There is only one thing I regret from my 18 years working with African Leadership: that I didn’t get involved sooner.
My life back then probably looked a lot like yours — I went to work, came home to family, and was involved with our church. My days were fully engaged at The Southwestern Company, working to grow our company both in the U.S. and internationally, and in the process building character in young people. My free time was spent with my wife raising our children and trying to instill in them a sense of sharing and service. Friends of ours worked in Africa and when asked to donate to things they cared about, we did —it seemed to be an easy way to support the church and to model “giving back” to our children.
One year, a corporate incentive trip took me to Cape Town, South Africa. Our itinerary included safaris, relaxing and exploring the modern city…until a friend with African Leadership showed up at my hotel and asked me to come with him. We went to Khayelitsha, a slum packed full of makeshift dwellings that over a million South Africans called home. There I saw tremendous poverty and need, but I also saw what African Leadership was doing to address it. Leaders were being trained and developed. Community centers were being built and staffed. Children were being fed and provided daycare and schooling.
Later in the suburbs I met the National Director for pastor training. He was working with young people who desired to become more effective leaders for their churches and communities. They had been given the chance of a lifetime to gain a theological education they otherwise would have never received. In them, I recognized the young adults I worked with through The Southwestern Company — I saw the eagerness to learn, to better themselves, to grow into capable leaders. In myself I recognized I had something to offer them: the experience and skills acquired from so many years dedicated to building character in young people.
This realization was inspiring and impactful. In the years that followed, I used what I knew to help grow African Leadership and the Kingdom in Africa. And the more I gave, the more I got. I experienced the joy of serving; I gained cross cultural experience that in turn strengthened me professionally; and I made lifelong friends in Africa who are more like me than I would have thought, family oriented people who just want to live peacefully and improve the lives of their families and communities.
The strengths, skills and expertise I had to give, the assets you have to give, can have so much more impact than you can imagine, and getting started is as easy as knowing what you are good at. We are called to build the global church, but no church grows on money alone. It requires time and effort and wisdom and willingness to open yourself up to what the Lord might possibly say when you ask, “What do I have to give?” Responding honestly to this question led to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life — serving as the Chairman of the Board of African Leadership.
What do you have to give?