Leadership

The Unexpected Leap: Trading My Strategic Ideas for God’s Purpose

By Joi Freeman

Have you ever taken a professional leap of faith? Was it like Naaman taking several dips in the water or Peter’s fearful steps as he walked on water?

I have experienced both. Yet, my most impacting leap of­ faith was not a leap at all. It was more like an abrupt, unexpected plunge down a cistern which was followed by what I can only describe as a series of “be still” moments that felt more like spending my young professional years stuck in an Egyptian prison for a crime I didn’t commit versus feeling like a season of growth.  

“But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” -Joseph (Genesis 40:14-15 NIV)

These moments of solitary confinement with God have equipped me with a new vocabulary. I learned that “leaping” is not always an action verb. In the Kingdom of God version of the dictionary, to “leap” is often passive. In this season of my life, leaps of professional faith are lessons on how to allow God to unfold his purpose for my life. My professional mentor Joseph (yes, the one from the book of Genesis) has taught me incredible lessons about the art of staying put in faith and trusting the vision God planted in me even when the road is unpaved and full of detours.

Like Joseph, God gave me a vision at a (relatively) young age. In 2010, while reading a foreign affairs magazine article about the predictions of population growth, God painted a clear picture that I would help open doors for the next generation to positively impact the world and major industries. And through this amazing bold view of what He called me to; I saw all the ways that I could influence this next generation, and especially youth of the African diaspora, to be the force for positive change and restoring what God intended when he gave us dominion in Genesis.

A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life,
but only the designs of his purpose will succeed in the end. -- Proverbs 19:21 TPT

So as any driven, passionate, talented professional would do, I took it upon myself to convert God’s vision into an action plan.

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The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. –Genesis 40:23

This revised journey in which God designed for me includes moments of professional disappointment, frustration, and pain. Yet each of my “Egyptian prison” moments helped create a conviction that God permits us to undergo difficult experiences; and it is those experiences which develop our character, increase our endurance, and prepare us for the journey ahead. Without Joseph facing the cistern, the false accusations, the prison sentence, and delayed parole; the people of Egypt and surrounding regions would not have survived the famine. Joseph’s family would not have been spared, and the vision he saw at age seventeen could not be fulfilled.

When I started this leap of faith, I was certain that I could change the world. Yet, inspired by Joseph, I now understand that it is not my plans or ideas that will carry me. Rather, it is my willingness to sit at the center of God’s will for my life and with that posture his purpose for my profession will prevail. And as I learn to imitate Joseph’s work ethic and outlook on professional detours, I believe this new outlook on leaping into faith will ultimately lead me to my original Step 6.

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ – Jesus, on Stewardship & Investment (Matthew 25:21)

Joi Freeman is part of our third Chicago Cohort. She is currently doing some part-time consulting work and also in a leadership MBA program in Chicago .

100% Jesus, 0% Me - Interview with Abraham Viktor

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During Tommy Lee’s last visit to Jakarta, in January 2019, he was able to meet with several Resource Global (RG) cohort alumni, including Bram. The two caught up after connect group, and shared the latest updates across Bram’s life (both professionally and personally) since his time with RG.  

Bram grew up in Jakarta, and received his accounting degree from University of Indonesia (UI). He always had an enterprising spirit so before his final year in school, he attempted to launch his first startup with a few friends: a Kaya jam company. They had a great formula, but struggled to find the right factory for production. Eventually, he had to make the difficult decision to move on. The experience would be the first of a couple of “professional failures,” through which Bram learned much about the world, faith, himself, and God.

After graduating, Bram found himself on his second startup - this time in the construction industry working on lightweight building blocks. However, after much time, and significant monetary investment, a series of unfortunate events lead to the closure of that startup too. This second failure was much harder on Bram. He found himself low on cash, and felt like the weak link in a group of friends who had gone into banking or consulting, were rising the ranks, and making good money.

