In November of 2015 I had the honor and pleasure to serve the Lord and a local mission organization called NeverThirst through a short-term mission trip to the country of Cambodia. Cambodia is a country about the size of the state of Alabama nestled between Vietnam and Thailand. It has a horrific recent history having been though a largely unknown genocide in the 1970s. During five years of terror, the Khmer Rouge killed almost 2 million people of the 8 million residents targeting anyone educated, religious, or with glasses. The results left a country broken and tormented by their past and in desperate need of the Gospel and leadership. Nearly half the country today is 30-years-old or younger and many of them have lost hope of the country ever fully recovering. But God.
I love that phrase from the Bible because it usually follows some terrible news and then transitions to “But God”. With those two sweet words, the story always yields a new result of how great He can make everything.
While I was in Cambodia, I had the chance to meet with many leaders and pastors who truly showed me what a servant leader really was. Today I want to share you the stories of 2 men I met who taught me invaluable lessons on leadership and life. Malachi is a tuk tuk driver (tuk tuk is a Cambodian motorcycle taxi) in the city of Phnom Penh and he is a pastor on the weekends. The village he pastors for is 120 km away or about 2 hours by motorcycle. He wore sandals as almost everyone there does and he rides his bike (when it is working) every Saturday to the village, stays overnight, preaches and stays with the people on Sunday. Monday, he then drives back to the city for “work”. He told us how his bike is old and it doesn’t always work and frequently quits on his long drive to and from the village. I asked him what he did when his bike breaks down? He told me, “I walk if I’m close enough, hitchhike (not recommended in Cambodia), find a mechanic and barter with whatever I have. The village’s need is bigger than my obstacle”. Are you kidding me? This man receives nothing from his time in the village that we can see but he does receive the joy from obedience to Christ. Malachi taught me that leaders recognize that the need of their teams is greater than the obstacle in their way. Malachi is changing lives through his preaching and teaching along with challenging his people to start growing more crops and raising chicken and pigs to produce income instead of relying totally on rice. The people follow him because he is absolutely mind-heart-body committed to being a servant.
Think through that. He never let an obstacle keep him from his service, his commitment is seen and felt by his people, his motives are pure, and his reason for leading is Divinely given. We can learn much about leading our teams and companies from Malachi. Keep reading though because I have another inspiring gentleman I came to know in Cambodia.
Pastor Chiamen was another leader in another part of Cambodia that taught me about leadership. Pastor C was preacher, farmer, school principal, caregiver to his mother and served the people of his village daily. Pastor C let us stay in his school while we were building bio sand filter with the NeverThirst local partners. One night after dinner Pastor C announced to me, “Let’s go”. When I asked where we were going, he responded simply, ”prayer walk” I probed him needing to know exactly what a prayer walk was. He explained, “We walk and we ask people what they need us to pray about.” Before I could even ask the question, he answered it for me, “We ask any people we see.” With a lump in my throat and my heart overwhelmed we started walking. How simple yet how amazingly impactful of a concept. How can we know how to serve people if we aren’t asking them what they need?
Can you imagine the impact of walking through your office asking people what you can do for them? Do you have what you need? Are you happy? Is there anything you can do to help them succeed?
What a concept as a leader to value you people enough to GO TO THEM!!! Sure you can have an open door policy, but this concept is not at all the same. This is about you going to them. Go to their office door or cubicle or job site and earnestly requesting an opportunity to help them. Pastor C lead us through a village and down a railroad track at dusk. We prayed with and for people along our walk. Pastor C was showing me being a leader means so much more than our culture lends. It means taking care of the flock you are leading.
I went to Cambodia to help build wells for clean water and show others that God’s love is worth obedience. In return I took home wisdom that leaders serve at all cost, leaders care for others above themselves, and when there is no other way to get to their people, leaders will find a way and maybe even have to walk.
Caleb Bagwell/Employee Education Specialist
John Maxwell Certified Leadership Coach
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
Toll-Free: 866.695.5162 / Office: 205.970.9088
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 / Birmingham, AL 35242