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How You Can Lead from Where You Are

Susan Sperry, Executive Director of World Relief Chicagoland
Leadership reflection from World Relief Chicagoland Executive Director Susan Sperry.

At World Relief, we regularly say that we want to create communities of love and welcome. I believe that this is an important vision. In fact, it’s a guiding idea that has motivated much of my own decision-making and sense of calling in my life and career spent serving at World Relief. And I think this vision reflects beautiful biblical values that remind us of God’s heart for how Christians can engage with immigrants and refugees.

“For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:35.

Yet as I ponder this vision and what it looks like practically for each of us, there is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that challenges the way I apply this vision to my life and thinking.

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

When we put these wise words in conversation with our vision to create communities of love and welcome, I believe we are left with an invitation: an invitation to lead and to steward.

Leadership & Stewardship

Bonhoeffer gives us a “reality check” opportunity by reminding us that our big, inspirational ideas about what community should look like matter far, far less than how we actually treat those around us. Building community is not about the headline moments, but more about small, faithful actions to serve those around us. Instead, what if we complete many small actions to serve those around us? 

World Relief’s mission is to equip the Church, as well as like-minded community members, to serve those in vulnerable situations. And this is a strength, I believe, because it means we open doors for you to lead from where you are. And that is an invitation to stewardship. Stewardship of relationships, time, finances, and even opportunities. That is why, when World Relief asks you to consider what you can do to help create welcoming communities, we believe that response varies person by person. And we each have a role to play!

People Leading in their Sphere 

Every day, I’m amazed at the creative ways that members of my community step up in leadership. For some, this can be a bold step of faith to do something new. For others, it’s using the platform or position they have been given. I’m inspired by leaders young and old from all walks of life who choose to be part of a change.

We’ve seen…
  • Sunday school teachers leading from Scripture with lessons about God’s heart for immigrants and refugees
  • College students organizing their friends on campus to write letters to political representatives to advocate for DACA recipients
  • Children running lemonade stands to raise funds for their new neighbors from Afghanistan.
  • Refugees welcomed by World Relief returning as volunteers to help others
  • Individuals researching the needs of immigrants in Chicago so that they can give strategically
  • Groups from local churches coming together to form a team to walk alongside a recently-arrived refugee family
  • And so many others!

Each of these examples became part of creating a community of love and welcome. And they did it by asking a question.

“What does it look like to faithfully serve those around me? How can I lead by serving the people who are my neighbors?”

Our Call 

I want to challenge each of us to think about leadership not only as a position. Instead, as an invitation that anyone can accept.

With that mindset in place, what if we asked ourselves, “What does it mean for me to lead in creating lasting change where God has me right now?”

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