Three Things Ministry Leaders Can Learn From the Pope.

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Is there anything worth learning from those who don’t share your beliefs?

If your answer is no, then read no longer. You will not like this post.

But if you are like me, you’ll probably be open enough to observe and evaluate what others are saying yet not too open that your brains fall off.

“Papa Francis” has been making some serious headlines over the past few weeks. This is not new for the charismatic leader who has been on the spotlight since his induction as the Shepherd of the universal Church more than two years ago.

Pope Francis is known by many people for many things. But over the last two weeks, he was known by the people of the Philippines and Sri Lanka as a leader who was worth listening to. His pastoral spirit, atypical of most Popes, was clearly evident in his dealings with those who were weathered by years of climatic and political storms.

Once I heard that the Pope went to Sri Lanka earlier this month – the place of my heritage – I was all ears.

After some reflection and evaluation, these are just three things I think current ministry leaders can learn from the Pontiff’s recent dealings.

 1) HIS MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION 

The theme of Pope Francis’ homilies to the south-Asians was the need for reconciliation. To a crowd of over half a million Sri Lankans, including over an estimated 1000 men and women disabled from the civil wars which ravaged the country, Pope Francis’ wish was for “all people to find…inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all..”

I’m reminded of the apostle Paul who had a similar thrust to his message in the second letter to the Corinthians.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.. –
2 Corinthians 5

Paul makes it clear that our message is one of reconciliation. Even though the impetus for the Pontiff’s message was more sociopolitical than theological, leaders may do well to recognize that reconciliation is to be the theme of their Christian ministry.

As ministry leaders, are we seeking to reconcile people to themselves and their Savior?
Are we striving to break walls of strife and prejudice to facilitate that?
The world needs to hear this message and the Pope seems to be doing a decent job at letting ‘em know.

2) HIS MINISTRY OF PRESENCE.

When the Filipinos dealt with the aftermath of typhoon Hagupit and needed a voice of comfort and cheer, the Pope was there. When the people of Sri Lanka needed encouragement to move toward a future of peace and solidarity, the Pope was there. When the Koreans mourned the loss of the victims of the MV Sewol ferry disaster and were struggling with socio-political strife, the Pope was there.

During this year alone, the Pontiff has scheduled visits to 7 countries spanning 4 different continents and unscheduled visits to 3 more countries.

He doesn’t have to do that. But he does.

Regardless of his motives and intentions, the incontrovertible truth is that the Pope was on location when no one else was. The ministry of presence, exemplified by this Pope, is arguably one the most underrated, under-utilized aspects of ministry. The saying still rings true: people don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care. If the Pope himself can put it on his agenda to travel half-way across world to visit my country, which has a Catholic population of a mere 7%, you and I can do well to visit the members of my our church or ministry groups.

3) HIS ABILITY TO DIALOGUE WITH THE ‘OTHER.’

On one occasion during his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka, the Pontiff spoke to an auditorium filled with Buddhist, Hindu, Evangelical, as well as Catholic leaders of the country. His message, predictably, was one of reconciliation and solidarity. Yet what fascinated me about this event wasn’t so much the content of his sermon as it was the candor in which he spoke.

The Pope was honest and uncompromising in his faith, yet tactful and considerate in his approach.

The more I follow his conversations with those who are not part of his flock, the more I am irked at myself.

As a ministry leader on a college campus, I wonder why I, at times, hesitate to interact with those who don’t believe what I believe. I also wonder why I don’t display tact when I do interact with them.
I’ll get off my soap-box and admit that, if you’re like me, there’s a thing or two we can learn from the Pope about interacting with our brothers and sisters from other tribes.
Are there common points that we can share and celebrate?
Can we engage in loving dialogue and live out our theology?
Do we have a message to share and ears to listen?
I think so.

While I may not endorse everything that the Pontiff is saying or doing, I have to admit:
I like this guy.
His message of reconciliation, ministry of presence, and ability to dialogue with those who don’t share his beliefs are some traits that I want to inculcate in my own ministry.

 What about you? What resonates with you? Anything you want to add?
Fire away below!

