Go, Therefore

Posted Aug 10, 2012 by 4 Comments

I met Phindile the first day I arrived at World Changers. As head of the Life Skills department and just a generally nice person, she was one of the first to take me under her wing. She showed me the ropes and offered me all of her insider information about life on campus like which outlets don’t work and where to find tea in the staff kitchen.

Since then, we’ve walked a lot of miles together—up the dirt road toward the taxi stop, through the city, over the hill to church, up and down the hallways of the World Changers office. I’ve seen Phindile facilitate Life Skills courses, lead Bible studies, represent World Changers at meetings with local officials and manage conflict within her department.

We’ve eaten a hundred meals together, watched a dozen movies and laughed until our stomachs hurt. In short, I’ve observed Phindile in a wide spectrum of circumstances over the last few months. And I’ve been deeply honored to learn from her. She is the kind of leader I’d follow gladly. Phindile leads with integrity and humility and grace.

Did I mention we celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago? I was shocked to learn she was turning just 25. She may be young, but she’s not waiting around to start changing the world.

More Than Just Passing the Time

Phindile was 19 and unemployed when she learned about World Changers. She was living at home, not doing much of anything and her parents were fed up.

Her mom gave her an ultimatum: take the Life Skills course or get out of the house. So it was with feet dragging that she showed up the first day.

Having fun after church with Phindile (left) and Life Skills team member Hlengiwe (right).

She says it wasn’t until the second week of the course that her ears perked up. It was during a lesson on self-leadership. She started to listen a little more intently, wondering if her life was meant to be about more than just passing the time.

By the time the course was over, Phindile was hooked. She applied for the residential leadership course on her own free will. When that was over, she started attending every Life Skills course she could reach by foot.

She was hungry to learn more and motivated to help World Changers reach other young people with the same message that had changed her life—you were created on purpose.

“All those months were my time of self-discovery and God-discovery,” Phindile said. “I don’t think I would be where I am in God without World Changers. I might have eventually snapped out of my childish behavior, but I would still be in a place without God.”

World Changers programs are rooted in Biblical values. I’ve become convinced the reason World Changers programs are so effective in bringing about lasting change in people’s lives is because they’re based on the Gospel. Knowledge alone can’t change us, but God can.

Go, Therefore

Phindile became head of the Life Skills department in 2010. Now, she directs other young leaders, all with their own unique story of transformation.  She mentors them, develops them and prays with them.

“The people on my team really care about the people they are teaching,” Phindile said. “They’re really wanting people to see how unique and special they are, what incredible potential they have.”

They would know. Each member of Phindile’s team started out as a Life Skills student, too.

World Changers has painted for me a beautiful picture of what Jesus meant when He commanded us to go and make disciples of all the nations. World Changers is walking into very broken communities and inviting people into a better story by walking alongside them.

The newest in a long line of students becoming world changers in Kwazulu-Natal.

As those students experience transformation, they are mentored and developed and taught how to mentor and develop others.

Right Where We Are

As I’ve heard the stories of my friends on staff and learned what their lives were like before World Changers, I’ve understood for the first time how effective this model is for actually changing the world.

In almost every course evaluation I have read here this summer, students said some version of this sentiment regarding the staff member teaching their course:

“He is down-to-earth and speaks in a way we can understand. He was honest about his past and it made me see that if he can change, I can change, too.”

I think if you or I walked into those classrooms and taught the exact same concepts, it might not be as effective because we’re not from here. We didn’t grow up on these streets.

Phindile and her staff did. They are being faithful right where they are, and they are impacting many lives.

One of many things I learned from my friends here at World Changers is the powerful ripple effect in being faithful right where we are.

Sometimes we want the calling on our lives to be exotic and glamorous when the most valuable thing we can do is be faithful stewards of the time and talents and resources that have been entrusted to us here, now.

It’s Working

I expected to be overwhelmed here every day with heartbreaking stories of AIDS devastating peoples’ lives. Mercifully, that hasn’t been the case. Part of the reason is the stigma that still makes talking about HIV taboo.

These young leaders have heard the call and are going out into the world to change it…will you follow?

But more than that, I haven’t encountered a ton of personal stories about HIV and AIDS at World Changers because the program is working.

It’s safe to say that World Changers is more than fulfilling its role as Loving South Africa’s prevention partner. Not only are they preventing the spread of HIV, they’re also preventing the spread of unemployment and crime and addiction, too.

And they are doing it by introducing people to the God who created them and loves them fiercely. It’s a contagious message and it’s literally changing the world.

So if you’re looking for a way to get involved in the stand against AIDS, you’ll see a hundred-fold return on your investment by supporting Loving South Africa’s ministries.

Phindile told me that sometimes, when she’s having a tough day, she thinks about giving up and doing something easier with her time.

“But then I just think, ‘Would I really give up this opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life?’”

World changers here need world changers out there to make all this possible. So let’s do it. Let’s not pass up this opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Let’s use what we’ve been given right where we are and let’s change the world.

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Next Steps
    • Give! A donation of $50 to Loving South Africa can help provide one month of Life Skills training for a student at risk of contracting HIV.
    • Want to volunteer to help with LSA events? Email Nick for more information on how you can get involved!
    • South Africa isn’t the only place the Gospel is Good News. How are you involved in mentoring and developing others right where you are?
    Next Steps

About the Author: Jen Gunnels is a 2012 summer intern. She graduated in 2005 from Indiana University, where she studied journalism, political science and IU basketball. She loves sports, country music and the state fair and after feeling a stirring in her heart to leave her cubicle and go write, she is doing just that!

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Comments

  1. JimM said... 

    Reply

    August 13th, 2012 at 10:46 pm  

    “Her mom gave her an ultimatum: take the Life Skills course or get out of the house. So it was with feet dragging that she showed up the first day”.

    “And they are doing it by introducing people to the God who created them and loves them fiercely”.

    Fantastic story on so many levels. Jen, your work this summer has been excellent, thought provoking, personal, compelling journalism. Great Job!!

    Peace.

    • Jen Gunnels said... 

      Reply

      August 14th, 2012 at 3:53 pm  

      Thanks so much for reading and for your encouragement this summer, Jim! I am so grateful to have been able to hear and share these stories!

  2. Sbu said... 

    Reply

    August 14th, 2012 at 7:57 am  

    Hey Jen

    I’ve been following your stories here and I would like to say this bodly, I do respect your writing skills. You just make the picture of the story.

    By the way thanks for the time you spent with us here at World Changers Academy. You have sen what we are doing and I hope you have learn something as we learn a lot from you. I would like to thank you and the people who made I possible to visit us this summer, and wish you all the best in life transforming work you guys are doing

    Cheers

    Sbu

    • Jen Gunnels said... 

      Reply

      August 14th, 2012 at 3:58 pm  

      Sbu, so good to hear from you! Thank you for reading! I of course learned so much from you all and I am so proud of the work you are doing! Keep it up! We are praying for you!

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