Let me ask you a question: "What does real leadership look like?"
I was at a leadership conference in Orlando last weekend, and I actually SAW it play-out – in real time!
During a session on vision, goals and purpose, the speaker began to describe the violence erupting in Nicaragua, and the brave people who work undercover to bring food and medical supplies to the poor.
Let's Get You Up To Speed
If you haven’t heard (and I can’t blame you, because American news outlets have done a downright PITIFUL job of covering this), Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has almost-invisibly transformed himself into a dictator – absorbing more and more executive power into his sole control. And, in doing so, he provided an EXCELLENT contrast to the type of leadership we discussed during this past weekend.
First, earlier this spring, he announced all retirement support benefits for the elderly would be suspended. As you can imagine, this sparked an uproar. But NOT among the older citizens, but among the YOUNG people... fed-up with seeing their parents and grandparents abused by the government. They began protesting, marching in the streets, and organizing demonstrations.
And THAT'S when things got violent.
In an effort to shut-down the protests, President Ortega authorized local police and national military groups to use ALL "necessary force." And the confrontations quickly became bloody, as police shot and wounded protesters – killing several protesters. In some areas, police actually HELPED the rioters by holding business owners at gunpoint while rioters (and fellow police officers) looted their stores! They even BURNED some businesses to the ground.
News agencies "officially" reported 66 deaths in the first few days, but locals know hundreds of others have gone missing or were killed by police. In some cases, witnesses were killed, as well! Many of these were fathers and husbands, the sole providers for their families. Gone suddenly.
Does that sound like leadership to you? Let me tell you, IT. IS. NOT! Dictators, by simple definition, cannot be "leaders."
And...It Gets Even WORSE!
But, not content with what he had already done, President Ortega THEN went after the most vulnerable people in his nation. To starve his people into submission – and we're not just speaking in metaphors, here – he cut-off government funding to any schools, hospitals or any other organizations that refused to declare allegiance to him. As a result:
- Hundreds of teachers and school staff were fired, leaving them absolutely no way to provide for their own families.
- For tens of thousands of children across Nicaragua, school lunch is the ONLY meal they get each day. By eliminating the school lunch program, he is effectively starving these children.
- Countless people, of all ages, had desperately-needed medicines and care withheld from them. He is LITERALLY holding their lives for ransom.
By now, you've got to be asking yourself: "Does this kind of senseless brutality STILL exist in the world?" You bet it does! And President Ortega is just the latest in a series of "non-leaders" holding positions of power.
How Genuine Leaders Respond
This offers a massive opportunity for the evangelical church to rise-up, as leaders, and respond to these atrocities with determination and action. However, so far, the response from evangelicals has been... DEAFENING silence!
Do you know who IS responding? Real leaders! REAL leaders, like...
- Catholic priests who stood, arms linked, to face-down riot police in front of their congregations.
- King’s Ransom Foundation contacts throughout Nicaragua, quietly buying supplies from places like Costco and sneaking them past police, to provide for the helpless, desperate families, trapped and hopeless under this government oppression.
Setting A Big Goal
Our contacts in Nicaragua recently reported they now spend over $10,000 per week on these relief efforts. Now, this might not seem like much to you, but $10,000 per week is a pretty massive goal for someone – especially in a place like Nicaragua – where the average person makes LESS THAN $1,000 per month.
So, in this leadership conference, we talked about it... A LOT. Then, something remarkable happened – the people attending right alongside me, caught a vision. They saw beyond themselves and their own plans. They took action to serve the needs of people they would probably never meet. One by one, people began to make their way to the front stage, dropping wads of cash – whatever they had on hand – to make a difference for these persecuted Nicaraguans.
THOSE people were leaders, leading the charge to make a difference.
Taking The Response REALLY "Up A Notch"
Then, someone near the front of the room stood up and announced, if anyone would donate $2,000, he'd match it. The response was immediate; within seconds, a dozen people called out they were ready to help! Then, a young woman stood up and offered to match a $5,000 gift. Someone behind her seized that opportunity immediately.
And THESE people were also leaders.
Then someone pledged a $10,000 gift... then another voiced chimed-in with a $20,000 gift. People saw the opportunity to make a meaningful difference – and they TOOK IT. Meanwhile, people continued to flood the stage with cash gifts.
THAT'S when "it" happened.
True Leadership LITERALLY Changes The Game
Then, one young man in the center of the room announced a $500 per week donation pledge – for EVERY week until the crisis ended. Rather than send a one-time gift guaranteed to eventually run out, he PUBLICLY committed to come alongside those suffering in Nicaragua and to sustain them, week-by-week, for as long as they needed.
That announcement shook the room. It demonstrated servant leadership in a way most people NEVER get to see. A hush fell, as people considered the weight of his words. As long as oppression exists, someone needs to stand with the oppressed.
Suddenly, someone else had an idea: What if everyone chose to stand for the poor in a meaningful way?!? Earth-shattering! From the front of the room to the back, each row of conference participants took a sheet of scratch paper and passed it down the line, so everyone could write down their name and how much they would commit to share each week.
It wasn’t just a transaction of money; people turned their eyes away from their own plans and desires – some for the very first time – and focused on serving people, who could NEVER return the favor. Many later reported, this experience changed their lives. They now saw and realized a whole new type of leadership actually DID exist!
When all the dust settled, we collected over $36,000 in cash and checks – right then and there! Another group made over $108,000 in online donations to KingsRansom.org. Then, 300+ additional people made commitments to donate over $24,000 PER WEEK, to the starving families of Nicaragua!
So, to all those who took a stand that day, we say “THANK YOU!” for your leadership.
The problem is, “Thank You” just seems somehow inadequate. But I know, behind me, a frightened mother with three young children facing an unknown and unstable future in Nicaragua is also saying “Thank You!”... with her tears, that words just can’t express. And I know our Father in Heaven, who sees it all, says “Thank You,” as well!
And, if you missed that event, you can still participate in the RESPONSE. Click here to make your donation NOW!