Have you ever thought about the moments in life where you have felt the most alive? We often catch ourselves looking back in order to look forward - in a sense, our past is either a springboard or a sinkhole by which we measure our lives and who we have become. But the moment we realise who we are meant to be can be the real moment that defines us.
I had the privilege a few months ago to connect with Dr. Michael Cassidy, the founder of African Enterprise, an organisation based on the belief that all people, from street children to presidents, need to hear and be changed by the Good News. Dr. Cassidy himself has quite an interesting journey in which he found himself at a crossroads with a single decision that changed the rest of his life.
Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Cassidy remembers being a 21-year-old struggling with the injustice of apartheid and reaching a turning point in which he knew he had to do something for the nation of Africa. By 1957, he found himself in New York listening to Dr. Billy Graham speak and felt called to return to Africa. After graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary, he gathered a team and set off to Africa, knowing that he had to take his dream international.
Dr. Cassidy also realised that there was a great need for training the local Africans themselves, and that the leaders of his growing organisation had to train the people in how to witness, disciple, pray, and to work together as a team. In his eyes, the need of the hour was, as he said, “to teach leaders to teach followers”. This reciprocal calling was the bedrock for what became known as African Enterprise, which eventually expanded to the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and many other countries across the globe.
Leaders and followers
For some reason, as I look back on the moments of my life that I’ve had so far, I have found it quite easy to follow the footsteps of others - whether my parents, my siblings, or the people I look up to. In my upbringing, my education, and even in my work, it has been a journey of learning and following. The problem that I find, however, is not being humble, but staying humble. It is all good and easy to follow when the leader in question is faultless, but such a person sadly doesn’t actually exist. It becomes harder to follow while staying humble to the leader in charge, and learning from their mistakes. I’ve found that the real crossroads is when to decide to take another path, or to forge your own path entirely.
Nowadays, I have been honoured to find myself in leadership roles where I am able to teach and speak into the lives of both young and old, the humble and the honoured, the leaders, and the followers. But it’s in these times when I remember that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop being a follower. Instead, it simply means that the responsibility to learn as a leader flows from being a follower in different shoes.
As Dr. Cassidy told me during our conversation, “leaders must be able to galvanise people to do the job”, while not forgetting to do the job themselves. Being able to push the mission forward, while sticking to the primary calling of loving others and being a witness to those around you is what we are meant to do. This idea that we are meant to live out our beliefs rather than staying silent lies at the heart of what we do and say in our daily lives.
The need of the hour is to pass onto others what we ourselves have been taught, which requires a lesson in humility. That humility can make all the difference in the world in how we share with others, and what others are able to share because we ourselves chose to.
Joseph Kolapudi is a TCK born in Australia to Indian parents, and returned from California where he was studying theology at Fuller; currently, he is working with a missions agency, continuing his love of writing by contributing to PSI.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html