Monday, August 24, 2009

Resource for Leadership

This past week I started working through organizing my office.  In the process I have been sorting and throwing away past notes of meetings I have attended over the years.  I was surprised how many notes on leadership I have accumulated.  Staff meetings on leadership, seminars on leadership and so many book on the subject of leadership with titles such as Servant Leadership, Good To Great, On Becoming a Leader, Leadership is an Art, and many more.  As I looked at some of the notes of past leadership meetings, I am a bit embarrassed by those of us in "leadership" positions, by our attitude of self-importance and distinct lack of humility.  Americans are obsessed with leadership themes.  I've noticed that one of the most popular subjects pastors teach on short-term mission trips is on leadership, as though the rest of the world can gain insights on how to do things effectively. 

In the midst of my week a book arrives.  As I thumb through the pages I am confronted with ANOTHER leadership book, but it is very different. 

In the Presence of the Poor, is the story about a professor of geology, an awarding winning scientist, a former Communist sympathizer who, in his early years was troubled with one question, “Why did God make so many poor people?”  It’s a book about a man who used his profession to rectify the plight of those most in need. The expert of rocks and soil retires from the formal halls of academia to establish a structure for micro-enterprise, which the government endorses as a model to help those 80% of the population living on less than $2 a day.  Quietly fighting injustice, he and his wife empower poor village women and the outcaste with literacy programs and self-help income projects.  Returning to the foundation of his grandfather and father, the professor turns from the ideology politics to the One who understood the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the spiritually penniless.  Forever the instructor, he builds a campus that teaches and trains bi-vocational men and women to take the Good News to those who have never heard the Name of Christ, along with the practical occupational skills to help lift people out of poverty.

Though not meant to be a book on leadership, that is exactly what the story of Dr. B.E. Vijayam is all about.  Admittedly, I am biased about this story as I’ve been privileged to work with TENT for the past five years.  As good as the book is, (and Kay Strom is to be commended for her fine work) it still doesn’t quite capture the spirit of one of the most humble and genuinely good people I have met in India (and I have met and worked with many).  “Uncle” Vijayam is one of the most unassuming, godly, truly genuine leaders I’ve met. Prof. Vijayam and his wife, “Auntie” Mary, have instilled in their children and staff the core value of prayer and integrity that is rare in this age of self-promotion and organizational marketing. 

(J. Samuel, Vijayam, Lewis, Sunil)

If you want another good book on leadership, get this one.  You will be glad you did.