As I consider the processes learned over the last twenty years of work in Africa, I count myself very privileged that I have been able to experience the handover of two separate works, first in Togo and secondly, here in Rwanda. Out of transitioning from these works with their required handovers to nationals (by our choice, mind you), the principle of the three E’s has emerged for me as necessary for lasting development.
Equipping, Empowering, and Entrusting (aka – Letting Go) or the 3 E’s of Development – It just kind of rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? I learned very early on, in management, that you really can’t develop alone, not for significant development, that is. As well, I have found that the investment giving the best returns is the investment in people. Equipping and empowering are often tossed around as terms for development and management, but in truth there has to be great intentionality as well as meaningful steps taken to ensure that they occur. Additionally, you must be able to choose wisely those people you invest in. As for entrusting, my wife debated me on its inclusion, as she believed that it is naturally included in the process of empowerment. I believe, on the other hand, that it is anything but natural. Entrusting is important to consider apart from empowering because, in truth, people are prone to make mistakes and it is difficult to not rescind empowerment when those mistakes are made. This becomes the intimidating and sometimes scary process of “letting go”.
Being a bit of an entrepreneur and a bit of a parent – It is not all fun and games and it is definitely not easy. For both the entrepreneur and of course for parents to be successful, there has to be a transference of knowledge and building of capacity in order for those you are guiding to mature. Additionally, with that newfound capacity comes responsibilities to carry out tasks that reflect the maturity in that development. You, are smart, I know, you get the analogy! Important to note, though, the level of responsibility has to match the capacity previously built. A little stretch is good, but too much stretch and snap!
Investing in others (Equipping and Empowering) – Whether it has been teaching people to study and teach the Bible, lead others to become disciples, build their own fuel efficient cooking stoves, improving their farming techniques, or become leaders in sports, equipping and empowering have been the most rewarding aspects of my work. To build capacity into people’s lives is an incredible and life changing experience not just for them , but for you as well. You will also find that by investing in others and building their capacity you become free to continue the investment in, well, others. Of course, an important part of this process is being able to assess the gifts or talents people have and equipping them for roles that they will be successful in. The empowering of others by giving them responsibilities becomes the “rubber meeting the road” moment. Patience is the order of the day as the shifting of responsibilities, or empowerment, begins to occur. Mistakes will be made, to be sure, some of them even high cost, but this is when your perseverance as a leader and developer come into play. You have potentially invested months and possibly years in these individuals and sometimes it will require starting over with someone new, but most of the time this will not be the case. Honesty will always be required and with that truth must come the grace to grow, believe, and help others to mature beyond the mistake.
Giving it all away … a bit terrifying (Entrusting) – Oh, the stories I could tell about how challenging this can be, especially as you see a project or initiative or perhaps your entire decade long work going south from some poor leadership decisions. This is when I have found myself praying and fasting the most! So, often it is born out of fear of loss or of shame. Some of this can be avoided through “risk management” of your organization or project and by developing good supporting structures, policies, and procedures. All are necessary to guide the organization beyond you, but still mistakes are going to occur and you have to be ready to keep your hands off the organization and let it potentially experience some loss. As we have seen through sports, we learn most not from our victories but from our losses. This is true for the organization as well. Can you trust those you have equipped and empowered to do the job? If you can, then, your developing journey is complete and you have crossed a finish line that is very elusive for so many others.
In reality, this is, in a nutshell, the process that God has gone through in His great investment in us. He paid the great price in Jesus’ death on the cross. He empowered us by our faith through His word. He equipped us through His Spirit. Now He has entrusted to us this great joy of investing ourselves in other. This is the amazing treasure found in jars of clay – the hope of Glory, Christ in you!