Flies on the wall

Flies on the wall

How I wish all of you could have been "flies on the wall" at our leadership conference this morning.

You would have been there when Godfrey's phone rang, and as Godfrey excitedly told everyone that "twins have been born" today! We all got the wonderful news together that two of our schools have made it through the process of being registered and accredited! It was a special moment, and not exactly a silent moment at that, as those who have worked so hard to get those two schools built felt the real joy and thankfulness that we had finally, finally, finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Mtyinayki and Bukimau, both have been registered, our "twins" have been born. Once Godfrey could get everyone to quiet down, he reminded them, lest anyone forget, that even though it’s starting to look routine and easy, with Mtinyaki and Bukimau being our 13th and 14th schools to get registered and accredited, the truth is that most people go crazy with the process of even registering a single school, they give up along the way, and many people don’t even try to build a school when they see the process ahead of them. It was truly a great moment.

I have to confess that I also wish you could have been there when we gave out books to everyone. They were a very thoughtful gift from a church in America, both wonderful books I was able to find in Swahili. The first set of books were on spiritual leadership that we gave those to all of our headmasters to encourage them to think “outside of the box” and to lead their schools not as they saw their headmasters lead theirs back when they were students, but instead to lead as Jesus would have them lead, to be a totally different kind of leader. The second set of books we gave to all those who are working to build our schools and to encourage them not to be bosses over the people in their villages, but instead to apply the principles of being a faithful follower of Christ whose great desire is to be a faithful servant. That too was a great moment.

I even would have liked you to have been there when I made a colossal language error that had the whole room, me included, laughing so hard and for so long, that we all actually forgot the point that I was trying to make. You all would have certainly enjoyed that – everyone else sure did!

But the real reason I wish you could have been there was to listen to Godfrey as he spoke to all of us to get the meetings started!

He started out going down the very long list of what the Village Schools Tanzania has accomplished this past year as he congratulated the group as a whole on a job well done. Building all of those new classrooms, seeing our enrollment jump to nearly 7000 students, starting schools in two new regions of the country, Getting our AIDS Community Treatment Center opened, leaping forward on building our college, putting in electricity and water projects. The list seemed to go on and on and on. Then he thanked them all as a team for all of their hard work, for all of their sacrifice. And then he thanked all of the people all around the world who had given of their funds (and that's one of the reasons I wish you had been flies on the wall so you could have heard what he said about you, and even more so, the way he said it). And then Godfrey said openly what anyone who has actually lived here knows to be true – that a huge number charities in the country have almost nothing to point to as their accomplishments! As Godfrey put it, all they keep telling the world about is the problems that there are here. There’s a lack of clean water, so give your money. Kids don’t get to go to school, so give your money. People are dying of AIDS, so give your money. There are all of these problems, so give your money. But they never say what they've accomplished, what they have done to actually make a difference. And why is that? Because, as we know, most of these charities are what we all jokingly call "briefcase charities" -- they have nothing other than registration papers in their briefcases and volumes of reports and statistics telling of the great needs that they will take care of if only they can manage to get some funding from somewhere. Or they are charities whose big offices exist down in Dar es Salaam, full of experts who drive fancy cars and live in big houses and get big salaries, but never come to help any of us who live in villages. They too tell the world about the great needs and they have their offices in America or in Europe full of experts who use those statistics and those pictures and those stories to tell about the great needs on our continent and to collect the money of generous money, and then do almost nothing at all here in our countries. Those are not "briefcase charities" because they have more than briefcases, they have big offices and lots of staff, but the results of all of their efforts are still pretty much the same -- not very much at all.

But you all, Godfrey told them, you all are different -- you are actually working in these villages, you are there full-time, you have moved to these villages from your own homes and you are investing yourselves in this great work. And you are doing it because you believe that God has given us a job to do, and the job He has given us to do is a good job that will help people and is a cause worth spending our lives doing.

But just so you don't get too full of pride in saying something foolish like -- are we not wonderful because we are so different? -- remember that the reason that we have all of this success is because this is God's work and He has decided to do what He has decided to do. We are just lucky to get chosen to build these schools, we are blessed that He has chosen us and sent us, but if any one of you left, God would choose someone else, because He has decided and purposed and He is doing all that we are seeing happen. These schools will be built and these children will get an education. He is going to do what He has purposed. This is His work. That is what is also very different between this charity and other charities. People in those charities are working hard – and some of them aren’t working very hard at all – but whatever, they are working because it is their own cause or because it is their job and they are getting paid a lot of money. But we are doing what we are doing because it is His job and His work and because He has called us. That is a big difference.

And so Godfrey asked us all not to celebrate what we have done this last year. Let us celebrate what God has done this last year. All of these buildings -- He has done it. All of these students -- they are His and He has brought them. The college -- He has done it. The three new beautiful dump trucks -- He has given them to us. The hundreds of people who are alive today because of our AIDS Community Treatment Center -- it is He who has done that for them. Yes, we all had a part. Yes, the people who gave money had a part. Yes, the people who prayed for us had a part. But the one who deserves all the honor and praise is God because He is the One who has willed it and purposed it and made it happen. Let us not forget that .....

Godfrey was so very right. It is easy to look at all that has happened and to feel a bit prideful. It would be easy for the 58 people in that room to say look at what we have done. Quite frankly even all of you who have given so much money could easily say, look at what great things we have all done together. There are times I want to look over at Godfrey and Emmanueli with such admiration and say look at what these guys have done. But Godfrey is right, this is so big, far beyond what any of us ever dreamed or could have imagined possible, that we have to acknowledge the great things that God has done. He deserves all the praise. How very blessed we are to get to see it all happen and to be allowed to play a part in what He is doing in all of these villages.

If the next three days are even half as good as today was, it is going to be a great conference!

In His service,
Steve