Being a Christian leader is one of the most fulfilling and challenging roles as people tend to find creative ways to scrutinize your leadership. Along the way of learning to lead, I have found these four lessons to be the ones that resonate closest to my heart.
TRUSTING GOD: One area that is easier said than done is trusting God regardless of the situation. I have found it easier to trust God when things are going well. However, my faith is tested from all directions when I am facing a challenge. We all want to be in control and, when we are not, our world is turned upside down. I am learning every day to trust in God even when I do not know or control the outcome. Remember Noah when he was building an ark and there was no flood? He kept trusting even though others may have ridiculed his work.
Trusting God means taking a step forward in obedience even when we cannot see the road in front of us.
ACCOUNTABILITY: We live in a secular society where truth is viewed as subjective and people are masters of their own destinies. Being accountable requires me to embrace a humble spirit, believing that I should answer for all my actions either in private or public space. This is not an easy thing as we have to subject ourselves to another fallen human being who might have glaring short-comings! Accountability is being an open book as we give permission to others to make harsh or friendly assessments of our character and behavior. In my African context, accountability is very close to what we call ‘Ubuntu’ which basically means you are a person through others.
It is a realization that we were not created to live in isolation but in community. As a leader, I have intentionally surrounded myself with mentors who have permission to speak into my life. I strongly believe that no one can be a good leader unless he or she is in an intentional accountability relationship.
VULNERABILITY: The world continues to bombard us with images of strong leadership and some of these characteristics are difficult to attain. Most leadership training courses do not spend enough time teaching the growing leaders to embrace vulnerability. It is very sad that vulnerability is viewed as weakness and timidity and is scorned upon. Like the apostle Paul, I have found out that, “when I am weak then I am strong.” Vulnerable leaders allow others to see that God is not yet done with His work in them.
Vulnerability means humbly embracing our brokenness so that others can see we are work in progress!
BE PRESENT: Every single day there are things that are competing for our attention, ranging from our mobile screens to our social media platforms. We are a generation that is more connected than any other generation and yet we are lonelier than ever. We can be present physically but a million kilometers away from others due to social media disruptions. One of the lessons that I am learning is to be present with people. I refuse to have my attention forced into a detour because of an incoming call or message. It is sad that some of us rush to engage with our screens while we neglect to engage face to face with others.
Being present communicates that we value and respect the person we are speaking to and people leave the conversation encouraged.
Meet Tony Nzanzah,
Member of the SU Global Team and Field Development Director for English speaking Africa. He has served in many leadership roles, the most recent one being a board member of a Christian college in Cape Town, South Africa.
I found out about LLI almost a year ago, when my SU Latvia colleague Zane was preparing to go to LLI Transform summer training in Croatia. Zane came back to Latvia refreshed in her vision. She joyfully shared with our team how she had experienced a wonderful summer. And although it all sounded amazing, at the same time, I had this funny feeling that I actually had no idea what she was talking about.
Right after Zane came back, I had an opportunity to take part in hosting LLI Discover Training in Latvia. It seemed that I was finally going to experience what LLI means practically.
Unfortunately, not everything in life happens as planned. Training lasted 4 days and there were 32 participants from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Without a doubt, everything went great and the participants were delighted with the program.
However - as I was part of the SU Latvia organizing team, I kept focusing on all of my responsibilities of maintaining the training location so everything would go smoothly - my heart was closed to the spiritual aspect of the training. After the training, I felt like I had missed something. Everyone around me was happy and inspired but, for me, a smile just did not come as a natural response. At the same time my life was getting much more complicated and I started to feel spiritually empty.
Then came the second opportunity which I call – God’s miracle. I went to Croatia for a week and experienced LLI Discover training dedicated to sports ministry. God’s miracle came at the moment when I was facing problems such as money, time, etc. Basically, things we always need a little bit more of. God provided everything and even my skepticism and complex life situation disappeared at that moment.
