Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Leaders of Tomorrow Memo" - "YMInsights" Series

The more I work with youth leaders, the more I'm convinced that we are a rare breed!

I mean youth leaders are the type of people who actually "get it" and applaud the energy and effort it takes for 4 guys to stand in line at the Wendy's drive thru at 11pm in the outline of a car, just to activate the speaker and order a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and a frosty...not to mention to see the looks on everyone's faces in the process.

Yeah they'll probably get chewed out by the manager for being "stupid kids", but us Youth Leader types...We're behind them in our 1996 mini-van having a good-ole laugh, because we actually "get it" and “get them”. True story by the way, I'll tell you about it was 11pm, I was hungry and "God's Restaurant" - Taco bell was closed.

Anyway, on my recent trip to Kenya I came face to face with a group of young adults who don't really care what everyone else defines as success, and really could care less that their society says "you're too young to do anything significant!"

This post is dedicated to Roman and his crew at the FOCUS orphanage in Ruiru, Kenya. A group of pesky young people who are making a world of difference in the lives of Kenya's children. Here is an excerpt from a series of articles I'm working on called "Three weeks in Kenya”, where I came face to face with what passion for a cause is all about!

• I checked out of BTL this morning and headed into Ruiru to meet up with Sylvester at the church before we began our journey into Nairobi to spend the day, as we waited to pick up Randy Smith from the airport.

• Sylvester made arrangements for me to stop by the orphanage known as F.O.C.U.S which is where several of his youth leaders volunteer, and is also very close to his church. FOCUS stands for Families, Orphans and Children Under Stress.

o When I arrived the play area was full of children playing and laughing and running around, but as soon as they saw me coming they took off and ran into a classroom (I have that effect on a lot of people)…Sylvester said “Oh, they’re just shy” and took me to meet the leaders (the whole time the kids kept getting a little braver and kept sneaking around the corner to catch a glimpse at the giant “Mazoongu” (Swahili for “white man”)…it was really cute, as I kept toying with them the whole time.

o Sylvester and I met with the leaders of the ministry and talked for quite a while about who they are, and what they’re all about…The whole time I kept thinking that the leader (his name is Roman) and the other leaders looked so very young, but as they talked about their passion for the children and all the things they’ve organized and run to help raise awareness for the plight of the orphans in Kenya I thought, “they can’t be as young as they look”.

So finally I just asked the question “if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you guys?” Roman said 25, and the other leaders said, 22, 21, 19, 23 etc…I looked at Sylvester and I almost lost it!…think about that…a major life changing ministry that is providing food, shelter, & education about Jesus is run by a team of people under the age of 25!!

I was so moved by that…one of the statements that has driven me crazy over the years is a statement that is usually made by well intentioned adults, but is one that eats at the core of what I do as a Youth Pastor…it goes like this “it’s so great what you do with the young people, keep taking good care of them because they are the leaders of tomorrow”.

That statement has always grated on me because it says that young people can’t lead now they have to wait until some magical age when they can begin to lead…meanwhile while they’re young just keep them busy and out of our way!

So much for that mentality at this ministry…An orphanage run by 20 year olds… I guess they never got the “leaders of tomorrow” memo.

I was blown away by the passion and faith of these leaders, and committed to pray for them and do what I could do to help promote the needs back home and see if there are any church groups who would consider helping them with a project that they could partner with.

I then played soccer with a bunch of the kids and they were gracious enough to let me score a couple of goals…It was a great

• We still had some time before we needed to be at the airport so Sylvester took me over to see the Kibera Slums in Nairobi which is home to over a million people, and is the largest slum in all of Africa!

It’s the same place that Simon & Ryan from “American Idol” visited last year during their Idol gives back campaign…As I stood there on top of a hill that overlooked the slums I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…I can’t even begin to describe it…I just stood there speechless...As we were walking in we passed a banner with a cross draped over the door of one of the shanties, and we were moved to pray for the Pastor of this church as he seeks to minister among this wide open mission field.

Please join me in praying for the Leaders of Right Now in Kenya, and all over the world!

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