Building Leaders

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2016Save the Date Postcard

To sponsor a table for eight at $300 click here.
To purchase individual tickets for $35 click here.

To make your Mountaintop Award nomination by November 6th click here.

Allen A. Belton | Chairman, MLK Jr. Prayer Breakfast Committee
Presented by Breakthrough Partners and Community Leaders Roundtable of Seattle

High5LogoWordsGod works in a mighty way as the High-5 Program is introduced to Francophone Africa at a gathering in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Breakthrough Partners Director of Children’s Ministry Training, Andrew Edmonds, and Breakthrough Partners Ivory Coast Director Koffi Tehua introduced the High-5 Character Values Curriculum to representatives from 12 churches from 5 denominations who, in turn, will take the training materials out to over 500 Sunday schools. Here are a couple of quotes from participants:

??????????????????????????????? “Next week I’m leading a training for 50 Sunday school teachers in the interior of Ivory Coast. I’m definitely going to share this material with them.”

“I’ve had an incredible burden for the kids in my church and community . . . Now I have a solution.”

For a full report from Andrew Edmonds and Koffi Tehua, click here.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support that make partnerships like this possible.

Gary Edmonds
President, Breakthrough Partners



Fish Farming Initiative, trained by Justin

How does sustainable development happen? The answer in a short pithy phrase is “Inside-Out Change.” The people of a community, whether in Africa, Asia, or the USA, must own their change process.  They must take responsibility. They must realize that transformative change begins and flows from inside them.

My good friend, Justin Bisengimana, envisions and trains people in 22 impoverished communities of Rwanda to be the agents of their own change. He recently remarked, “Their mindset must change. They must realize that they are valuable and possess gifts and talents for their own development. They must be given time and the challenge to struggle. They must become tough-minded and learn to fight against poverty. If they are to make it out of extreme poverty and violence, they must start the process inside themselves.  And they must prepare themselves to work hard without any promise of outside help. My job is to bring them this knowledge and wisdom. In fact if I bring them any outside money or materials without this mindset first planted deeply, the people will only end up dependent or worse off than before.”

The result of Justin’s work shows that when people own their own development and are willing to persevere against the odds, they are able to triple even quintuple their income and the well-being of their children in three years or less. Pretty phenomenal growth! So much growth that Justin has more communities asking for his assistance than he can service in a year!

So many strategies for poverty alleviation focus on government-led redistribution of resources or policy change. Few emphasize the need for character or culture change. It should be no surprise that we see little sustainable change around the world. What do you think is the best strategy?

Gary Edmonds

Zimbabwe Workshop GroupInvited by MAMUDA, a community development association near Bindura in north central Zimbabwe, a team from Breakthrough Partners recently worked with over 80 men, women and young people for four days to coach and transfer skills necessary to lead their own community transformation. They came from 13 wards, some as far as 30km away. One man rode a bicycle 20 km to be there. The beauty of the country and hospitality of the people was only exceeded by the eager enthusiasm of the workshop participants.

A distinctive of Breakthrough Partners (BtP) is the belief that God has embedded in communities the leadership, solutions, and resources needed to solve the many challenges they face. In the course of the workshop it was exciting to see these people begin to discover what God has already planted in them, working together to identify solutions and local resources for their immediate and long term improvements. Our MAMUDA hosts took some risk inviting a US group to assist in their local development, but their boldness may pay off as a model for other districts.

The participants went back to their wards and engaged their neighbors and community, sharing what they learned in the workshop and generating more improvement initiatives. In a note of thanks to BtP, a MAMUDA leader wrote, “. . . the community of Bindura should never be the same again after this workshop. The enthusiasm exuding among most participants will begin to yield results soon.”

BtP leaders also met with the senior minister and incumbent vice president of the national government. Our visit even made the local news. Please pray for the people of Zimbabwe, MAMUDA and Breakthrough Partners. BtP will follow up and provide ongoing coaching to the leaders through Skype calls, email and periodic visits.  Pray for wisdom and grace to learn and lead well. 

Ed Hatch
Breakthrough Partners

Weary donors around the world are searching for what will bring sustainable transformation to the poor. We must always ask, “What works that will last beyond the aid?” From more than 40 years of international work in some of the most distressed nations of the globe, my answer is simple – Local Leader Centered Development.

When local leaders are valued, honored, listened to, and empowered to execute transformational initiatives based on their dreams and visions, on the resources at hand and on the rhythm of their own culture, the change lasts.  The community is changed from the inside-out.  Ownership of the new reality is felt by the local population.  Creativity is fostered.  Diversity in unity is cultivated.  The leaders and people experience the dignity of being masters of their own destiny and stewards of their own resources.

