Growth Through Challenges – From Johnny Karls U.S. Interim President

This past summer I was taught a life lesson. Perhaps if I share it with you, you will be wiser for it. Oh, and I have one small request…don’t mention this to my kids.

I have two kids away at college and like any caring parent I am always concerned about the youthful decisions they’re making. Occasionally, I hear about something one of them did that was immature, to say the least. Ugh! “Seriously? How could you be so…” You get the point.

My wife Kathleen arranged for them to connect on the same flight home for the summer. We, along with their two younger siblings, were excited to see them. Upon arrival at DIA, they both seemed healthy but I couldn’t help wondering about their friends, their habits, and their choices. Honestly, I was concerned.

A couple days later something peculiar happened. I received an email from a doctor who happened to sit next to my two college kids on their flight home. The kind man wanted to write me and tell me how much he enjoyed the company and faith-filled conversation of these two “remarkable young people.” I was floored! Once I finished reading the email, with moistened Kleenex in hand, I sat back and repented to the Lord for my lack of faith. I realized my two kids were not only okay, they were doing even better than I had imagined. Amidst the normal challenges of child-raising, I had let my mind run with worry.

As any parent or leader knows, growth is painful. “Oh God, can’t there be another way?” Well, if we trust in the sovereignty, love, and omnipotence of God, then, as Tim Keller has said, “He does, exactly what you would do if you knew what He knows.” 20/20 hindsight, right?

The past two years have been challenging for the staff of New Hope Uganda ministries. Some of our missionaries have been very hurt for which we are emphatically sorry. As we have grown beyond the capacity of a small organization we have failed in some ways to strategically create personnel infrastructure and systems that would normally circumvent such dysfunction. These are otherwise known as growing pains.

From this challenging season we have learned many things. The boards and staff leadership (both Ugandan and missionaries) have come together for many collaborative meetings to identify problems and figure out solutions. We have most definitely learned from our mistakes.

  • We have acknowledged significant mistakes made.
  • We acknowledge that some individuals were not right for the organization.
  • We have interviewed almost every current and past leader for feedback.
  • We have created and filled a new U.S. position called Director of Missionary Care and Development to not only do a better job of caring for our missionaries, but to do a much better job of vetting and recruiting the right missionaries.
  • We have created, implemented, and chosen officers to oversee a Childcare Protection Policy. All kids are encouraged to report any questionable behavior.
  • We have recently finished a 3-day Organizational Development workshop, which was phase one of a two-year process. This process is being led by a professional high-level consultant who is certified in the Adizes transition and optimization system. The normal fee for this workshop is $25k and then a monthly implementation fee. By God’s grace, this brother is helping us pro-bono.
  • We have officially begun succession planning for our founders in order to prepare the ministry for the next season without them.
  • We have committed to make 2017 the year of reinforcing our infrastructure to bring excellence to all that we do, from people to programs to projects.
Staff attending Adizes workshop.

Staff attending Adizes workshop.

From my personal illustration above, I learned that though there are challenges and anxiety, faithfulness brings God’s perfect will. We have learned from our mistakes and we are proactively taking the necessary steps to not only circumvent problems, but to strategically lead the organization to produce exponential fruit.

Speaking first hand since I just returned home from Uganda a couple weeks ago, NHU has done extraordinary work for 30 years. Honest mistakes? Absolutely. Learning and growing? For sure. Amazing fruit? Without question.

Foreign missionary staff praying over the McFarland's before they leave for furlough.

Foreign missionary staff praying over the McFarland’s before they leave for furlough.

I met so many beautiful children and former New Hope sponsored kids that are thriving as adults. I can see in their eyes something that I failed to see in the eyes of the kids in the surrounding area…hope. Speaking as a supporter, a board member, and now the interim president, I can say pray on, God is working mightily in and through this ministry.