Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, joint recipients of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
I was deeply stirred by the lives of two of the people who were awarded the Nobel peace prize for 2018. Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad received their awards for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Nadia Murad was captured by terrorists in her small Iraqi village in August 2014 and sold into sexual slavery; targeted because her family belonged to the minority Yazidi religion. At the age of 21, she watched her mother and 6 brothers being marched away by terrorists to be killed. In her time of subsequent slavery she was repeatedly raped (often by two men at a time) and then sold on to other men, enduring months of torture until one captor left a door unlocked. She risked her life and escaped to safety.
In spite of a life of mental and physical trauma, she has dedicated herself to the support of survivors. She has written an autobiography, The Last Girl, and given her life to the support of the thousands of women who have survived abuse at the hands of terrorists. In her search for justice, she has addressed the United Nations and connected with national leaders including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The German nation has since accepted more than 1,000 women and children refugees who have managed to escape the terrorists.
In 1999, Dr Denis Mukwege, a trained gynaecologist, opened the Panzi Hospital in the most war-torn region of the Congo. Since its opening, the hospital has treated more than 85,000 patients with complex gynaecological damage and trauma; an estimated 60% of injuries have been caused by sexual violence where women had been gang raped by militants in the midst of the country’s conflict.
In September 2012, in a speech at the United Nations, he criticised the Congolese government and others for failing to stop “an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy for war.” When he returned home, armed men attacked his home, killing his bodyguard and taking his children hostage. He escaped and went into exile long enough to recover from his injuries, and returned to the Congo two months later.
Dr Mukwege has stayed in a warzone for 14 years and practised medicine with few resources. He has invented surgeries to heal the acts of cruelty that have been inflicted on thousands of rape victims. He has maintained a hospital with no roads, no hot water, no electricity, minimal internet or phones and widespread insecurity. At the same time, he has travelled the world to promote his work and has pastored a church in his village.
These two remarkable people, by their courage and ability to overcome great obstacles have brought healing and hope to tens of thousands of victims of sexual violence. As I reflected on their stories, my attention was drawn to the subject of vision, and the question of why is it that so many vision statements can abound but at the same time so many of these statements never materialise? Why so many people in positions of leadership but so few leaders making an impact in the world in which they live? Is there something missing? The stories of Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad’s amazing journeys led me to the following conclusions regarding visions.
- A CAUSE PRECEDES A VISION
Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, out of the experiences of their lives, became leaders of a movement that was shaped by a vision that was birthed out of a cause that deeply impacted them. Paul Scanlon in his brilliant book, CROSSING OVER, talks of a complaint rather than a cause. “At the core of every visionary leader’s life is a deep dissatisfaction with how things are. At the root of every history maker’s calling is a complaint. The complaint is his or her cause, fuel, drive and motivation to press through and accomplish the dream, however tough it gets along the way. When people have no complaint, they become compliant………. Compliant people will never become visionaries………”
Vision statements need to be birthed out of a passionate cause that stirs within the hearts of a group of people, not in some manufactured committee meeting or lifeless document that will gather dust on an office shelf once it has been read.
Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad’s vision was birthed out of a cause that stirred in their hearts for which they were willing to live or die. It was their commitment to this cause that thrust them into a position of global leadership.
A man named Bob Pierce, on one of his trips to Korea, was asked by a relief worker who showed him an abandoned little girl, “What are you going to do about her?” The relief agency that the lady worked for could not afford to care for any more orphans. Bob was deeply touched, a cause was birthed, and he gave the lady some money, promising to send her a monthly gift to provide for the child. This cause in Bob Pierce’s heart gave birth to the ministry of World Vision.
General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Amy after his first meeting of preaching to the masses of poor people in London, discovered his cause to live and die for. He walked back to his wife and said, “O Kate, I have found my destiny. These are the people for whose salvation I have been longing all these years. As I passed by the doors of the flaming gin palaces tonight, I seemed to hear a voice sounding in my ears, ‘Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is so great a need for your labours?’ And there and then in my soul, I offered myself and you and the children to this great work. These people shall be our people, and they shall have our God for their God.” This cause in William Booth’s heart gave birth to the Salvation Army.
A cause was birthed in Nehemiah when he heard that God’s people who had survived the exile in Babylon, were in great trouble and disgrace, and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down. It caused Nehemiah to mourn and fast and pray to the God of heaven for some days. He would never be the same again and that cause gave birth to a vision that is recorded for us in the book of Nehemiah. Paul Scanlon said, “Like Nehemiah, I can’t stand the broken down state that much of the church is in today.”
Ten years ago I resigned from pastoring my church to start up a ministry I called EQUIPPING THE NEXT GENERATION because I lamented the fact that we were increasingly becoming a leaderless society which was resulting in the decline of the Christian faith in Australia.
- A VISION PRECEDES LEADERSHIP
Leaders never usually start out looking for a position of leadership, rather leadership finds them. I don’t find in my research on Dr Denis Mukwege or Nadia Murad that they set their sights on becoming leaders that would have an impact on many nations and lead thousands of abused women and children out of a life of violence and trauma. Rather they were driven by a cause that shaped a vision that stirred the hearts of thousands and moved nations to get involved. A vision always precedes a person taking on the role of a leader and vision is birthed by a cause that captures the attention of a person.
One of my favourite authors, J. Oswald Sanders writes in his book SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, in a chapter entitled The Search for Leaders: “Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment, by men or any combination of men, nor by conferences. Only God can make them. Simply holding a position of importance does not constitute one a leader. Nor does taking courses in leadership or resolving to become a leader. The only method is QUALIFYING to be a leader. Religious positions can be conferred by boards, but not spiritual authority, which is the prime essential of Christian leadership. This comes often UNSOUGHT – to those in earlier life who have proved themselves worthy of it by spirituality, discipline, ability and diligence.”
- LEADERSHIP IS THE PRODUCT OF A PERSON WHO DISCOVERED A CAUSE THAT BIRTHED A VISION
Just being in a leadership position, or having a particular rank or title, or having years of experience, or achieving certain qualifications will not necessarily cause a person to become a leader. On one occasion I asked J. Oswald Sanders what a leader looks like. He replied, “Leadership is influence. The best test of knowing whether a person was qualified to lead was for the person to look behind and see if anyone was following. If no one was following, the person was not leading but just taking a walk.”
So how do you find a cause that births a vision and thrusts you into a position of leadership? I have found the following steps to be helpful :
- Believe that God created you for a purpose that is waiting to be discovered and lived out.
- Connect with mentors who are living out their dreams that were ignited by a cause that changed their lives. Read biographies of great leaders and let them rub off on you. Learn from these leaders how you can rise to the next level on your leadership journey.
- Understand your SHAPE (a questionnaire developed by Rick Warren that helps people identify their Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personalities and (life’s) Experiences, both good and bad). By understanding your SHAPE, you gain valuable perspective on the way God has been sovereignly at work in your life to help you focus on the cause that is waiting to be lived out through you.
- Connect with an organisation that has created a dynamic leadership culture that sees every person not as a follower, but as an emerging leader of immense potential.
I once heard a great leader say, “Show me your vision and I will prophesy your future.” Perhaps it may be better to say, “Show me your cause and I will prophesy your future.”