This experience changed my mind and my previous picture completely! Finally I could just go and dedicate myself to what was prepared without thinking of practical background tasks. This training gave me the right focus not only for our SU Latvia mission, but also for my personal and spiritual life. One quote that I still hold to my heart from that week is this – “Don't let your thirst for direction shadow your thirst of knowing God better!”
Also, LLI team and their impact throughout the years really motivated us (SU Latvia team) to start our own outdoor education project called “Sava Daba”, which in Latvian means – Your own nature/Self nature. It is an amazing way to discover God’s creation through nature and to understand our unique role in it.
I would say that LLI Discover not only provided me with an impulse to start realizing ideas, but it also gave me the right mindset and basis so I could manage to stand strong even when the storm comes.
I invite you to try to fully understand what I am writing about and experience for yourself what LLI offers!
I came to LLI this year to gain more practical knowledge on how to be a leader. As a Senior Paramedic, Bible study leader and motivated individual I was very interested in improving my skills and growing in my relationship with Christ. I was constantly serving others, taking courses to learn new skills for serving others and wanting to know where God would lead me next in ministry and life. I knew of DPB and the staff from prior years of volunteering and was so excited to get a full summer of learning, ministry, rest and adventure!
The closer I got to the summer, the more God began to show me how I was burnt out and tired from work, ministry and family. I had been doing too much and I was wearing thin. I pushed through until the summer and then was happy to jump on a plane and spend a summer away from life, up close and personal with Jesus.
I knew the summer would be hard but fulfilling. I expected to be filled and well rested so I could go back to serving others. But God had all kinds of plans, and I can see now how he had those plans prepared for many years! I spent the first few weeks WAY out of my comfort zone. Multiple different cultures surrounding me, many strong leaders like me, a completely different schedule than normal and tasks made to challenge us mentally and spiritually. I knew that was coming but I didn’t expect how that would affect me.
God used the people and tasks to break me down and bring down every wall I had up. Plenty of tears happened as God showed me how I had not rested in a long time and struggled to find things that brought me joy. He used debriefs with Steve and Megan to make me think about every part of my life. I said many times “I came to this summer already broken, and God is breaking me more. I thought if I just kept serving others for God’s glory that my heart would be fine.” But I learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you aren’t regularly filling up on Jesus every day, you won’t have anything to give others. So after spending most of the summer learning about what God wanted me to see and practicing new healthy habits like supportive leadership, sabbath rest, prayer and working in a team, I was put to the test! I was CREW leader with Zane and was able to practice everything! God knew that I learn more by teaching and I had many opportunities to teach CREW members lessons that I needed to learn myself. Zane and I watched God take our daily plans for CREW and change them into something much better and more glorifying to him every day! We always ended the day saying “Wow! Did you see what He did? God is amazing!”.
Through it we had the blessing of watching a girl give her life to Christ and develop a love for scripture, all because of GOD choosing to use us as tools in his handiwork. This was by far the hardest but most fulfilling summer. I could write PAGES of stories of things God taught me and stories of hearts he changed. I ended the summer still not feeling full spiritually, but with the realization that God knew that is where I needed to be. If I went home full, I would go back to my old habits and go until I was empty again. Instead, I knew I had to go back to the same old things and people but with new habits and mindset that I needed to practice.
I needed to fill daily and rely on God to serve others. That thought scared me. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave the loving and encouraging community that I had at LLI. Here, I was being challenged, pushed, loved and listened to. Coming home felt like I would be alone and inexperienced. But the thing with LLI is, you build such amazing relationships with your team members.
We were all going through similar struggles and questions. We learned how to be open, honest and loving with each other. Through that, during the summer, we built a community, a circle of people facing inwards, doing ministry. But now we must face outwards and go into the world to share what God has done and his love. Shoulder to shoulder, encouraging each other.
