He laid aside his outer garments…and taking a towel…began to wash the disciples’ feet…. “If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13
A New Mindset
“You will take your meals in here,” we were told by our gracious hosts after our arrival in Lomé, Togo. Simple, tasty servings of fish and rice doused with local spices were set before us in the air-conditioned comfort of our guest quarters. Breakfast arrived on our doorstep the next morning. John, Karen, Dave and I began to wonder if we deserved such special treatment all week.
“Is it common in your culture for the officers to eat separately from the troops?” I asked Kennedy, the Campus Director for the French-speaking Area of Affairs. “I don’t want to cause offense,” I continued, “but from this point forward our team would like to take meals outdoors with everyone else.”
This cultural value of over-deference to positioned leaders contributed to an environment that did not encourage risk-taking, rapid learning, empowering leadership or student-led movements. When Jesus laid aside his robe (a cultural cue that he was a Teacher), he also set aside the trappings of his position.
By coming alongside godly, committed staff members from 18 countries in Africa, we were able to lead in a new way, together, which helped reground all of us in Biblical values. The “work hard, play hard, be overly diligent” values we cherish so dearly in North America and Singapore were challenged head-on with African values of hospitality, deep relationships, and languishing conversations.
I wish I could tell you that all problems were solved, all questions answered, and that it will be smooth sailing in the future. You know better. The world is a BIG place. There are huge gaps between the compelling vision God has given us for student-led spiritual movements on every campus and what currently exists. We have hope, though. The Lord of the nations is clearly at work. Let’s get up from our knees, roll up our sleeves and do it together.
One reply on “Knowing & Doing in Africa”
Powerful. I am sure the picture of Christ-like leadership was far more impt than ‘solving problems’. Great reminder of ‘leading well’!