I’ve asked a good friend and mentor, Mary McCracken to give us her perspective on global leadership today. She has a unique perspective and one that is often missed in the west. Enjoy
I have spent the last 20 years interacting with pregnant and parenting teen moms in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington State. This multicultural, agricultural area is a blend of rural and inner-city living. Gangs and drugs are prevalent. The threads of violence, sorrow, abandonment and immigration issues are interwoven with celebration of spring planting, harvest, family traditions and hope for a better future. In my current ministry setting with Young Life, my role is to train and mentor Christian women as they, in turn, mentor pregnant and parenting teen moms, primarily Hispanic and living at or below the poverty line.
Women and Voice
Bryant Myers in Walking with the Poor (Myers 2009) states, “There are always voices that are not easily heard. Among the most important is that of women (190).” A missional global leader must be willing to listen to the voice of women in their context and to create the appropriate space for women to speak. For those of us who work with women in poverty, transformational development of women is critical yet the barriers are thick. Are we leaders who are willing to include women in and from poverty on our boards and committees, women who may not emulate the Western evangelical ideal of a Christian woman but who have survived the very issues we as global leaders are seeking to transform? In my ministry, the deep lessons have come from ‘letting’ teen moms be members of my board, informing us of their needs, of their vision for their future, and of their hopes and dreams.
Ability to See Our Common Humanity
I am often asked by my donors and board to verify that ‘fruit’ is coming out of ministry with teen moms. It’s a fair request, I agree. Yet I have to confess that many of the young moms who have come to Christ are still living with a boyfriend, or having another baby, and maybe smoking weed or drinking beer on the weekends. I explain that the outward changes will come slowly as discipleship happens over the long haul. It’s that way for all of us, most of the time. It may take years for a young mom in poverty to believe she is truly safe with God, and then to make outward changes that demonstrate her trust in God’s never-failing love. If I measure myself or my ministry by her attainment of outward achievements, then I am missing the mark. My greatest assessment tool is to pay attention to her view of herself and what she believes she is here to do as a human being. Is she growing in her identity, in her belief that she is a person of value? Is she growing in her understanding of her vocation, those things which God has gifted her to do and be? And, equally as important, am I growing and changing in positive ways as a result of my interactions with this particular teen mother. Global leaders understand that transformation as leaders is just as important and necessary as transformation in the lives of those we lead.
Back to Women
I simply have to stress again the importance of women in leadership, in all facets of organizations, at all levels, with creativity in roles and responsibilities. As global leaders we must be about defending, supporting, promoting and celebrating women in leadership. If we, as global leaders, are not future-thinking and planning, are not anticipating how to support women in leadership as mothers, wives, or single, then we will miss the richness of the voices of women as they develop throughout their lives. Paul Tokunaga in Invitation to Lead (Tokunaga 2003) states, “Jesus was amazing with women. They leaped over cultural and religious hurdles just to be around him. When he taught, he often used women as examples, not as the butt of jokes but as people with value and dignity.” We must continue to search for women in our ministries who have been gifted by God for leadership, locally and globally, and exert the effort needed to support them in the multifaceted roles they were created to fulfill.