Making Space

This morning's blog post comes to us from CARE for AIDS summer intern, Anna Wilke. 


“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7 

Until recently, whenever I thought about hospitality I immediately associated it with what I was taught growing up about being a gracious host, but that is not what true hospitality is all about. A few weeks ago I started learning and understanding what the Bible says about hospitality, and it encompasses a lot more than just hosting a dinner party. Biblical hospitality is about more than just inviting friends over, it is making room in our lives for others. True hospitality is about making people feel welcome and wanted no matter who they are or where they come from. Hospitality should extend to more than just those who are easy to love; it includes total strangers, the people who have wronged you, the self-righteous, and the hurting. Hospitality is often untidy and inconvenient, but making room for others is not about our own comfort because the heart of hospitality is finding people in all walks of life and bringing them in. 

So why is hospitality so important? We should practice hospitality because we are called to be imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1) and the ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God. In Mark 12, Jesus explains that the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” With this twofold response Jesus showed these two commandments are interrelated and inseparable. If we are truly loving God, we are loving people and part of loving people is making room for them to feel welcome. We are offered hospitality in our everyday lives more than we realize.  Others have given us their time, provided meals for us, given their forgiveness when we have wronged them, and so much more. But even more extravagant than the hospitality offered to us by others is the hospitality offered to us by our Heavenly Father. Again and again God has laid a feast before us even in the face of our wrongs against Him. Again and again He invites us back to His table.

Since we are called to bear the image of Christ, we are called to love every person with whom we come in contact. How is it possible to show love to every person we meet? The truth is, in our own strength we can’t, but the Bible tells us that people who are of God can love others because He first loved us. We serve a God who shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11).  When we show favoritism, loving only those who are easy and convenient to love, we are not loving as Christ loved us.  It can be difficult to love strangers, to love the self righteous, and especially to love those who have betrayed us, but God is with us when we welcome people into our lives, He is with us when our patience wears thin, and He blesses our feeble attempts to honor Him through hospitality. Making room in relationships and conversations and making room in our lives to suffer with and celebrate others are two of the best ways to show them that we love them.

We all love to feel welcome and we love when people make room for us around their table, so why shouldn’t we do the same for others? Imagine a life that when people get closer to you, when they get into your home and around your table, what they experience is a feeling that they are loved, that they belong, that you weren’t too busy to spend time with them, and they walk away feeling the deep love of Christ through your life. Imagine a life spent welcoming others to His table, a table that has room for each one of us.

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Global Leadership Summit 2017

One of the big themes I heard in this year’s Global Leadership Summit was change.

Bill Hybels talked about changing leaders in succession planning.

Cheryl Sandberg talked about unexpected change in the form of grief and how to help yourself and others through those times.

Fredrik Hansen talked about the accelerating speed of innovation and the importance of creativity. Bryan Stevenson talked about changing the narratives that sustain the problems we are trying to solve. Andy Stanley talked about creating an open culture that recognizes, not resists,  “uniquely better” ideas. Juliet Funt talked about changing our calendars to create the whitespace we need. Marcus Buckingham talked about changing the way we evaluate our employees. Gary Haugen challenged us to change from playing defense to offense.

The list goes on… but the point is clear. Change is an unavoidable part of our lives and leadership, and progress is always preceded by change. At its core, leadership is about moving people towards some change that they may be reluctant to make, but you have to help them see a better future. I will be thrilled if I can change the following three practices in my leadership based on all the amazing content.

1.     Create a culture that recognizes and embraces “uniquely better” ideas.

Andy Stanley taught us that discovering “uniquely better” is nearly impossible, especially in successful organizations. Those organizations don’t usually have the problems that produce uniquely better solutions. I am a very pragmatic person, and I know my tendency to critique ideas too harshly or too quickly will not create the kind of culture Andy described. He gave us four ideas.

  • Be a student, not a critic. “Never criticize something I don’t understand.”
  • Keep your eyes and mind wide open. He asked us the uncomfortable question, “When was the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn’t yours (the leader)?”
  • Replace “How?” with “Wow!” “’Wow ideas to life,’ don’t ‘how’ them to death.” Try to meet every new idea with the statement, “Wow, tell me more.” He challenged us to take this to heart as parents too.
  • Ask uniquely better questions. 

2.     Use more stretch assignments to grow my team and myself.

This practice could genuinely develop my leadership more than my team’s. As a recovering control freak, I was challenged by Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, who said, “Give people more freedom than you are comfortable with.”

Angela Duckworth, the author of the book Grit, unpacked “deliberate practice,” which involves: 1) setting a stretch goal, 2) focusing 100% on that goal, 3) getting feedback, and 4) reflect, refine, and repeat.

I need to give my team the opportunity to grow more through difficult assignments, I know they will rise to the occasion, and I will create margin to focus on my highest value contributions. Speaking of margin…

3.     Beware of the thieves stealing my whitespace.

Although I am relentless about blocking key priorities on my calendar, any space that is left unfilled is consumed with email. The “pause” or what Juliet Funt calls “whitespace” is, in her words, “our source of professional power.” The four “thieves” that steal most of our whitespace are 1) Drive, 2) Excellence, 3) Information, and 4) Activity. All four seem harmless on the surface but can become destructive in mass quantities. While I’ve been guilty of all four, “excellence” is my biggest thief, and Juliet challenged us to defeat it with the question, “Where is ‘good enough,’ good enough?”

The GLS set a new personal best this year with an amazing lineup. I think it would be a great investment for you to buy the videos for your team. You will not regret it.

