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During her last term working at Dwelling Places in Kampala, Donna Morrison spent some time working in AIM’s Central Region Office. She reflects on the insights she gained into leadership.
Leadership in any organisation is challenging. This is why benefits are often offered, to attract the best candidates and to compensate for additional responsibilities. In a mission organisation however, there aren’t many material benefits on offer. In fact, it’s a call to lay down your (and your family’s) right to worldly gain so that God’s kingdom can advance. It really is a life of sacrifice, often with little recognition.
Kaziba Kenneth was from a slum in Kampala and vulnerable after his mother abandoned him and his brothers. Dwelling Places (DP) supported them through their education and into independent living.
I did all kinds of work to survive, including working as a carrier in Kikubo business area. I took pain killers because I used my head, shoulders and back to carry heavy items. One of DP’s staff was shocked by this and Aunt Rita called me to say she would help find me different work.
This started my new chapter. I was studying (Accounting BSc) and working as a pump attendant at City Oil Uganda. Sometimes I had to work the night shift which meant I could not attend school. It wasn’t easy, but I survived retakes and, through prayers, I was promoted by my manager.
I volunteered in DP’s Finance Office and then was offered a paid job. Donna taught me to be straight, faithful, appreciative, determined, prioritising God first and reading my notes – I am seeing the fruit of that now. I compare her to the person who mentored Esther in the Old Testament and prepared her to face the world wisely. I also received more accounting knowledge and computer skills. When Donna left DP she left me as the Assistant Accountant.
Now I have reconciled with my mother, I am looking forward to finishing my CPA (Certified Public Accountant), managing my small business and increasing my earnings. I hope to sponsor a child and do some work in church.
Leadership is tasked with oversight, developing strategy and putting strategies into practice. In the mission world, leaders also face a myriad of challenges: How do we mobilise more people to go? Are we discipling effectively, in a way that is relevant to the host culture? How do we work with limited resources? How do we ensure our members thrive, not simply survive? How bad do we let a situation get in a country before we take our personnel out?
On a more personal level: Am I supposed to be on-call 24-7? How do I get the ministry-life balance right so I don’t burn out? How do I communicate with my support network well so they don’t lose interest in my ministry because it’s a less ‘glamourous’ leadership or admin role? With so many looking to me, where can I go for help? It can be lonely.
But there are joys too. The ability to influence and implement change, improving the way things are done. Seeing God call and send his workers to the field and watching them develop and grow. Building relationships with people at all levels of society in the host nations. And, of course, being part of God’s kingdom advancing across the earth!
So how can we ensure our leaders thrive? I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I have learnt some valuable lessons. It’s good to have a close accountability group to pray and share with. Ensure you are spiritually fed. Have a Sabbath every week. Set deliberate boundaries. Don’t open your emails or check your phone before spending time with God. Switch off your computer by a set time each night. Don’t feel guilty about leisure and rest time! Learn to delegate. Mentor. Build up the next generation. It might take more time initially, but you are investing in the future. You are not invincible!
It’s important for those of us under leadership to remember to pray for our leaders, and to support them spiritually and practically. Think of ways you can serve them better. Try to see things from their point of view when they have a lot on their plates. They are still human, even if they are your boss! And lastly, be teachable and open to the possibility of taking on additional responsibility. It could be an opportunity for growth.