Looking back, he recalls how this devastation was partially influenced by his own family’s financial crisis when he was younger. That experience had taught him to be driven by monetary gain in his own decisions. Desirous of more stability, he took a step back and decided to pursue work in investment banking and consulting. He went first for an internship with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), before eventually moving into investment banking. He remembers fondly that first paycheck, and the feeling of security it came with. However, he also remembers the disappointment he felt shortly into his tenure as he began to feel restless, thinking: What am I doing here?

Throughout his early career struggles, Bram recalls feeling God convicting him to rely not on his own desires and ego, rather on God’s plan and design. He also recalls how he always pushed those convictions aside, deceived by his own pride. However, the more restless he felt at work, the more he reflected on his failed startups, and the more he found himself turning to God.

In an act of faith, Bram asked God to purify his heart. In reconciling his desires to those of God’s for him, he found renewed clarity. Suddenly, he felt God impressing upon him that he should be working in financial inclusion. He took a leap of faith, and left his cushy investment banking job. That very day, he stepped into creating his next venture: Taralite.

Through much faith and hard work, Taralite is now a key mover for financial inclusion in Indonesia, providing micro loans and and micro funding to underserved people. They also lease their algorithm to banks for more efficient processing and greater financial inclusion across the country. Most recently, Taralite has been acquired by OVO - a large mobile payments player in Indonesia. Bram sees the move as synergic, allowing the team to work with mentors with more experience, as well as expanding Taralite’s own market share and impact on Indonesia as a whole.

Around the time Bram was working on Taralite, building it up into what it is today, he had experienced several other milestones as well. These milestones informed many of his decisions, and continue to shape his career and faith journey today.

First, he got married - to a woman he says is greater than his equal. “She humbles me,” he says - describing how his pride and self-righteousness often causes him to lack grace, whereas her own deep desire and honor for truth make her the opposite: humble, kind, gentle.

Second, he participated in Resource Global’s first cohort - an opportunity he credits for giving him clear and encouraging mentorship. The Christian guidance and focus on bringing the gospel into the business sphere helped him in many a decision, especially in the Taralite’s early days.

Third, he had a clear epiphany about finances. Whereas his upbringing and “the Old Bram” led him to focus on simply gaining wealth, the Bram of today who remains stayed on the Lord realized that money is a blessing from God. This blessing, he believes, is one that must be shared, and enjoyed. Ultimately, he says “my life and even my finances don’t belong to me. [They] all belong to God alone.”

And last of all, via redemption through, and trust in, Christ, Bram has received 2 priceless gifts from his turbulent professional experiences to date: humility, and trust in God’s sovereignty. Humility because, whilst he continues to struggle with pride, he remembers that he has never succeeded when he has insisted on doing things by his own strength. And trust in God’s sovereignty, because when he looks back at the last few years (his career trajectory, his marriage, his time with Resource Global, and his failures), he sees how God’s providence was upon him through it all.

“When I failed the second time, it felt like the lowest point in my life, it felt like I’d never get close to where my friends were. But somehow God just cared for me, equipped me, strengthened me. And it’s all God’s work. When I look back, it was 0% Bram, and 100% Jesus.”

I Am My Father’s Child

Veronica Nguti is in our first Nairobi Cohort in 2019 and works in administration at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Our February plenary session and pre-readings took me down memory lane. I realized that we all have the innate need for acceptance, approval and love. This need is amplified especially in the fiery kiln of the painful experiences that are part of life.  Although my father was absent for the majority of my life, I was raised by a strong, independent, loving and God-fearing woman who loved me, encouraged and accepted me. It never occurred to me that these three needs had not been met. However, a look at my decisions and actions in the past reveal a need for acceptance, approval and love, and I sought these things from outside.

In one reading, the author mentioned that in western culture people draw their identity from within. In African culture this would be considered rebellion since we are trained to draw our identity from outside and by default, we learn to seek approval and acceptance from outside. Unfortunately, these are the three things that man can never give you in full and though he may attempt to, it will be flawed and will never satisfy. Acceptance, approval and love exist in the purest form in God and thus should be sought for and received from Him alone.

