Friday, April 29, 2005

Time at Taylor U. with Dr. John Perkins

Dr. Perkins, or JP could be just about anywhere in the world right now, but he is here in Fort Wayne, IN teaching a class on Christian Community Development to a group of 12 students. I am here as a helper to John (I have to fight to get a few thoughts in now and then), and it's a real blast. One thought can lead to an amazing social-theological analysis that can go on for thirty minutes, and it is all amazing and insightful. I'm so glad to have this opportunity to do this with JP!

JP is 75 years young, and he is full of passion for a new project he and his daughter Elizabeth are developing in Jackson, MS. They're buying up houses and turning them into homes filled with neighbors from the community with a commitment to become a thriving neighborhood- It is called the Zachariah Project.

JP shared that leadership is about applying solutions to the most pressing issues/problems of our time, while engaging the people with the problem in the process of bringing about change. And that along with engaging the people from the community, it is about involving his friends from around the country in the process as well.

I'm so impressed with JP's ability to make and cultivate friendships. He has learned through years of personal experience that everything is about relationships! Ministry impact, resources, solutions, community, faith, are all experienced or obtained through authentic relationships.

Jessie Miranda wrote a leadership book in Spanish a few years back (one of the few) called Liderazgo y Amistad, Leadership and Friendship. In the book, he uses a term, 'Amigo Leadership' that is embodied and valued by Latino leaders. Well, JP practices amigo leadership like a true mestizo.

In fact, amigo leadership is a vital skill-passion for mestizo-emerging leaders to learn for ministry in this new millennium. We need to connect with people, deeply, if others are going to embrace us, trust us, or allow us to have influence in their lives. Being an amigo/friend, by its very nature is all about influence rather than power: I do not 'oversee' a friend, like I do a person on my staff. I put myself in close proximity to a friend to be able to influence-support, as well as to be influenced and supported. True friendship is a two-way street rooted in relationship.

One of my closest friends-brothers is Larry Acosta in Santa Ana. He too has amigo leadership down to an art form. Like JP and other effective leaders, they make you feel like you are the most important person in the entire world when you are with them. It seems like Jesus had that kind of ability as well. He once told his disciples, 'I no longer call you servants, but I call you my friends...'

Being able to call John Perkins my friend is a great honor. Maybe tomorrow in class, I'll be able to sneak in a few thoughts and comments of my own, while he continues to blow us away with his thoughtfulness and wisdom.


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