My first couple weeks home were a difficult transition. A few of us LLI students would say to each other “Everything is the same, except me.” Practicing those new habits was not easy, but I knew I had my LLI community behind me, thousands of miles away, but still willing to encourage and pray for each other.
I am currently practicing a weekly day of sabbath rest, spending devotional time regularly and allowing God to work in me. I have learned to step back from so many activities and focus on spending time to listen to God so that I can better serve others. I am still struggling with a lot of things spiritually and God is still teaching me a lot about things that need to change. But He used this summer to remove all the extra things so I could focus on the most important ones.
I’m not worried about all the tough things I’m walking through, because I saw through this summer that He has a much better plan, with an ending that is more than I could ever expect. If we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. I learned this summer that God knows more about what I want than I do, every truly fulfilling and joyful thing that He gives us in time is much more than what we think we want or need right now. So yes, I’m struggling, and I’m confused sometimes, but God has walked with me this far and blessed me more than I deserve, so I know He is going to continue that good work in me and carry it on to completion. He used LLI to change my life when I didn’t even know it needed to be changed! He is a good, GOOD Father.
I have three great passions in my life – nature, children and being a Christ Follower. I have always loved to be in nature and explore God’s amazing Creation. I’ve always loved working with kids and helping them to discover the world around them. But all these years I had a feeling I was not doing enough. God was calling me somewhere else where I could use my potential more. In the meantime, I volunteered in "Scripture Union" in Latvia.
Last summer, I got to taste a little bit of the Leadership Lab International (LLI) from Croatia. There I met Steve, Michael, Brenda and some students that chose to join the LLI 2018 team, which helped me in making the final decision to participate in the program. I started to see how I can combine my three biggest passions and follow God’s will. Those were very special and important 5 days.
After this LLI Training in Estonia, I felt that it was the right time to make some changes in my life and go full time in Ministry work. I left my job, but I knew that I needed to grow as a leader, discover my strengths and weakness, get more practice in Camp Ministry. So Leadership Lab International was the perfect option for me. I went there having no idea how important this summer would be.
It is not just a program. This summer I discovered new things about God and myself every day, I improved my language skills and expanded my English vocabulary. I learned about my culture’s impact on how I was raised and how I think. I challenged myself to try new things like rock climbing and rappelling, archery, canoeing, orienteering, doing crafts with leather and wood burning.
But most importantly I made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I met so many amazing campers and volunteers this year that helped me to clearly see God’s love and care for His people.
My LLI team and staff became my family this summer. We built a team and learned together, we prayed and worshiped our Heavenly Father together. We cooked and traveled. We spent countless hours laughing until bedtime. We helped each other grow and become true God’s disciples. We served together spiritually - working in different Ministries, and practically - cleaning the camp place and doing yard work.
And above all I had an amazing support team who took care of me: I had special debrief times with Steve and our mentor Megan, coffee talks with Jenny and Brenda, and a supportive prayer group back at home.
When I came to Croatia at the beginning of this summer, I had lost my joy in life and had many insecurities. But God had already started His work in me.
One of my prayers during this summer was that God would take me as a useful tool in His hands. There were some special moments in camps when just a simple conversation or one of my actions inspired some campers to make changes in their lives. One special girl, who had been struggling with faith for many years, had many important questions about life. I had the amazing opportunity to be her counselor. She decided to stop being afraid and make some changes in her spiritual life. These moments were my answered prayers. I had to be there this summer because God used me in His work.
And that is so amazing! I grew week by week, I becoming more confident in myself, I discovered new leadership skills, learned that I am a peacemaker, encourager and team player and, most importantly, I renewed my relationship with God and regained joy.
Croatia will always have a special place in my heart because of the people and relationships which I built there. We have continued to communicate, praying together and for each other.
I can surely say that I came home much more equipped and prepared for my new role in Scripture Union Latvia. And also in this new journey, I continue to be mentored by the team during successes and happy moments and also during struggles in life and Ministry work.
