It’s hard to believe that WDA celebrates 40 years of continuous ministry this year. Some things have changed a lot in four decades while others have remained the same. Our ministry is no longer aimed solely at college students. We still reach out to the next generation, but we’ve also built discipleship leaders in nearly 60 countries around the world, and that number is growing. And all this was launched from two college campuses: The Universities of Georgia and Tennessee.
This week I received the following note from someone involved in that first class of 1974. He wrote: “Dear Bob, 40 years ago you asked me to be a part of the newly formed WDA ministry on UT’s campus. I remember meeting you at the main library. Walking on campus before a UT football game recently and seeing most of the students drunk and lifeless I became even more thankful for the sacrifice you, Linda, Jim and Joanie, Carl Wilson and many others made for people like me in college. I hope I have been able to pass a little of that on to others and my children. You’re the best, your eternal friend and debtor, David Proffitt.”
David proves that building mature leaders pays great dividends, in this world and the next. Thanks to all who have made 40 years possible and profitable. May God enable WDA to continue long after we founders have left the field!
“Before all this,” the elder said, waving his weathered hands to indicate the tin-roofed shelter, the makeshift school, the large brick reservoir, “We did not even consider ourselves human beings. Now, we consider ourselves to be human beings.” The people beneath the shelter seemed bright-eyed, healthy, even joyful. Dozens of kids for whom education was previously impossible are now learning their ABC’s. A little church meets under the shelter. And the whole village has ready access to clean drinking water. The community carries a sense of dignity and communal identity that I perceive did not exist a few years ago. “Not only are you human beings,” replied Ash quietly through the translator. “You are children of God.”
So I was thinking… how does Young Leaders International, a tiny discipleship ministry focusing on a just 5 Ghanaian “coaches” bring clean water, spiritual transformation, and a communal sense of personhood to 3 villages in northern Ghana?
Here’s how I see it from an outsider’s perspective.
A few years ago, an American with a deep sense of God’s love came to Ghana to love young leaders. Not a lot of leaders. Just a few. He came without a lot of strategies and agendas, but a firm belief that love was the strongest stuff in the universe. It was a risky bet and not every leader received love. But a few did. They started visiting villages, praying for strangers in hospitals, showing practical love in their communities, and loving other young leaders.
When one coach visited a village and saw the cesspool that served as their water supply, his love made him cry. So YLI raised $12,000 and bought materials for a new water system designed by Ghanaians and built by the villagers. Then they did the same for 2 more villages. Their activity attracted other aid groups who built schools, clinics, even a playground!
The village elders believe they received God’s love in a very tangible way and they want to share that love with others. So independently, they’ve planted churches and share their water with the Fulani tribesmen in their area: nomadic Muslim cattle-herders known for banditry, murder, and trampling crops with their herds. The village of Kpenchila says the love of Christ has helped them live at peace with their Muslim neighbors. One local Imam has even asked them to plant a church in his area, seeing the good the Christians are doing.
I told one village how I learned about the Fulani in college and began to cry. God spoke to me then about His love for the Fulani and I began praying for them each day. Later I lived in a Fulani town in Guinea for a month. I knew I might see a few Fulani on this trip, but didn’t expect to see so many. Fulani settlements are interspersed between these 3 villages and I got to encourage them to keep loving the Fulani. I believe they will do just that. And if the nomadic Fulani receive God’s love, then… well I have my own ideas on that.
So that’s how love goes viral. Ash says, “I sometimes have my doubts, but one thing I’m always sure about is love.” Right.
As soon as I finished teaching the second seminar we hopped in a taxi for the twenty minute ride to my hotel just outside of Arusha. We got a place for me to stay and after dinner I crashed. Teaching six days in a row after flying 24 hours took the stuffing out of me. Dickson had me scheduled to teach in his church the next day, so I got up early to go over my message, then headed to the church. I was glad that after lunch at church I was able to go back to the room and rest for a bit.
I’ve had a lot of ugali (thick grits) and beef gravy while I’ve been here. It’s really good, but a little messy. You pull off part of the ugali and form it into a ball with a hole partially though it, then you dip it into the gravy and eat it. The pastors and I had a good laugh at Betty the first time she tried eating gravy with her hands. She had it dripping halfway to her elbow, but she got the hang of it really fast.
The pastors in the third seminar have had more schooling than the other two groups, so I didn’t have to do as much explaining and we were able to go a little faster. On the second day one of the men stood up and told the pastors he had been in my seminar in ’97 and how much it has meant in his life and ministry these past 15 years. He encouraged the pastors to listen carefully and take good notes, then to make sure they put it into practice.
The seminars are over, now I will be meeting with some of the men who were in my previous seminars and the man who will translate our material into Swahili. Thanks for praying me through this trip. I’ll hop on a plane on Saturday and arrive home on Sunday. Ken
Read the other Diary Entries
Please Continue to Pray for WDA, Ken and especially the people who have received training in Disciple Building. WDA is having an impact Worldwide through our staff and leaders around the world.
At 2:00 on Saturday I’ll be on a plane, headed for Detroit and my final destination of Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Pastor Nnko, our Associate staff in Tanzania for almost twenty years, was a prolific church planter before he died in 2012. Nnko began almost 25 churches and each one is pastored by one of his disciples. He named the churches all ‘Grace Evangelical Church’ because he thought that was a cool name!
Dickson Lazier is one of his disciples. Dickson pastors the church in Arusha, which was built by a group of men from our church here in Fayetteville. I’ll be teaching three seminars for Nnko’s disciples since they are like sheep without a shepherd since he died. I hope to re-focus their vision on helping their people to grow in Christ-like character.
Please be praying for Dickson and Pastor Charles Sengasu as they coordinate the seminars and for health and strength for me.
In 2010 WDA sent our staff to Zambia where we have been training leaders for the church. Here are a series of interviews from Zambian leaders following a disciple-building seminar conducted in 2010 by Worldwide Discipleship Association. This video captures the great need for discipleship on the African continent.