. This county is populated by the Maasai people of Tanzania. The gospel is hardly 10 years old in the community, the levels of education are very low with significantly high illiteracy levels. The community has high poverty levels, their children are married off at an early age and in general, the strong cultural inclinations have hindered spiritual and economic progress. But pastor Masago is leading his team to reverse this through the PA holistic ministry.
These pastors began saving but since banks are far away from the community, they creatively came up with a community bank in form of a “blue box.” The box has three different padlocks with the keys kept by three different pastors who all live far apart from each other. The box is then kept by a fourth pastor living in another location but who has no key to the box. This means that no money would be accessed until the four pastors append their signatures in the form of bringing the keys to the box. In this way, the pastors guard against any misuse of the money by the custodians hence protecting its integrity. From the contributions, the pastors have been able to buy twenty-six sheep that they intend to resell so as to increase their financial base. Together they have undertaken a micro finance program, initiated a pastors’ bible study and discipleship program, and started an early childhood center which already has 30 children.
The message and ministry of holistic living continues to grow regardless of what we are able to do as an organization. The people in African villages have seen its value and they are calling on one another to be engaged in the holistic transformation of their communities. Those who have participated in our work are becoming our best recruiters. With these leaders, the work will continue to grow and Africa will be transformed.
For with God, all things are possible!