Zane Jansone, LLI 2018 Participant
“Looking back at this summer I still cannot grasp everything God has done in and through me during LLI. There was so much and there is still so much more to come! I am still in a process of unpacking, but I can share one significant thing that I learnt and that has influenced the way I look at my relationship with God.
That is learning to be a better disciple by making abiding in Him the foundation of my journey. There have been hardships and there has been JOY in doing this. However, now I am so different from how I was at the beginning of LLI! Now I am rejoicing in His love knowing that seeing the fruit of my works is the part I do not always need to understand.
I stand in awe and wonder having no words but praise and worship to my Alpha and Omega! And this poem is my praise to Him!”
In the depths of the sea of my innermost being
I believed in the lies and I followed that pride.
You spoke and took away part of my vision
With love you pruned for the greater Provision.
First, You created man like yourself
But his reckless pride sent him right to hell.
Nothing but love and love alone
Could redeem and restore that heart of stone.
Second, You died dressed all in flesh
After washing their feet in that garden you wept.
My God, my Lord, my Restoration
Your cup of death has brought Salvation!
In the depths of the sea of my innermost being
In the tunnels of mind where the warriors fight
You moved mountains and here I am seeing
Most glorious might – Lord you dress me in white!
Nobody can rob me again
Of the robe and the ring and the slaughtered Lamb.
I belong in your throne made out of thorns
You suffered for me inclining heavenly horns.
In the depths of your Mercy and on mountain of Grace
To the altar of Moses, I bring offering of Praise.
I choose to lay down all of my heart
Your Will be done
Your Kingdom come
Oh Church arise,
We are His Bride!
Today, as I reflect on the transformation that took place in Roberta's life, I am so thankful for all of you who partner with us in prayer and support to make LLI possible.
It is when we see the difference God has made in the lives of these young leaders and the campers that come through the DPB House doors that we are reminded about why we are seeking to raise funds so more beds become available. We are continuing to ask God to raise up the funds for the LLI Cabin project so we can gain back beds that were lost under new regulations as we had to remodel the DPB House to meet new codes.
Honestly, this journey has not been easy, but your prayers and generous donations have enabled us to get this far and each donation has been such an encouragement. Every matching grant, donation, every prayer in and around the building site has brought us together with a focus to God alone be the glory in and through Jesus’ ministry at the DPB House Camp and Training Center.
Together, we press on in this vision to see a facility completed so others may meet with their God away from the noises of life in a place where they may rest and grow.
Would you consider joining us in providing funding to finish the LLI Cabin so even more young men and women will have the opportunity to grow in Christian character, commitment to God’s call on their lives and competency to be servant leaders in a world in need?
Thank you for considering joining us in expanding ministry so more young leaders may be trained throughout the year.
Grace and Peace,
Quite a few months leading up to the past summer were rough. After 9 years of trying my best to follow Christ in my own strength, I had developed detrimental self-criticism, poisonous perfectionism and a persistent judgment of others and myself. These lions as I like to call them robbed me of my joy and left me feeling emotionally burnt out.
However, God had other plans for my life so I could face those painful lions. It wasn’t my plan, but His to sign up for Leadership Lab International and this is how my story of Summer 2018 begins. God called me to this place. It was not a voice — rather I felt it in my innermost being that He wanted me to go.
I arrived at the DPB House in Severin na Kupi, Croatia not knowing what was the reason God had brought me there. I had nothing to offer and stood there only because I truly believed it was God’s idea. I prayed asking God to show His face and show me what was next.
Little did I know that there is where my Heavenly Father who knows all hearts would dig deep down into mine to uncover things I did not even realize I was holding onto. I obeyed His lead thus He took over the reins of my life and started a pruning process that would set me free to live joyfully for Him.
Thank you for your support of Leadership Lab International (LLI) through prayer and giving. Together, we are stepping alongside young leaders so they are not thrust into ministry without receiving mentored training. Your partnership with us is such a blessing to the young people who come through LLI as you can read from Roberta’s story.
