Leading Like Jesus

These are the stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead International.

While most of the names have been changed, these stories are all true. These stories are also personal because these heroes of the faith are all part of the Freedom to Lead global family. These men and women represent only a small fraction of the more than 5000 leaders who are currently engaged with our leadership development program.


These Are Their Stories – Looking Back

Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead have been intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We have been telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead.

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These Are Their Stories: Malick

When Malick came to Freedom to Lead, he did not think he could be a pastor. Today he is thriving as he leads a congregation that impacts their community for Jesus Christ – thanks, in part, to the contributions of those whose hearts are turned to the unreached.

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These Are Their Stories: Finding Purpose in the Midst of Loss

When you first meet him you’re slightly intimidated as he towers over you in height. His square jaw is set and his eyes are piercing. You can’t help notice the scars on his arm, but you try not to stare. But then he offers you a firm handshake and his white teeth smile against the contrast of his dark complexion. He tells you his name. For safety purposes in this post we’ll call him Samuel. He’s originally from Sudan, but he’s now a pastor in Uganda. You feel like there’s more to this story. Much more.

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These Are Their Stories – Elizabeth

Elizabeth grew up in a small town not too far from the capital city of Addis Ababa. A godmother-type figure was the one who raised her while her parents worked. She remembers her guardian taking her to church at a very young age. When she was a little bit older she was able to move back home to live with her parents and siblings. One day a church opened up next to their house. She remembers that they were singing. They were familiar tunes, songs she remembered hearing as a very young child. Intrigued, she went over there by herself, if only for the music. For two years she kept going back, drawn especially to the singing. One day the pastor was preaching from Romans 12 (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”). Something stirred in her heart with those simple words and she immediately accepted Jesus as her Savior upon hearing them. She was 12 years old. Her first work as an evangelist was to her own family.

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These Are Their Stories – Matthew

Matthew* and his wife are simple people of Zimbabwe who lead a quiet life unto the Lord. When the AIDS epidemic swept throughout southern Africa in the late 80s, Matthew and his wife took in four children from their church home who had recently become orphans. Their heart for these children was due in large part to Matthew’s wife having grown up as an orphan herself. She knew firsthand what it’s like to walk that lonely road and is using her story to give her life to others. Over the years they began to add to the number of children they would bring in and care for. Today their ministry to these orphans have expanded to 66 orphans that reside with them. In addition to these 66, over 100 children are fed meals every day by their ministry.

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These Are Their Stories – Stephen

Like many places in Africa, Nigeria operates regionally by tribe. There are “Muslim” tribes and there are “Christian” tribes. Whoever is dominant in that region maintains the power. Stephen was born in the north where the power belongs to the Muslims. That means that the Muslims have a say in what kind of job one is allowed to have once he reaches age. Stephen grew up with a military father and an Anglican mother. From the time he was young he knew he wanted to help people. He thought that meant he would become a doctor someday. However, the Muslims in his area would not allow Christians to have “professional” jobs. Not sure of the options that he had, he discovered that he had an uncle living in the south. His uncle took him under his care and became Stephen’s guardian. Stephen was able to get an education in the south. His uncle’s Christian influence encouraged Stephen to walk away from medicine and begin a journey toward studying to be an Anglican priest.

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These Are Their Stories – Owen

Owen is a young leader in his late 30s who just started participating in Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project. He and his wife have 4-year old twin girls. Owen works with the Church of the Nazarene among his people in Zimbabwe. He tells these stories in his own words.

In November 2018 I had the opportunity to attend a training workshop on leadership which was conducted by the Freedom to Lead International® (FTL). The FTL team took us on a one-week intensive leadership training program which helped me have a new perspective on leadership and how I can influence my world. Delivery and presentation of the lessons was storycentric whereby a biblical text was taken from the Bible and lessons/concepts were thereafter applied from the text to real life experiences.

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Investing In My Twelve Year Old Self

As I approach Thanksgiving this year in the context of being a member of a ministry that seeks to raise up Christ-centered leaders, I think of a man who poured character and principles of leadership into my own life.

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Where No One Has Gone Before

We are living in what may be the most exciting era in church history. Unprecedented opportunities abound to expand the kingdom of God, and the church of Jesus Christ is advancing despite social, cultural, and spiritual forces.

  • Imagine small groups of world-changers engaging in deep discussion about leadership and the church.
  • Imagine biblical and cultural stories being told one to another.
  • Picture dramas that make these stories come alive. And music created just for them belted out with joy.
  • Imagine all of this happening without written words.

Leaders who are able to develop critical leadership competencies regardless of their level of literacy. Leaders who emerge from painful experiences and cultural limitations to be set free to lead their churches and communities.

