Reflections on Our Time in Central Africa
We just returned from a memorable week overseas, in the Republic of Central Africa. It was great to go, it was great to return home. You understand, don’t you? How can I summarize it all?
- The weather was warm. The people were warm.
- The conditions were poor. The relationships were rich.
- The university students didn’t eat much…but they were more hungry to learn.
- The hotel had limited water and electricity, but God showed up in power.
Our first event was a one-day “Train the Trainer” experience where we expected forty students to attend and get certified to mentor a group of younger students using Habitudes. Immediately we discovered there were 250 student leaders who showed up, to prepare to lead a community. When we passed out the agreements, outlining the commitment we required, they actually fought over them.
Their stated goal at the end of the training experience?
To win the battle against poverty, corruption, war and disease. I love it.
Following the Train the Trainer experience, we were part of a larger leadership conference for hundreds of students, staff and faculty. They chose to come because of their interest in leadership development. During the conference we talked about winning the war against corruption through integrity; we talked about winning the war against poverty through entrepreneurial ventures; and we talked about winning the war against so many destructive forces through mentoring and the multiplication of more and better leaders. We exposed them to the Habitudes images.
- On our first day, after returning from our lunch break, I asked the students, “How was your lunch?” It was then the translator informed me, “The students didn’t eat any lunch. The break was for you.”
- At the conference, we learned how important protocol is. One man’s job was to make sure everyone sat in just the right seat of honor, and others were told to sit somewhere else. I fear this confuses students about servant-leadership.
- The meetings were long and hot; there was no air conditioning. The fans blew in hot air from the outside mixed with odors from the livestock and manure. Yet, the audience remained until the very end, taking notes and responding.
- One breakthrough came when the power went off during an evening meeting. While the hosts considered what to do, the students stood up on their own, huddled close to the front so they could hear and held their cell phones in the air so they could see. Their hunger to learn was evident.
- In the end, the conference was only to be a catalyst. Each audience member was asked to join a mentoring community to discuss and apply Habitudes. Hundreds of students committed to do this, and grow as a potential leader.
Our desire is—a new hope will wander through central Africa, as students not only pass courses…but start to think like life-giving leaders. May the journey begin.
And may it begin here at home as well.
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