Steve, you are part of this growing ministry that God is advancing to prepare young leaders in Christian character as they prepare to serve Him. Through LLI, we have the privilege of pouring our lives into the next generation as they learn to lead and become relational disciples committed to God’s kingdom work around the world.
As we draw closer to the end of 2018, would you take a moment to support LLI as we seek to mentor and train more young leaders in 2019. Your gifts will help make it possible for us to finish the new LLI Cabin (House of Rest) enabling LLI to take the next step in providing mentored training year-round. During this season, we are trusting God will raise up the final $30,000.00 for this much needed addition to the DPB House Training Center.
God also provided matching funds up to $7,000.00 and both through prayer and donations we're seeing Him provide the resources needed so the doors of the cabin may be opened for 2019.
Hoping You have a Blessed New Year,
P.S. Your special gift will help us take one step closer to providing year-round mentoring possible for young women and men. Thank you for considering making a year-end gift!
By Carri Clark
Carri is one of our LLI 2018 Transform training alumni. God used this summer to grow her love for Him and do some deep healing in her life. May her story encourage you as you walk with Jesus.
There was a table, beautiful and strong. Everyone loved it and had wonderful memories with it. The maker created it to serve people and they were influenced by it’s qualities. The table was happy to have people use it and was available day and night for anything and anyone.
But the maker knew that many people misused the table. He chased some of them away but knew he could not keep everything away. Over time, the table gathered scrapes, gouges and stains as it was bumped and damaged. It bore everything with a smile, but the maker could see it had no protection for itself and it’s structure was weak. The table continued, not realizing it was becoming worn and ready to fall apart. It hurt, and the scrapes stung, but it didn’t want to leave it’s work.
Finally the wounds took their toll and the table became discouraged. How long could it continue serving people? Some intentionally damaged it. Some didn’t even notice it. And all left their mark. The table forgot all the good it was ding and the people it had helped. It forgot how to love them. It forgot the maker that could help it…But the maker knew what was happening.
One day, the maker came and took the table away from it’s place. The table was tired and went willingly, expecting a new coat of paint or something else to cheer it up for more service. But the maker knew what it needed most. The maker began to sand the table with a rough paper. The table panicked, “This hurts! Why are you doing this?”
But the maker calmly continued his work without speaking. The maker reached every spot of the table with the paper. The table didn’t understand, “Haven’t I been through enough pain? Why are you causing more?”
The maker replied, “I am changing you. I’m going to heal the damage and make you new.”
Relieved to hear the maker’s voice at last, the table became calm. It felt peace as the maker filled every gouge, hole and scrape. Slowly, the table changed form. It became smooth and clean. But the table began to notice, it did not look the same. All it’s edges were round! All the characteristics it had were covered! New ones were being made! “This is not me! Why did you change me so much? How can I go back like this? I don’t know how to do it! I don’t want to help those people! They will just ruin all the work you’ve done! I don’t want to be marked again!”
But the maker knew his plan. He allowed the table to rest in it’s new form. People came by and touched it, admiring the maker’s work. They talked about how they could not wait to spend quiet time and meals there. They talked about how much they missed the table. But the table was not sure, it was afraid, it did not feel comfortable in it’s new form and going back to it’s old purpose. The master began applying pain, paint that protected the table from insects and small wounds. He spoke softly to the table and it began to learn many things.
It was still a table. It was still the same wood. But it had been made better, stronger and more beautiful. It had not been changed because there was something wrong with it. It had been made for a purpose and the maker would protect it. There would certainly be more scrapes and bumps, but the maker would never be far. He might not be speaking, but he will protect from the worst injuries and repair the small.
by Andrii Stupak
Andrii reflects on his ministry assignment as one of the leaders for the CREW Servant Leader discipleship program for teens at the DPB Training Center.
