Years ago, in the late 1980’s, I could not think of myself as a leader; in fact it was one of the first things I would say I was NOT. Leadership seemed to be an inherent and natural quality of the few and the powerful, and I certainly did not feel I had it – whatever “it” was. Now, decades later, what I find most meaningful about working with JONAH is the pursuit of elevating all voices, and bringing out the leader in all community members.
I am proud of what our many current leaders and partners have been working on the last few months. They certainly don’t tiptoe around issues and we, as an organization, did not step lightly into the New Year.
From Susan Wolfgram, Judi Mosely and Paul Savides organizing around Affordable Housing; to John Wagner mobilizing attention around Ending Childhood Poverty in the Chippewa Valley; to the team of Pastor David & Joyce Anderson building relationships and bringing attention to the voices of the growing Eau Claire area Hispanic population — JONAH leaders have never ceased to impress and inspire me.
What’s more, JONAH has been welcoming and engaging more and more with new community members and aims to help empower each of them to find their inner leaders. In February, 25 people attended our new member training held at the L.E. Phillips Library. In the same month, in a covenanting ceremony JONAH welcomed into membership Hope United Methodist Church; our 20th faith community. With every new member (read: leader) JONAH becomes a stronger more vibrant organization – not unlike our community as a whole.
In my case, I found my voice and my capacity for leadership 25 years later, through both education and life experience. This whole transformation validated and empowered me and allowed me to serve those around me. It led me to a 13 year role at Unity Christ Church, right here in Eau Claire, and now to the role of President on JONAH’s Board.
It is JONAH’s vision to see the leader in all our neighbors, and JONAH’s mission to offer those leaders the tools and network to make our community a better place to live. One Sunday, recently, speaking from the pulpit, I said, “We are all leaders.” One person from the congregation shouted out, “We’re not all leaders.” I responded, “We are all leaders; some of us just don’t know it yet.” My hope for this year is that JONAH can help each of us find the leader in ourselves.
Here is to all our leaders–past, present and future. I cannot wait to see what you’ll do.