I serve as a missionary in Ecuador. My husband and I live in Quito, the capital, but my work takes me to the far corners of this small South American country. Over the past few months especially, I have been impacted by the simple role of leadership.
That sounds vague and almost silly, but let me explain. In March, I was with a group of college students who had come to Ecuador over their spring break to serve. We were partnering with a church in a coastal town and had spent two days moving dump trucks full of dirt to fill in and level out their ground so they would be able to start construction for their own church. The last day we were there, Pastor Josue wanted to do community outreach in the adjoining neighborhood. He took us to a concrete ‘cancha’ or playing field area and asked us to start picking up trash, to pull the weeds emerging from the cracks in the cement, and to paint new lines on the soccer court.
None of this is hard or specialized work. In my mind, I wondered why those who lived around the court had not already done this? We had seen firsthand that every night the court area was jam-packed with soccer players and their families and friends and, considering this is South America, that means it is the center of neighborhood socialization.
We set about the work and, without exaggeration, it was less than 90 seconds when children started coming out to join us. That was not a surprise at all; children are naturally curious and a group of pale-skinned strangers is worth seeing. But what was a surprise was when the teenagers, teenaged boys, came out of the neighboring houses and got in the act. They even started correcting what we had inadvertently done wrong (dumping grass in an empty lot) and I saw two young men buying their own trash bags from the corner micro-market to join in.
Within ten minutes are so, all those who came to ‘work’ were out of jobs and were left hanging around waiting for the children and teenagers to finish so that maybe they would play a game. The shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.
This simple day at the park reminded me of the importance of leadership. Those young people, even the children, just needed someone to say, “Hey, let’s do this.” How often do we all wait around until someone gives direction, a vision, leadership. How easy and common place it is to just wait. Sometimes waiting is what is called for, but I have seen over and over again that sometimes it is because people don’t know what to do, where to start, or how to move forward. They are waiting for a leader.