Aligning Talents with Dreams: It Takes Courage
As a boy, my father-in-law, Clement (also known by his English nickname, "Bud"), accompanied his dad to some remote African villages where they planned to distribute a small quantity of leaflets with a message of the Bible in French. The family served as missionaries in what was then known as Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC), where Bud was born and raised.
As the truck rumbled over the rugged African landscape, the villagers could hear it coming from miles away and were waiting to greet them. Bud and his dad began passing out the leaflets to the people, who were overjoyed to receive printed literature. They rushed to the truck to get a copy.
The small quantity was far from enough for everyone. Bud watched people walk away empty-handed, discouraged. Then he witnessed a fistfight break out between two grown men—fighting over a copy of the literature.
Standing in the bed of the truck that day, Bud was horrified. People should not have to fight over a copy of any piece of Christian literature—there should be enough to go around! If he could do something about it, he would.
That was the start of a dream. Bud decided to be a missionary printer, not knowing all that was involved in publishing.
In his teens, Bud moved from Africa to Oregon, where he stayed with friends of the family to finish high school in the States. From there, he went to Wheaton College for university studies. By then, the dream had grown into a plan: Bud and his father were forming a mission that would publish Christian literature in French specifically to distribute to French-speaking African nations for low-cost or free.
Bud has a knack for working with tools and technology, and can visualize what needs to be done. Couple that with a spiritual gift of service and strong worth ethic (not to mention the resourcefulness of growing up as a missionary kid in Congo), and you'll begin to understand why the man is indefatigable.
At Wheaton, Bud studied journalism and worked at a print shop, determined to learn absolutely every aspect of book-making: from writing and editing, to printing and binding. He met my mother-in-law, who joined him in this dream with her own talents. After graduation, they married and moved to Europe, where they joined his mom and dad, who had left DRC and settled in Belgium to start the mission and publishing house. In Belgium they could more easily ship their materials to Africa.
Bud did it all. He and his dad formed an international and stateside mission board, and raised funds for the printing press. Bud learned every piece of that press so he could run and maintenance it himself. They started translating and printing Bibles and Christian literature to send to Africa and sell to any francophone country. They built and managed a team comprised of Belgian employees and American missionaries, transitioning to the computer era, running a bookstore and shipping materials all around the world. For decades, Bud excelled with the talents he fully developed for the publishing dream—a dream he pursued faithfully and diligently.
Eventually, at age 68, Bud stepped away from his role as director of the publisher house, handing it over to another leader. This freed Bud to serve as a missionary locally with the Belgian churches, but in 2006 he returned to Congo as an official observer of the first free democratic elections in two major cities. Then in 2010, when the new road across the country was barely finished, he returned to the area where he grew up. He discovered the people were not faring well. Missions destroyed by rebels in 1965 had never been rebuilt and people were without medical resources or means of economic development.
God gave Bud a new dream: to set up Congo Open Heart (in French, Congo Cœur Ouvert), an NGO run by DRC nationals to create centralized resources in education, health, and communication for the villages in the Bandundu region outside of Kikwit. Though progress is slow, Bud remains energized and undaunted by the huge task ahead—for this dream, he's once again tapping into his talents and service-driven personality. On one of his first visits, he oversaw a team of men who cleaned out a cistern so they could collect water and completely rebuilt the roof of a house to be a training center.
But that was just the beginning. Since that visit, he's returned to walk the land with farmers to study its arability and brought experts to set up experimental fields. He hopes the people can not only grow enough food to feed themselves, but one day have enough extra to sell in the city so they can actually earn money and enjoy opportunities such as sending their kids to the school they cannot at this time afford. When funds were donated to purchase an old army truck, Bud helped a team repaint and prepare it to ship to DRC, filled with medical supplies, tools, and building materials.
Bud's African childhood has made integrating into the community on his month-long visits an easy and joyful experience. He brings hope and vision to these people he respects and loves.
