August 28, 2012
Following is a post by Justin that originally appeared on the blog of the Willow Creek Association on August 23. To see the original post, click here. Praise Godfor the opportunity to share the story of CFA with a new audience!
In August 2006, at 18 years old, I attended my second Global Leadership Summit. As a college freshman, I was far from your typical attendee. I was returning to Vanderbilt in the fall for my sophomore year, and like most college students, I had a full academic, but more importantly, social calendar. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by a global audience of tens of thousands of pastors and professionals, most of whom already had a position of leadership. The mantra “lead where you are” seemed idealistic considering the scope of my influence, but I knew that one day God might call on me to lead, and I wanted to be ready.
Many will remember that 2006 conference by the interview that Bill Hybels conducted with Bono. That was my first exposure to the reality of HIV/AIDS in our world. I was captivated, intrigued, and saddened by the presentation. What was it going to take to awaken the local church to the urgency of this crisis? How many more people had to die prematurely without knowing the truth of the Gospel? Where would we even begin? More importantly, what could I do in my current position?
The following summer, four of us were on a plane to Kenya to shoot a documentary. Two Kenyans, Cornel Onyango and Duncan Kimani, met us as we disembarked the plane. It was a divine appointment that we got connected to these guys. These men were seminary trained pastors whose hearts were breaking for those living with HIV/AIDS. They believed that no one in Kenya was suffering – physically, emotionally, economically and spiritually – more than these people. It wasn’t until after a month in Kenya and 40 hours of raw footage had been captured that we realized it was really Cornel and Duncan’s story that needed to be told. These bold leaders didn’t need us to provide them with a ten-step strategic plan to address HIV/AIDS; they already had one, a brilliant one. The plan outlined how to activate local churches across the country to be the hands and feet of Christ to those suffering from this disease. What a novel idea! They just needed the partnership and support of the American church to make it a reality.
Upon returning from Kenya, we founded CARE for AIDS and began raising support to make this vision come to life. In the last five years, God used what little skills, knowledge, and resources we had and multiplied it to create huge impact. We have now cared for about 3,000 families living with HIV/AIDS through 14 local churches and witnessed nearly 600 first time professions of faith. Cornel and Duncan now lead our team of 40 Kenyan staff as we try to grow to meet the demand around us. If God can write that story with the leadership of an 18-year-old college sophomore, do not underestimate what he can do with you.
Many of you may just be looking forward to an escape from the pressures and uncertainty of the leadership in your church or workplace. For many of you, it may seem unrealistic to lead effectively where you are. You may have a million excuses. For me it was age, lack of experience, no resources, etc. For you it might be your boss, your team, your budget, your time, or your skills. I urge you to prepare yourself and pray with anticipation that God is going to use this Summit to be a catalyst for change.
Know that God can use you, where you are, to lead effectively.