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Micah 6:8

Paul Tillich said, “the first duty of love is to listen”, and that is what the CARE for AIDS staff  took time to do last Monday in Kenya. The week prior, Kenyans voted in presidential and local elections. Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected as president, and the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga - who rejected the results of the election - decided to pursue his case in the Supreme Court, which was welcome news since a possible alternative was calling his supporters to take to the streets. As it was, there were pockets of protests that resulted in violence in opposition strongholds for a few days after the election results were announced, but generally the elections were peaceful, and after a quiet, tense week where everyone stayed home from work anticipating, but hoping against, violence, Kenya went back to business as usual.

Kenyan politics are traditionally divided along tribal lines. Cornel and Duncan, two cofounders of CARE for AIDS, come from the two tribes that are the most opposed politically. Their story of friendship and their co-leadership at CARE for AIDS is a strong statement against arbitrary divisions and a testament to what we can achieve when we overcome our differences and work together toward a common vision.

On Monday, August 14, as the rest of Kenya went back to work, the CARE for AIDS staff met together in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa to debrief the election- to affirm our unity and to discuss strategies of peace building.

The CARE for AIDS staff is a diverse representation of the tribes in Kenya, and there were strong and differing opinions about the elections. Some in the organization were triumphant, and others disappointed by the results. During the meetings on Monday, the staff shared their experiences in the polling stations and shared what they liked about the election -  this election was better organized than others they had experienced, for example - and what they didn’t like. There were small group sessions to brainstorm ways that we as an organization can promote peace and unity, and how we can counsel our clients in doing the same. The day ended with people sharing what they love about their country and people sang and prayed in their tribal tongues to celebrate the beautiful diversity of Kenya.

The main message of the day came down to something that is a good reminder for everyone. It doesn’t matter who the president is. It doesn’t matter who your leader is. Your responsibility to each other as Christians and as fellow-citizens does not change.

What is required of us?

It’s simple really:

“To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8

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Hunger Heroes

Since 2013, CARE for AIDS and Feeding Children Everywhere have partnered together to provide hundreds of thousands of nutritious meals to clients of CARE for AIDS. This Saturday, YOU can join us in packing a quarter of a million meals for our clients in Kenya. 

Join us this Saturday for the CARE for AIDS Hunger Project at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. Its not too late to sign up-- we want you to be a hunger hero! 

Witness

It has been a lifelong prayer of mine that God would make me a witness to his work. This prayer was overwhelmingly answered during my trip to Kenya last September. It is hard to believe it has almost been a year as the lessons God taught me are still so fresh in my mind. Those who know me have heard me say that this trip to East Africa changed my life, and that is nothing short of the truth. I believe my heart is in a better place and I have such a better understanding of God’s work through us on this Earth since returning.

Experiencing the Lord in Kenya was like experiencing the Lord for the first time. The raw emotion of watching our staff love and care for our clients in the CARE for AIDS program is something that has been imprinted on my heart forever. God taught me five specific lessons during and after my trip that I want to share with you.

Be bold

We all have comfort zones and going to Africa probably doesn’t fall within the parameters of many of them. Stepping out definitely seems scary and certainly comes with struggles but by stepping out of our comfort zones, it allows us to see just how much we can learn. All too often we go about life the same way, which results in us missing what God has for us. Immersing yourself in a different place, culture, and situation allows you to view things differently. My trip to Kenya taught me just how beautiful the world is, every nation, every tongue. God is working on this Earth and it was a blessing to experience his work in such a pure way. If I hadn’t have said “Yes” to his call, I would have missed one of my greatest blessings.

Reach the marginalized

I once heard it said that “Your love for God is permanently capped at the amount of love you have for the people in society who you like the very least.” There is an incredible stigma in Kenya against individuals with HIV/AIDS. The disease is viewed as a moral hazard and individuals who have it are often dismissed from their families and communities. While in Kenya I watched as our staff worked to identify these outcast individuals and care for them like no one else would. Our staff on the ground in Kenya are the absolute heroes of our mission and it was an incredible joy to watch them be the hands and feet of Christ reaching those who were the most marginalized in society, just like Jesus would.

Find your joy in the Lord

If there is an adjective I would use to describe the clients  I had the opportunity to spend time with, it would be Joyous. I think as Americans, we think that all people affected by poverty in Africa are sad, but it is quite the contrary. The individuals I got to know had such a spring of joy within them. It is clear that they found their identity, worth, and purpose in the Lord and did not allow their lack of possessions to stifle their faith. It was such a privilege to visit a few of our clients in their homes and I strive daily to remember their example of running fearlessly to God for every source of joy and fulfillment.

Worship unapologetically

While worshiping alongside the rest of our team with the members of the Gachie Deliverance Church in Nairobi, I understood Worship for the first time. I have always understood singing to praise the Lord and worship through studying his word, but this was different. Each person was absolutely filled with the spirit of Christ and worshiped him the best they knew how. The members of this church lifted every bit of talent the Lord gave them unapologetically. It was so refreshing to see a church body so focused on lifting their song that the pitch, tone, or technicalities of the music were not the primary focus - God was.

Treasure your time

If you have been to Kenya, you know how inevitable it is to get off schedule. Things moved slower, people talked more, and rushing to the next activity simply didn’t happen. It was evident that these people knew that time was a treasure and not to waste it worrying about what we were doing next, but to enjoy the present. Slowing down allowed me to witness the beauty of the country and it’s people constantly, prompting pauses to thank God for his love frequently throughout the day. Since returning home and adjusting back to a fast paced world, I try to slow down each day to remember my friends in Kenya and what they taught me about the treasure this life truly is.

I am forever thankful for Kenya and the affect it had on my life and cannot wait to return! If God is calling you to step out, I encourage you to join one of the CARE for AIDS Impact Trips in 2018. Seeing the work of CARE for AIDS first hand was such a privilege and allowed God to make me a witness to the great works he is doing in and through the Heroes of our mission in East Africa.