I am suddenly struck with the reality that I’ve been mentoring Lusienie Fofana for over half a decade. It’s been over 6 years since that day when my eyes were opened to the potential that existed in our enthusiastic evangelist from Liberia, West Africa. First we just got together to talk Jesus. Then the conversation intensified when Fofana decided to pursue ordination. We needed to get prerequisite tests passed in Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Doctrine. With those complete, we entered the ordination program; 4 years at 4 classes per year. It was hard. We learned a lot. Here are a few of the lessons we learned.
Some comfort zones are made to be broken.
My upbringing was in small farming communities around the Midwest. 6 years ago I could count the African people of my acquaintance on one hand. In our early meetings, I was lucky to understand 2 words of every 5 out of Fofana’s mouth. While I grew up next to a cornfield, this man was living the horrors of war every day. I wasn’t trained nor prepared to mentor an African immigrant refugee in pastoral ministry! Not even close. But everything about the man across the table screamed to me that he could shepherd God’s flock. I knew if I was willing to listen, adapt, and be patient, we could do it together. By God’s grace, we did.
People grow slowly.
Think of it. It took 15-18 years for you to grow to your current height. For years you grew by tiny amounts each day. Throw in a growth spurt here and there and you’ve got it! The same goes for us in our growth as followers of Jesus. I admit, there were days when I expected too much of Fofana and I felt frustrated when he didn’t deliver. There were also days when I expected too little and he blew me out of the water! One sermon at a time, one discussion at a time, one lesson at a time, one paper at a time God was shaping His servant. Make that… servants. Slowly I grew too.
Failure is an option.
It’s very tempting to teach in a way that seeks to prevent the student from experiencing as much failure as possible. Every effort would be made to ensure that every paper, test or project is supervised with assistance every step of the way. Here’s reality. I fail every day and I knew Fofana needed to learn how to fail without calling it quits. The only way you learn how to cope with failure is to have the freedom to fail and loving Christian brothers and sisters to encourage you through it. So, I chose not to pre-check Fofana’s coursework. Sometimes he failed. I didn’t pre-check Fofana’s sermons. Some left a lot to be desired. I didn’t insist on how the ministry was to be run. Some initiatives fell flat. The result was that many of Fofana’s failures led to breakthroughs that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Even yet, I give Fofana tremendous credit that he saw every failure as an opportunity to grow and learn. By God’s grace, that’s exactly what happened.
It’s not about me.
It’s one thing to know it’s not about me. It’s quite another thing to keep it that way week in and week out over an extended period of time. At every turn there is the temptation to be selfish. This is one of many areas where Fofana made me a better mentor. He always says, “By the grace of God” even if we’re just scheduling a meeting later that day! Grace. God’s supreme gift to undeserving us. Fofana wasn’t doing all this for himself. He was doing it for the people lost without Jesus. He was doing it because of God’s grace to him that he could extend out to others. Well, if Fofana could sacrifice so much and work so hard for the sake of others, I could give it my all too… by the grace of God.
I rejoice that on November 18th we will, by the grace of God, call Lusienie Fofana our pastor.