Thursday, November 10, 2011

Servant Leadership and a World Food Prize Laureate

In October, I studied Mark 10:42-45 on a sweet neighborhood walk with God. From the clear words of the passage, I knew in my head the contrast between how the world so often leads, and how Christ leads as a servant. It's a passage that has touched me since I was a mother of young children. 

At about the same time as this review and deeper look, I saw a glimpse of a leader who, I think, was trying to lead the way God desires.

Stepping in as a chaperone during a segment of the World Food Prize Global Youth Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 13, I was privileged to hear from one of the two 2011 World Food Prize laureates. The World Food Prize is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture. Its prestige is unquestioned. 

Brazil's former President, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, addresses teachers at the World Food Prize Global Youth Summit, suggesting the importance of compassion in leadership. Left, World Food Prize director, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, head of the World Food Prize, and right, is President Da Silva's interpreter.

I listened as I learned about the projects of Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, former president of Brazil, who sparked and led great change in his country, fighting against hunger and poverty, and starting feeding programs for school children.

I don’t agree with redistribution of wealth ideas in general, and I’m certainly not financially liberal. Still, it seems to be interesting timing to me, as I look back, that I would study this passage about servant leadership, and be listening to a former president just days apart.

Addressing the room full of teachers where I sat, the former president said a country’s ruler should be so compassionate that to see a starving child should move him to tears. He spoke of problems of starvation in our world, and the loss of unborn children because of it. And he did reference infants in the womb in a manner that acknowledged them as living.

Please understand, that while I was inspired by the heart Da Silva portrayed, I don’t know him, and what’s in his heart for sure. His politics, I probably disagree with in many ways. He has, however, been a strong leader in Brazil’s democracy, and left office with an 87 percent approval rating. And I was left with the impression that his motivations were rooted in a Christian faith.

As Da Silva spoke through an interpreter, he listed a failed attempt seeking governorship of Brazil’s state of Sao Paulo, and the times he ran for presidency in Brazil, and fell short. He said he probably failed because he wanted the job too much. It wasn’t until the ambition for the position faded to a degree, that he was elected president of Brazil. His motives, he hinted, had changed. He was more ready then, than he had been when he sought the office with zeal.

Doesn’t that happen sometimes in life? Suddenly we realize what it really is that we so ambitiously, and arrogantly desire, and start to evaluate if we really want it. Perhaps then understanding about leadership or a goal unfolds.

With a thorough understanding of an important, even daunting task or role requiring sacrifice, we’re better prepared to systematically pursue these specific positions of influence, and projects that change lives.

Feeding programs. Vaccines for the poverty stricken. Crisis centers. 24-Hour prayer support in our churches. Education. Wells for those without safe water supplies. Blankets and coats for the cold. Children’s programs for the rich and poor alike. Sharing the gospel.

Facing reality, we’re no longer led just by a blazing ambition. We’re led by the knowledge of a need. For us as followers of Christ, we’re spurred on by the Spirit.

And with a greater depth of understanding, in my case, as I realize the importance and count the cost, I grow more willing to serve, to help in the daily needs that arise and in the long-term endeavors.

I want to live helping others. I pray God sustains me in that desire.

No comments:

Post a Comment