Not that type of clubbing ;)
Blackman (our resident famous rapper) and Fred (UJN renowned breakdancer and Generation Hope English instructor)taking a selfie with me on the way.
I am fortunate enough to work with some of the most motivated and inspiring young leaders in Goma (and, in my biased opinion, all of Congo). The Generation Hope program is designed to teach the students leadership. A good leader leads by example and by serving others. That's my belief. These students take these lessons and go to their neighborhoods to teach others. Some people call this discipleship. These small groups throughout Goma and surrounding towns and villages are called “clubs”. Un Jour Nouveau has over 70 clubs started by leaders between the ages of 14 and 21.
Some of my students. Noe is doing some weird squatting pose in front :)
One club in particular is led by one of my favorite students, Noe. This young man asked for a minute of my time my first week in Goma. He was already in my Wednesday afternoon English class where we started off studying the book of John. (Personally, I think John is a great place to learn leadership principles from Jesus. And of course we do this in English). I sat down with him and about 3 other students where Noe showed me the new schedule they had generated for me. I was to meet them every Monday and Friday, as well as the regularly scheduled Wednesday and Thursday classes, from 6am-8am to have extra English lessons. Although I was incredibly impressed with his initiative, 6am any morning doesn’t really work for me. So we compromised on a 2pm class.
Before I left, Mama Komeza told me I was wearing my scarf wrong. She took it off my neck, wrapped it correctly around my head and said that prepared me for life in the neighborhoods.
Noe is a great leader; he's smart, ambitious, kind, very thoughtful, and he’s got a great sense of humor (which I highly value). His club is held in a small, one-room school house in a neighborhood about 20 minutes away by car. There were 15 other young people present this particular day. The conversation was on treating others with respect. One guy brought up the fact that he doesn’t respect prostitutes because they choose a disgusting life… this turned into a very lively conversation, as you can imagine.
If there's one thing I’ve learned in the time since I really started to believe what God says in His word (and it's not just that He exists, See LINK)… since living on Hanover Place in DC, living in Haiti and now living in Goma… Through all my frustrations and heartbreak, it’s this: we are all broken by the sin in our lives; the sin just looks different depending on life decisions. This simple yet profound reality… who am I to judge you?
But honestly, many times I do. Many times I find myself critical of other peoples choices, not knowing the circumstances of their lives that may've led them to make that choice. Determining “how far someone has to go” to be a “better person” isn’t a fair view of them; I don’t know how far God has brought them.
In my experience, love really does cover a multitude of sins. It has for me. But that doesn’t mean we don't address issues of brokenness in our lives. It means addressing them with truth AND kindness. My students and I have discussed this at length. I’ve learned that truth without kindness is destructive and kindness without truth is irresponsible. Love and acceptance… learning to accept where someone is in life and choosing to love him or her. Would I encourage someone to remain in a situation that's dangerous or not good for their health? No. So why would I encourage someone to live in a situation that has profoundly destructive effects on their soul?
Personally, I have been really fortunate to have people in my life to call me out on the things I do or have done that are not good for my health, soul or otherwise. But without relationships built through love and acceptance, I never would've received the encouragement and correction. It would've felt like judgment and condemnation, and I would have carried it as shame and bitterness.
There have been people in my life who've said corrective things to me without having established a relationship with me (and sometimes without kindness). I carried those remarks as shame, condemnation and eventually bitterness. It was destructive. I don’t want that for other people. I want genuine, loving relationships for people because those kinds of relationships change lives.
Noe does just that. He is building relationship, earning trust and he's able to facilitate tough conversations. He did a beautiful job of shutting down condemning comments and promoting respectful and kind conversation. I did speak up occasionally to pose questions for them to think about and alternative perspectives to consider. But I want them to think for themselves and I want Noe to feel empowered to lead. The reason I was there was to observe and listen; the reason they wanted me there was to hear my perspective and thoughts. We managed to find a nice balance of both.
I'm not sure why I left my backpack on to stand up and talk...
I was (and remain) incredibly proud of my students, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to work with Un Jour Nouveau.