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From Gloom to Zoom – 2020 MANI Leadership Conference

Thanks to COVID-19, the idea of transitioning from traditional, face-to-face gatherings to online, virtual meetings has become commonplace. But the value and success of these digital substitutes has not always been the greatest, particularly in Africa, where internet connectivity is often unreliable.

OC President Dean Carlson and Dr. Reuben Ezemadu at the MANI-sponsored BRIDGE conference in Houston two year ago.

In light of this reality, Dr. Reuben Ezemadu, the continental coordinator for the Movement for African National Initiatives (MANI) mission’s network, reluctantly called for a five-hour Zoom meeting in May to take the place of a week-long leadership conference originally planned for Ibadan, Nigeria.

Exceeding Expectations

Despite early reservations, Jon, who works with One Challenge, said the expectations for the online meeting were quickly exceeded.

“First, Dr. Reuben noted that 34 people were on the call – the best attendance ever at a MANI leadership event,” Jon says. “Secondly, even though the meeting lasted five hours, we easily covered our entire discussion agenda, including time for devotions and prayer – all of which normally takes us two to three days to accomplish.”

Many productive outcomes and conclusions came from this short time together. “As the appointed notetaker, I had the privilege of summarizing an outstanding set of conclusions that now create stepping-stones for further catalyzing of missions, discipleship, and church planting efforts across Africa,” Jon says. “By asking ourselves tough questions such as, ‘What are we hearing and learning from God during this crisis?’ and ‘What do we need to start doing differently to strategically network the church in Africa?’, our team initiated new dialogue forums on several key ministry fronts.”

Last major MANI consultation in 2016.

Some of the key takeaways for the events were:

  • Finding ways to expose, train, and equip African leaders with the capability to carry on their ministry functions more successfully with digital and online resources.
  • Determining who is already positioned in locations of unreached people groups and finding ways to empower them as opposed to setting up whole new outreach teams.
  • Pivoting from large, face-to-face conferences and seminars to smaller virtual training and discussion gatherings.

Looking Toward 2021

Every five years, MANI hosts a large Continental Consultation, the next is scheduled for March 2021. One outcome of the time in May was looking for alternate ways of hosting this event, Jon says.

“Those ideas will focus on exciting uses of new virtual meeting, broadcast, and discussion forums across the continent,” he says. “Forced change such as this is discouraging for some, but others in our group saw it as a way to become ‘disruptive innovators’ and lead the way toward more effective means of mobilizing missions in Africa.”

With adaptive means of meeting together, the hope is that a virtual approach may inspire the best ministry-leader engagement in Africa.

Pray with One Challenge

  • Pray for MANI leadership as they navigate the changing dynamics brought on by COVID-19.
  • Many countries in Africa have been hit hard by the pandemic and the repercussions of country-wide lockdowns. Pray for leaders as the serve, guide, and care for others in their communities.
  • Pray for Jon, and others in OC, who are a part of MANI. Pray for wisdom in how to help advance the kingdom throughout the continent of Africa.

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