The last 2 weeks I had a great opportunity to be in camp as a leader of the Crew team. Through this time we had a lot of highlights and funny moments together. I had a chance to get to know and fall in love with my team. Every day we had to do some chores like setting up the tables for meals, doing dishes, and cleaning the house and outside. I’m thankful to God that He brought these amazing people together and gave us the opportunity to meet each other and serve together. Besides chores we also played a lot of games and communicated and read the Bible.
During camp God spoke to me a lot through His Word and through my team. In John 15:5-6 it says:
5“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won’t be able to do anything. 6If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be like a branch that has been thrown out and has dried up. All the dead branches like that are gathered up, thrown into the fire and burned.
One of our tasks was to cut unnecessary and dead tree branches and burn them. It helped me to imagine how important it is to serve God and to bear plenty of fruits to Him, and what I have to do to reach that.
I praise the Lord for Crew team 2018 and the amazing time we had together.
by Julia Weiss
Julia is an intern in this year's LLI Transform Training
The first week at Leadership Lab International was already a very precious time for me. We (our team of 7 participants from 6 different countries) were able to get to know each other better and already grew together as a team! Especially our hiking trip during the weekend was an experience that bound us together. As we were on our way to the top of a mountain called Kamenjak, the way got more difficult and rocky the further we came. Since we almost had to start climbing with our heavy backpacks, we finally decided to turn around, go part of the way back and take a different path that brought us quite quickly to the top of the mountain.
Looking back our hiking experience, it became an image for me for our walk with Christ. Sometimes we come across obstacles that challenge us a lot and sometimes it seems like we can‘t go on anymore. Maybe we even ask ourselves if it was a mistake to go this way. But even during these times, we can trust the Lord‘s guidance. He doesn‘t make mistakes and he never leaves our side! And even when the way seems senseless to the point of turning around and going back, it is not senseless to Him! He has a different perspective on our lives and sometimes brings things in our lives to strengthen us for what is to come. He remains faithful, and so this experience encourages me to hold on to what is said in Romans 8,28:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
by Kurt Bekins
Kurt and his family recently moved to Croatia to continue making disciples and to serve the church. Pray their consistent life, where action matches faith and proclamation, would bring many to glorify God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:11-12)
When I was a kid, my cousins and I loved to play with toy cars. We treasured these classic 1:64 scale die-cast toy vehicles! We were trading 3 for 1 in some cases, not because of the price paid (in pop can money), but because of their personal worth. Some of these cars I happened upon in the store, others I looked for hard and long or traded as many as 6 cars to get them from my cousins. Less than a year ago our family made a big move, having to sell or give away much of our belongings. But you know what? I took along a few of those “precious” cars for the nostalgia. These $1 toys were still so valuable to me.
A Hidden Treasure and a Valuable Pearl
I was thinking about the worth of these cars while I was studying Matthew 13. In chapter 13, Matthew displays seven of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Here are the fifth and sixth:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (NIV)
Both of these short parables show us the sacrificial cost of being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Both the man and the merchant went and sold everything to obtain their treasure. They both sold EVERYTHING they had. Those who take serious the value of the Kingdom don’t see the cost as an obligation, but pursue it JOYFULLY!
The man was glad to part ways with all that he had because his long-term return would be far greater. And the merchant would have been an expert in the value of pearls and yet he sold everything he owned for this pearl of far greater value.
Counting the Cost
When I think about the application of this passage, I think about the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus with his flattering compliments and great knowledge of the law. He was genuinely seeking the Kingdom. But he wouldn’t set aside his wealth to follow Jesus, a far greater treasure (Col. 2:1-3). The cost was far too great for him. “Silly ruler,” we say in our minds.
There is a cost to following Jesus. It will cost you everything. It may cost you your possessions, selfish desires, wealth, worldly status, relationships, or your very life. But it is worth so much more.
Proverbs 3:15 “She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.”
Go joyfully. Pursue the treasure. Cherish Christ in your life!