I recently returned from 10 days in rural Zimbabwe, invited to facilitate a change process in this community of many distressed people.  Working with 85 local leaders, we helped them surface their own visions and dreams and grasp the assets that they already possess.  Relational trust grew as together they wrote plans to transform and develop their district.  They created a local development association with this mission statement:  “MAMUDA (Masembura and Musana Development Association) exists to promote sustainable development and empowerment by the local people for the future generations.  We encourage total control and ownership of the resources by the local community.”  Read more about our meeting in the Bulawayo News here.

Check back with me in a couple of years.  My experience tells me that outside-in project-centered development does not last, but inside-out Local Leader CenteredDevelopment does.  What are you practicing or investing in?  Does it last?

Gary Edmonds

Last week, we introduced Breakthrough’s Young Peacebuilders Initiative (YPI) and its director, Dr. Michael McGill. To read that post, click here. This week, we will continue to explore the work of YPI by looking at their growing initiative.

Burundi YPI Leaders

Burundi YPI Leaders

Most people try to address problems in the developing world by identifying a perceived solution and then implementing their structured curriculum in an attempt to fix it.

However, that is not how the Young Peacebuilders Initiative (YPI) works. McGill starts with vision. He encourages local leaders to imagine their future nation if their children were nurtured with peacebuilding passion and skill rather than raised with violence modeled as a default response to conflict. Dr. McGill then challenges them to join with others in making that more peaceful future a reality and reminds them that the vast majority of contemporary conflicts occur in nations with very young populations like theirs.

If local leaders are committed to pursuing the vision of building more durable peace through nurturing young peacebuilders, he helps them to identify the unique obstacles to achieving their vision and to create and implement their own contextualized YPI plan. Although it can be more time consuming, YPI and Breakthrough Partners strongly believe that this model of local ownership brings about more sustainable and effective change. This longer yet promising process brings about more durable peace in communities worldwide where cycles of violence often continue for generations.

McGill is currently implementing this strategy in Burundi and Rwanda and exploring expansion into Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda. He has also been contacted by groups in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Ecuador who are interested in replicating YPI’s model of equipping children as peacebuilders who will become their community’s greatest asset for a more peaceful future. Leaders from around the world are coming September 28th to a YPI training in Uganda to how to start a YPI process in a new country. Learn more here.

Take YPI in Burundi, for example. Through visits with multiple churches, government, business and NGO leaders, Michael identified a group of leaders who grabbed hold of the vision for engaging large numbers of young peacebuilders. These leaders committed to working together to identify and implement a plan to equip their children and youth as peacebuilders. Since working to gather the resources for an initial national YPI consultation in June 2013, they have proudly claimed ownership for the YPI process. Now, through 50 trainers, 2,000 teachers in Burundi will be taught how to implement a local, contextualized plan to train children as peacemakers. From a small group of leaders who grabbed hold of YPI’s vision for a peaceful future, 100,000 young people will be engaged and trained to make choices that build peaceful communities. And YPIB is just getting started!

As God continues to work in the hearts of African leaders to prompt them to say, “Now is the time!” YPI will continue to help these leaders identify and move towards the vision of that is important to them.

Learn more about YPI here, or listen to Michael discuss his vision here. Or, follow them on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates!


Julius Muwanguzi of Uganda

When people think of a coach, sporting games with red-faced men frantically waving arms and shouting instructions is usually what comes to mind.

Mark Mielbrecht’s coaching couldn’t be more different.

Two years ago, Mark and three others at Breakthrough Partners signed up to become certified coaches through Creative Results Management. The coaching method they learned is unique. “It’s a client-led agenda,” Mark said. “They say what they want to work on; I’m helping them achieve the goals they set for themselves.” Mark explained that it is future-focused, while counseling is often focused on the past. “We like to recognize the effects of the past, but ultimately believe that God created us as unique and gifted individuals. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to fulfill our God-given purpose.” In order to do so, Mark’s coaching focuses on a person’s desire to set goals, overcome barriers and willingness to choose to move in a positive direction in order to meet one’s potential.

Mark recently coached Breakthrough’s friend Pastor Julius of Uganda. His church had planted corn to feed the village and provide for schoolchildren, but the crop was destroyed when a neighbor allowed his cows to graze on the plot. Julius was faced with a dilemma. He wanted to show love to his neighbor but had the reality of a destroyed crop that could no longer feed the village. He struggled with whether to turn the other cheek or seek restitution to meet the needs of the village. Through Mark’s coaching, Julius decided that he should meet with the elected village council to ask for their input regarding a solution and support. They in turn spoke with the neighbor about his negligence. “I never told Julius what to do. All I did as a coach was help him discover his solution to the present problem. That’s the beautiful thing.” Mark’s coaching with Julius helped prevent a conflict between a pastor and his community and helped give recognized authority to the recently elected governing body of the village.

