By Jerry McNellis
My daughter Lisa was a college freshman when our company was asked to lead a Compression Planning retreat for the International Board of Habitat for Humanity. She went along to handle logistics.
Habitat for Humanity had a tradition where they started each session with a prayer led by a different board member.
Lisa asked me if she could lead one of the prayer sessions. I said I didn’t think it was appropriate for her to do so because of our role facilitating the retreat.
After I said “no” the look in her eyes was like I had stepped on her newborn kitten.
When our work was done after two days, we stayed overnight for the morning worship service. I got up at 5:30 a.m. and went looking for board member Bishop Dr. Gerard Mpango, Anglican Bishop of Western Tanganyika, Tanzania.
I found him and told him what I said to Lisa and how absolutely lousy I felt about it. He told me not to worry…he’d fix it.
About 8:00 AM the Habitat board members and our team gathered for worship.
I looked around for my daughter and couldn’t find her. Then out from a parlor came Bishop Gerard with Lisa.
Printed worship bulletins had been distributed for each of us.
Bishop Gerard told us to take a pencil and scratch out where it said Bishop and write Lisa next to it. He then joined the rest of us and had Lisa lead the service.
I went from the valley of disgust with myself to the mountaintop of pride in my daughter Lisa as she did such a beautiful job leading our service that Sunday morning.
Bishop Gerard turned over leading a worship service to a 19-year-old college freshman for leaders of an organization of such renown as Habitat for Humanity.
He taught me an unforgettable form of leadership. There is a time for a leader to “turn over a position ” as well as “there is a time you can or should get off the stage.”
It seems so simple an act to write about today; however, at the time Bishop Gerard’s humble act was a surprise which spoke loudly to all.
Last Monday Lisa and her husband Mike presented this world with twin daughters. Mother and daughters are doing well.
I am proud to share with you my newest grandchildren: Emmalin Grace and Hannah Marie Ilyankoff
Congratulations grandpa, they are so beautiful! And a beautiful story as well…
Jerry and the McNellis family!
What beautiful girls! An inspiring story as well.
I’m reading “The Steward Leader,” and I’ve just recently read a passage that discusses how steward leaders help shape culture, but don’t need to control it! Your story shares a grace-based moment and Lisa’s opportunity to lead the worship – priceless!
Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. You made my day!
Congratulations to ALL the McNellis’! Thanks for sharing that story about Lisa! The babes are beautiful and your whole family is BLESSED! Carrie