What I Learnt from Having My Dad For The Past Three Weeks ( and why you should connect with your family NOW)

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Dada left.

We’d spend almost a month together and yesterday, he caught a flight back to Michigan from where we are in California.

It’s been surreal having him around. There has to be a word that’s more memorable than “memorable” to describe the experiences I’ve had with him during the past few weeks. My pastor once made a profound statement about recording events and memories. He said that “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” What you’re about to read, then, is my “scribbling” on “scratch paper” for my sake and, hopefully, for your sake as well.

I’ve taken my family for granted.

In theory, my family is priority. In reality, they have been tolerable at best. My itinerant living and independence have only aggravated this. Every time I get to spend time with them, however, a wave of guilt rushes over reminding me of the times I haven’t put the effort to make that phone call or send that Facebook message.

You tend to realize the value of something when you don’t have it. And that’s exactly how I felt when I came back from the airport and saw dada’s shorts lying around in the room.

I need to be more intentional about communicating with my family. No excuses.

Love is giving.

Last night I was watching the second sequel of Star Trek with my girlfriend. Khan’s riveting question to Captain Kirk after his capture got me thinking:

My crew is my family. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family, Captain?

My family may not be my crew. But I can’t begin to describe how much my family has sacrificed for me to have what I have. When we were on our way to Chicago, my dad and I got into a minor squabble about showing love. I argued that while I knew he was doing a lot for me and Khayali, he should affirm me verbally by saying nice and encouraging things. My dad sighed. Then he went on to vividly recount all the sacrifices amma and he had made so that Khayali l and I could have an education overseas.

By the time he finished, the waterworks began from my eyes. When I tried to give him a lesson on “words of affirmation” from Chapman’s infamous “5 love languages,” dada shut me up by giving me a dissertation on sacrificial love.

I was reminded that evening that love is giving. It gives continuously and sacrificially. I thought I knew it. My parents had lived it.

Be yourself.

My dad is as Sri Lankan as one gets.

You can get the man out of Sri Lanka. But you cannot get Sri Lanka out of the man.

As I type, I am wearing the sarama he wore while he was here in California. From where I am sitting, I can also see the strainer he used to make his morning tea. In addition to that, I also remember the big hugs, the quintessential Sri Lankan head bob, and the “aiyo’s” he would appropriately employ at a given location. But wherever he went, people felt a genuine sense of kindness, respect, and hospitality emanating from his distinct personality.

In the past few weeks, Dada reminded me that I don’t have to respond to the pressure of conforming to the culture around me to have influence. Dada showed that I can be my Sri-Lankan, “fresh-off-the-boat” self and still make a difference in the lives of those I interact with.

God is love.

Dada being here was a miracle.

Few weeks before my graduation, dada, amma, and khayali showed up at the U.S embassy in Oman for their visa interviews. To our shock and dismay, all three of them were denied visas fearing that they will not come back to Oman after being seduced by the “greener pastures” of the country.  (-___- )

My dad then reapplied for the visa alone hoping for a miracle. And that’s what happened. My mom and sister decided to spend the vacation in Sri Lanka whereas Dada flew over to the States to be with me.

God has showed His love these past few weeks in very tangible ways.

Out of His love, He brought my dad to witness the ceremony of the first college grad of his family.
Out of His love, He allowed my dad to meet the man who changed his life indefinitely.
Out of His love, He gave opportunity for my dad to see friends he hadn’t seen in decades.
Out of His love, He helped me get closer to my father.
Out of His love, He reignited my love of my family.
Out of His love, He drew our family closer to each other and to Him.

I believe none of this happened by chance or luck.  I wholeheartedly attribute me being here and my dad coming here to the goodness and the grace of a personal, Almighty God who cares about you and me.

—–

I miss my father. But I know I will see him again. It’s been refreshing and wonderful having him around.

My prayer for you, dear friend and reader, is that you’ll take some time to connect with your family. Truth is that as much as you and I hate to think about it, they’re not always going to be around.

“I have no time” is not a reason. It’s an excuse. You make time for what you want to make time for.

So get off the chair. Close the laptop. Close your browser.

Make that phone call. They’ll love you for it.