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.

We’ve heard about what Owen is doing with his people in Zimbabwe.

We’ve heard Stephen’s story of coming out of persecution in Nigeria.

It was Matthew’s story that inspired us with his humble tale of he and his wife using the few resources they had to respond to the AIDS crisis of Southern Africa.

It was Elizabeth’s story that gave us a glimpse into the experience of women of Ethiopia.

We then met our brother Chandra, a story you may have heard before, one that takes Freedom to Lead back to its beginning. Now ten years later, Chandra’s story is just beginning.

And then we heard about the lives of Samuel, Kalinah, and Michael, men and women who have known incredible loss but have found incredible purpose.

Finally, we heard about Malick, a young pastor from the Wolof tribe in Senegal, West Africa. His story compels us to seek out other’s highest Kingdom potential.

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 The Garden Project, Freedom to Lead’s flagship leadership development program.

During Freedom to Lead’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration in November, we chose the theme of the week to be about Samuel’s Ebenezer stone where after another battle with the Philistines over the Ark of the Covenant he says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).

In a letter from the Founder of FTL, Rick Sessoms, he talked about the journey of the Ark of the Covenant and how it relates. He said,

The Ark of the Covenant took a winding and mysterious journey. According to the Old Testament, the Israelites understood the Ark to contain the very presence of God. So powerful was the Ark that whoever touched it would drop dead! During one battle, the Philistines captured the Ark from the Israelites. But before long the Philistines learned the tragic lesson that the Ark didn’t belong to them, so they gave it back. When the Ark returned to the Israelites, Samuel their king took a stone, named it Ebenezer, and said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).

When Freedom to Lead started in 2009 we were venturing into uncharted waters. Some moments we weren’t sure we’d even make it out of port. But over time the prevailing winds have pushed us forward into open waters at a breathtaking pace. Ten years into this journey, we echo Samuel’s sentiment: Thus far the Lord has helped us.

However, this may be the greatest understatement in the Bible. Because in response to God’s miraculous intervention, Samuel could have said, “Thus far the Lord has done what no one else could do.”

The Lord has often helped us at Freedom to Lead by sending the right people at just the right time. FTL’s journey over the past decade is a story of what God is doing that no one else could do. 

The story of the Ark of the Covenant did not end with the Samuel’s Ebenezer moment. It is a saga of victories and disappointments, one replete with both faithful and flawed characters. But God continued to help them as they journeyed toward that distant shore.

May it be true of us as well.

The stories of Owen, Matthew, Stephen, Elizabeth, and Chandra are represented here. The stories of Samuel, Kalinah, Michael, and Malick all give us hope. But this story belongs to all of us. So, whether you’ve been a board member, U.S. staff member, national leader, donor, advisor, prayer warrior, or ministry partner – this story belongs to all of us. As we close out 2019 (and celebrate ten years as an organization) we remember and honor the One who has done what no one else could do.

Enjoy this short video…

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