Bud's dreams and talents seem to have always been aligned, but I sense additional energy and drive from him with this new dream. He turns 80 years old this year, so it's not as easy to climb the ladder to patch the roof of the community center or clean up mud from the school room floor after the rainstorms blow through, but he continues to serve in every way he can. His nickname with the locals in DRC is Tata Kikesa, which means Papa Courage.
He would probably just say he's being obedient, but his African friends know it takes more than that to pursue a dream this big. They know it takes courage.
High Calling Articles on Talents and Dreams
- Aligning Talents with Dreams: God's in Charge, by Managing Editor for The High Calling, Deidra Riggs. Deidra explores several questions that arise in a discussion about dreams and writes, "[H]ow do our gifts, skills, and talents fit into this puzzle of dreams? Well, this is the amazing part. And, we don’t always see it until, like Gideon, we’ve taken that first, shaky step into a dream that seems way too big for us, and with resources that seem way too small."
- Aligning Talents with Dreams: Toward Clarity, by Peter Baker, assures us, "Vocation is not a puzzle to solve. It is a story we enter into, a calling we unpack and unfold and never quite finish unwrapping, because God is never quite finished with us, or with His work in the world...This is good news. My life and your life don’t begin once a personally tailored vision of vocation is clarified and engraved in stone."
- Aligning Talents with Dreams: 3 Strategies for Finding Your Calling, by Jeff Goins, says, "[T]he way to our life's work is an inward journey. We have to 'listen to our life,' as Frederick Buechner wrote, to identify the talents that develop over time and recognize the God-given dreams inside us." And yet some of us "struggle to trust our own conclusions and need to hear the affirming words of someone else before we can take the next step with our dreams."
- When Your Dream Gets Put on Hold and At Just the Right Time, Daily Reflections by Charity Singleton Craig offering a biblical perspective on the theme of Aligning Talents with Dreams.
- "Are You Dreaming Big Enough?" by Tommy Barnett (via Ministry Today). "Dreams are not merely the nightly thoughts you experience as the brain sorts out the day's events," Barnett writes. "They are the goals and visions that fire your heart and saturate your soul with joy at the very thought of them. They are those continuing visions of what you want your life to be at its highest level of fulfillment--what you want to do, how you want to do it, what kind of person you want to become in the process." He offers practical suggestions for discovering your God-given dream.
- "Where God's Purpose and Your Passion Meet," by Dan Miller (via Relevant), poses three questions that can bring renewed clarity for next steps and long-range vision of calling, including asking about your childhood dreams and passions.
- "Wisdom Meets Passion: God's Purpose for Your Life," adapted from a book by Dan Miller and Jared Angaza (via Crosswalk), says, "When working to fulfill God’s purposes in their lives, older people tend to focus most on the importance of wisdom, while younger people tend to view passion as the key. But, from God’s perspective, both wisdom and passion are necessary to successfully live a life that’s faithful to His purposes for you."
- "Discover Your God-Given Calling," by Julia Mateer (via Gifted for Leadership), offers six questions to uncover your passion, tips for writing a mission statement, encouragement to dream (and submit the ideas to the Lord), and then put it into action.
- Download Finding Your Calling: a portion from Jeff Goins's book The In-Between.
Aligning Talents with Dreams
This article is part of a series at The High Calling on Aligning Talents with Dreams. We’re talking about dreams—both big and small—that flow from an intimate relationship with God. And our talents? It’s the way God’s made us, though we may have to sharpen our raw talents into skills. Ideally, we’re equipped with talents to support the dream we’re given. But often, life’s timing isn’t perfect. Maybe we’re waiting to discover the dream, or maybe we’re waiting to develop the talent more fully. What’s it like when our talents and dreams converge? How can we get there? What can we do in-between, when we’re waiting? Join us as we discuss our God-given talents and dreams. Why not encourage others to join the conversation by sending these articles through email, social media or jumping into the comments at our website?