Names and titles are powerful. Bishop Dr. David Oginde spoke on “A Gospel-Centered Identify: Who Am I?” He shared that this is what distinguishes us from the next person. We almost always respond to the name we receive and the voice of the person or thing that named us. How else would you explain why cousin X behaves like the relative he was named after? However, we can refuse certain names and we have a choice to respond on not to respond. In my case, I chose to respond to what my friends and family called me, whether true or false and my world would shatter when these voices would turn against me or whenever I failed. Some of the words used to describe me were a strong, intelligent, hardworking and generous Christian woman who was passionate about youth and governance and did everything with excellence until I made a mistake and then I was made to feel like I was not. Until I got acne and suddenly, I was not beautiful.

The names and titles I had been given were true and still are true but back then, they were not my truth but served as masks. They hid the fact that I did not have the courage or the energy to pray every time I made a mistake because I felt that God had let me down so many times and would eventually leave me like my dad did. Every morning for about two decades, I would mask the low sense of worth with high achievement, I would mask the fact that I never experienced mercy for my mistakes with perfectionism and excellence.

Bishop Oginde did mention that our identity affects our service. I would mask my poor self-image with the latest fashion, and I would dread the night where I had to stare in the mirror and look at my naked self. Unfortunately, just like Adam and Eve, these masks or fig leaves I had sewn for myself in the form of people’s descriptions of me eventually became inadequate and I found myself crying to God for help.

Our true God given identity is not found from within ourselves or from external sources but in God through Jesus Christ. My journey started with confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). With that I became a child of God (Gal 3:26, John 1:12) I was important enough to die for (John 3:16). His word told me that nothing would ever separate me from His love. This assurance delivered me from the need to perform or do stuff to qualify for God’s love or acceptance. The more I read the Bible and talked to God, the more I realized that He did not want me to live in fear of being left, disowned or abandoned but that I was part of His family, not as a maid or a visitor but as a SON with an inheritance to boot since if we are children then we are heirs, heir of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17).

He promised that He would never leave me or forsake me, and He has been faithful. This also gave me peace about provision because God owns it all and as a co-heir, I need not fear lack for He shall supply all my needs. Bit by bit I began trust God to provide rather than rack my brain or lose sleep over money and provision.

I was surprised to learn that God thought about me (and you), nothing shady but that His thoughts and plans for me were to prosper me, were full of peace, hope and future oriented. That his thoughts were higher than mine. I was curious and I really wanted to know what these thoughts and plans were, so I began to seek God regarding my purpose. Some of the things He shared were mind boggling and fear would often creep in, but I found solace in the fact that He had not given me a spirit of fear but one of love, power and a sound mind. That all I needed to do was to trust and obey. Whenever I failed, I was reminded that He is a compassionate God (Psalms 103:3) and He is faithful and just to forgive.

Eventually, I had to redefine success and review my motives. I no longer look at success from the lenses of money, fame and all things shiny and expensive but from the lens of the word of God. To me:

  • Success is walking in purpose daily as a child of God. Doing what He wants me to do every day.

  • Success to me is transforming lives for God’s glory.

  • It is taking responsibility for my action rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame.

  • It is remembering to ask for forgiveness and extending grace when I have been wronged.

  • It is living a life of purity by God’s grace, receiving healing for headaches, being a good steward at my work place, sharing my faith with the cabbie, encouraging the neighbor, getting up and moving on despite the failures and remembering to thank God for the good, the bad and the in between. Money, fame, 5-year plans are good, but all these are by the grace of God and for his Glory.

Finding my identity has been a colorful journey. I now know who I am – I am my Father’s child, whose I am - God’s, and why I am – God’s purpose, and I choose to adventure with God, fully submitting to His good, perfect and pleasing will for my life.

All for His glory.