It’s Just a Piece of Paper

When participants complete all eight modules of Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project (a four-year investment that involves training and transference to another generation of leaders), they receive a certificate from Belhaven University. It’s really just some nicely printed words on a piece of paper.

Or is it?

In 2014 Freedom to Lead entered into a relationship with a church planting network in Ethiopia. That means that Ethiopia was FTL’s first footprint onto the African continent. As pace setters and as ones who’ve led the way for FTL’s presence in Africa, we have a lot indebted to this group of Ethiopian brothers and sisters, influencers for Christ.

Last December we were almost at the end, with the next-to-last leadership module before us. Times in the country of Ethiopia were tense, as fractures throughout the region were threatening to crack wide open in the face of government and tribalist conflicts. We left not knowing what to expect. As we watched these leaders head back into these turbulent waters we prayed.

When we returned to Ethiopia this past week for the presentation of the last module of The Garden Project the atmosphere was completely different. Since that time the country got a new prime minister (a born again believer, previously Muslim) and stability was coming back to the country.

There is a hopefulness that wasn’t there before.

However, this feeling of hopefulness is more than just about an improved political situation for the country. The hopefulness we experienced with these brothers and sisters is about something more deeply impactful. By their own words, in the four years that have transpired since we began gathering together to discuss how to be agents of Christ-centered influence in our churches and communities, their lives have completely changed.

One participant said,

I have taken other trainings in the past, but I have never encountered anything as life-changing as this. . . Besides the teaching, you have given us yourselves. We have learned more from your life than from what you said.”

Another participant commented,

The Garden Project has completely changed my life and leadership, and it has changed the lives of many other leaders in our network as well.” 

So, as we ended the last session of the last module and entered into a time of celebration, these 20 leaders (who have since transferred the training to over 300 second generation leaders and an untold number of third generation leaders) are walking forward with a new sense of hopefulness for the church in Ethiopia. Completely of their own initiative they donned caps and gowns and had a graduation ceremony that was full of joy and of commissioning and of promise. Certificates were handed out, pictures were taken, and a new beginning was made.


You see, it’s more than just a piece of paper. Here at Freedom to Lead we are all about cultivating Christ-centered leaders among the under-resourced in this world. For these 20 participants (and the many in the second and third generations) they went from being under-resourced to RESOURCED. The significance of this is world changing.

In the last leadership module of The Garden Project we dramatize the story of the Parable of the Minas from Luke 19, in which the servant becomes the ruler of ten cities because he was a good steward of his Master’s resources. Jesus demonstrated this parable in his own ministry by setting aside many of the ambitions to invest in people who would change the world. In other words, it’s not just about “using” the portion that the Master has given you. It’s about “expanding” the portion and investing in people.

May we be good stewards of that which has been entrusted to us.

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