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We Have a Lot to Learn From These Leaders

Here we are currently in Ethiopia. As I look around. I’m astounded that most of these leaders have been persecuted for this faith, some imprisoned and tortured. I am humbled that we can walk alongside them in their development, for we have a lot to learn from these incredible men and women. These past two weeks we have been teaching on Spiritual Leadership and Leading Teams to these participants. When we leave from this place I will return with our team to the States where we’ll celebrate Christmas in safety with our loved ones. When these leaders depart from this gathering they will face injustice, and will dare to be lights in dark places. But they will thrive because they go in the strong name of Christ. We have a lot to learn from them. In six months they will: come back for our next visit to Ethiopia. return to be with us because they truly want to learn and dialogue together as a group about how Christ-centered leadership can be played out in their specific contexts. report the way that God has changed them in their leadership, thus changing their churches. share about the times they have messed up as leaders and will receive the grace that Jesus freely offers. And we will have their names on our lips as we leave from here and will remember to bring them before the Father. I don’t say these things because I’m depending on this great program we call The Garden Project. This

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Saying Yes To God

What does saying “yes” to God look like for Mary Lu and her husband Doug? Read her story about how saying “yes” brought her to Freedom to Lead International.

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I Always Knew It Was Wednesday

I always knew it was Wednesday because they tortured me every Wednesday. One huge benefit of FTL’s ministry is the privilege of partnering with some extraordinary leaders. Some of these leaders have faithfully and effectively served the church in their context for decades. They are compelled by the love of Christ. They have committed themselves, their families, and their futures to reach others with the Good News. In many cases, they have paid a stiff price for their resolve. These brothers and sisters are the heroes of FTL’s story. One of these leaders is one we will call “A”. “A” calls Addis Ababa, Ethiopia home, but his travels take him far beyond. His broad impact for Christ throughout East Africa has been monumental. Yet his reputation has not come without a price. During Ethiopia’s communist regime (1987-91), “A” was imprisoned for his bold Christian witness. Although he lost track of time behind bars, he recalls, “I always knew it was Wednesday because they tortured me every Wednesday.” Those times were dark and very difficult for his wife “E” and her small children, but eventually Truth prevailed. For the past twenty-five years, “A” and “E” have dedicated their lives to develop leaders for the church. We met “A” in 2012. Today he invests much of his time and energy teaching and mentoring with The Garden Project, FTL’s leadership development program for storycentric communicators. Initially, he brought together 20 key Ethiopian leaders to learn The Garden Project’s Christ-centered leadership principles. In the

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Privileged to Serve

Last month Freedom to Lead International was in Ethiopia. This is a report from the President. Dear Friends, Thank you for praying as seven FTL team members from various locations travelled safely, and everyone stayed relatively healthy. Our indigenous ministry partners were very excited as they learned two modules of The Garden Project: Peacemaking  and Spiritual Leadership. They reported on the profound impact of former FTL modules both on themselves and on those they lead.

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I Am Reverend Fofana

Big Boss Leader Imagine 27 church and mission leaders from Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Madagascar gathering together to engage in stories and discussions about Leadership for a Healthy Church. This is what we have been privileged to witness this past month. Water Pump or Rice Field One participant shared that he had a vision the night before of a water pump that would not yield water. He said, “in my vision, I was so thirsty so I used the water pump but no water came out. I did not know what the vision meant.” What he later came to learn was that the image of a rice field vs. water pump style of leadership is our driving image for this first leadership module. We encourage the leaders to be “rice-field” (Christ-centered) leaders rather than “water pump” (power, big boss) leaders. It’s a simple image, but it has profound impact.

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Interview with Yariwe in Bamako, Mali

New Music Monday

A Water Pump or Rice Field? We regularly hear about the impact of songs through New Music Monday (NMM) posts. However, what about the impact of the symbols used in Freedom To Lead’s innovative curriculum? In today’s video, Yariwe, a young Bambara pastor (and musician) talks about why he is so excited to see The Garden Project curriculum come to Mali. Yariwe talks specifically about the contrasting images of a rice field and a water pump. For this reason, featured here is the following song, “A Water Pump or Rice Field?” This song is recorded by Yariwe and the rest of the Bambara music team as the background music.

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Abigails in Ethiopia – Agents of Reconciliation

Violence is dividing the Ethiopian people, but a cohort of Christian leaders is resolved to walk Abigail’s path to peace. Many Ethiopian people in East Africa are desperate. Demonstrations are fueled by widespread discontent over the declining quality of life throughout the country. Leaders of the opposition party have recently been arrested, leading to increased unrest. Electricity, water systems, and infrastructure are collapsing, and daily life has become difficult for many. Within the mayhem, a group of Christian leaders want to be agents of reconciliation. They are embracing Abigail’s example to avoid further bloodshed among their countrymen.

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