Two Men

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“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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

“Run Forest Run”- That often seems the best advice on how many managers, parents and friends manage conflict. But is avoiding conflict really the best way to manage it?

When we avoid or run from conflict rarely do we see it go away. Sure it might go away for a while, but all to often, it rears it’s ugly head again and often, while at rest, the beast grows even larger!

What if we took the time to understand conflict for what it really is and learned to manage the process of how to resolve it? For example let’s begin with the premise that not only is conflict normal but it is even profitable! 

A wise supervisor once told me if we all thought the exact same thing that the company would only need one of us. Each of us brings a unique point of view, skill set and perspective to any situation. That is what makes us valuable and it is also what is the root of conflict-differences. The issue is not whether we have differing points of view but rather how we manage our emotions and ego through the process.

This makes sense at a core level, however managing, and profiting from conflict is not so easy to do! The key in handling conflict is to be prepared before you enter the fray. There are lots of books on the subject, anger management classes and web sites devoted to the topic. How do you choose?

Well if you believe in God, it might be a good idea to understand how the creator of the universe, the One who invented emotions, the Alpha and Omega of human development and understanding designed a process for us to be both unique and to live together in peace.

Worldwide Discipleship Association, Inc has discovered nine key Biblical principles, drawn from scripture, which provide key understandings and methods for resolving conflict.

For example have you read about how Paul taught the Philippians to work at developing agreement, not just being agreeable?

Or how we can receive correction without it damaging our self-image?

These and other key methods are covered in “Developing Healthy Relationships” one of several key leadership skill trainings found at disciplebuilding.org.

My mother used to tell my brother and sister and I to “fight nice”! As I continue to study and grow I find that conflict is not to be avoided. Wade right in. Learn something in the process but understand that it is a process and equip yourself how to do it well.