Friday, February 29, 2008

Twelve is Enough

An Amazing Dozen

This is not a philosophy of “cheaper by the dozen” but that a dozen working together can create something really big. Gathered around Alan and I on the porch that day were about a dozen Africans in leadership at Kafakumba: three were women (all widows) and the remainder men. Here were amazing stories of success and changed lives. Here were gathered a diverse group: some had come to Kafakumba with college, technical, or seminary degrees. Some had come with no degrees—as day laborers or pieceworkers. All had come to work, but none was quite prepared for what happened.

Although each of the people gathered on the porch that day were supervisors or in leadership of some sort, it struck me what a great equalizer their experiences had become. Hassan was a boy of the bush, readily admitting to “knowing nothing.” “I never knew what I could become,” he smiled. His dream was to someday perhaps be a policeman. Instead he became a laborer and then went on to supervisor of the sawmill. His original dream came true though, and he serves also in the reserve police force. He visited the United States and toured wood companies with a Kafakumba team, a reality he had never even dared to dream. Now he wonders where his dream will go next, certain that there is still much ahead of him.

Kabinga came from a different world than Hassan. A tall, thin, rather elegant man, he came to Kafakumba from the world of non-profit and NGO (non-governmental organization—generally humanitarian) administration. Schooled in England, he provides expertise in import/export regulation, human resources, and other administrative tasks. He readily admits to his shock at being asked to hoe bananas and work in the fields when he first arrived at Kafakumba. But he has learned to appreciate the sense of community and equality that everyone is expected to share. “We have no boardroom; we are equal. There is not a class structure at Kafakumba; John and Kendra are not masters,” he added.

Then there is Charles, supervisor of Ukupanga Timber. A native of Congo, he started at Kafakumba as a pieceworker. He caught the vision for building a community on spiritual values and continues to emphasize character issues with his employees as they continue to develop their minds, attitudes, and workmanship.

There are more stories: Katonga was eking out a living making charcoal when he came to Kafakumba to work in the banana fields. Now he is in charge of all the gardens and readily admits that both he and his family have been changed. Aggie was a government worker—not known for their industry and hard work. Her entrepreneurial spirit fits into Kafakumba beautifully, and she believes that learning to take responsibility and working together as family build character automatically. Patricia administers the housekeeping and kitchen responsibilities at the Training Center. At a former job she had worn the initials “SS,” meaning “saved to serve.” However she will also tell you that until she came to Kafakumba she didn’t really understand what that meant. Kilembo came to Kafakumba as a seminary-trained minister—with all the pride and puffiness that this exalted position carries with it in African culture. Two years of manual labor at Kafakumba (shoveling chicken manure and removing wood scraps) radically changed his perspective on serving others. Now he oversees banana sales and marketing, as well as pastoring a church, but with a whole new view of servant leadership.

The stories on the porch continued in recurrent themes: servanthood, community, equality, character, empowerment, transformation. All agreed that this new style of mission—practical application of lessons learned from the life of Christ—had a profound effect on them personally and on the community at large. In both individual and corporate ways, they valued their move from continued dependency on others to a new independence—“empowered to be useful,” said one. Kabinga summed up the thoughts of many: “Africa was always begging--money was always consumed, never invested. Missionaries have traditionally left people as they found them.”

Initiative. Imagination. Investment. Independence. Ideas. These are more than words for this group of leaders at Kafakumba. Rooted in *Kingdom Principles/Core Values taken from Scripture, they take on powerful life. These twelve could change the world. Indeed another group of twelve who taught Kingdom Principles did just that.

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