Mark and the other Breakthrough coaches are well on their way to logging the necessary hours for their coaching certification. As they do so, they will continue to play an important role in helping clients decide the best action-steps to self-created solutions and effective change.

After attending the 2013 Breakthrough Partners Network Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Christophe Mbonyingabo shares his reflections on the experience. Christophe left the conference with the goal of uniting individuals together through building trusting relationships to create sustainable, lasting partnerships. Additionally, Christophe now plans to mobilize resources to initiate change from the inside, using what God has blessed their community with, rather than relying on external sources of change.

See his response here:

Last week on this blog, we introduced the Breakthrough Partners Network conference that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read that post here. This week, we’ll continue looking at two key themes that arose out of this conference: unity and connection, through the eyes of Breakthrough Partners’ Director of Global Leadership Development Mark Mielbrecht.  

While on the long flight to Africa, Mark suddenly felt inspiration from God. As soon as they had landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he quickly acquired a map of Africa. Mark then tore it into  30 pieces. Later, as he spoke at the opening of the Breakthrough Partners Network (BPN) conference, Mark placed a piece of the divided map in front of each of the eager participants. “Each person had a piece of the bigger picture God was creating for the future of Africa,” Mark recalled. “Not until we put all of our individual pieces together could we see God’s vision for Africa, the place where God has called us to minister .”

After Mark had divided up the pieces, they taped the torn map back together, making it whole again. However, it was missing one small piece. “It was small, but clearly a gaping hole,” remembered Mark. It wasn’t until the last day that the final piece was placed to fully reconstruct the map. “It was clear,” said Mark, “that if even one of us doesn’t step in to fulfill the purpose God has for our life, the whole body will miss that  person’s contribution.”

Each of the leaders brought together in this conference are living into dedicated, fruitful ministries of service in their home communities. As a result of the conference, BPN is nudging these individual ministries to be collaborative, to work together and create sustainability in their work. In particular, the BPN network members are all seeking to create economic  engines so their ministry communities can be self-supporting.  This will enable local  leaders  to better meet the physical and spiritual needs of those they serve, and be less reliant on external support. In order to achieve this, the leaders who had gathered were encouraged to look for what they do currently have, to find what resources and skills they can bring to the table to initiate change. Ultimately, these leaders have promised to turn to each other, to collaborate, initiate, and help support the work of programs and projects being developed in their local context.

This is a movement of relationship and unity; a movement of connectedness and vulnerability to each other. These leaders have united and are seeking to follow God’s plan for their countries, so that true change, new change, will be brought to fruition.

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Last month, on the final morning of the Breakthrough Partners Network conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,  a community leader from Nairobi stood up to address the attendees who had gathered for the week. He referenced the recent Kenyan election and related how they had been given the right to choose well those they wanted in leadership. “Now, will we exercise our rights as community leaders?  Too long,” he said, “Africans have looked to the outside, to NGOs, foreign aid programs, to be the answer for change.” He finished by saying that Africans themselves have been given responsibility for change. Will Africans accept it and move forward?

How do we help bring about profound change to the broken, distressed communities in Africa? For Breakthrough Partners President Gary Edmonds, the answer lies in the belief that God has already planted leaders in these communities. For over a decade, Gary and Breakthrough have been meeting with community leaders in Africa who have invited them to come and act as coaches, as they lead their communities. Breakthrough terms these men and women “Local Community Catalysts,” or LCCs, people who have networks in their communities and the ability to catalyze people and unite their neighbors to work together for the transformation and common good of the whole community.

As requests for coaching and consulting streamed in from LCCs, Breakthrough decided a new plan was needed to accelerate the process of consulting assistance; the Breakthrough Partners Network was born. Several months later the Breakthrough Partners coaching team assembled in Ethiopia, alongside 30 LCCs from all over the continent. Leaders from various African countries shared their expertise, sparking an unprecedented level of bonding, unity, support and relationship between the leaders. Over the five days of the gathering, the vision of what God is doing in Africa and where that vision is spreading rose clearly out of the swirl of thoughts and ideas, and was held in firm ownership by these African leaders. 

In reflecting on this conference, Gary emphatically rested his hope for the future of Africa on one simple truth: that God has planted a seed of greatness within these African LCCs. They possess humility, vision, willingness, and the courage to seek the well being of others in their community. Above all, they possess ownership. One can see in these leaders the recognition of the mandate God has handed them and their desire to shoulder the responsibility and look forward to the actions they will take to exercise their duty to bring about change. 

Is Africa ready for local ownership and change? Gary answered with this parallel: “After years of wandering, with God providing the daily manna and leading, God said: ‘Now pack your bags; we’re crossing the Jordan to settle the land.’ This means from tomorrow on, there is no more manna. You take responsibility.”

To African leaders, God is saying the time is now for Africa to be led by Africans.

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