Here’s #5… really? Yep, the fifth contributor for the book project. You may ask- why so many? I don’t view it from this perspective. I see it as an opportunity to collectively participate in the process. If you throw a party, don’t you invite other people to join in the fun? I thought so 🙂
Name: Terence B. Lester
City: Atlanta, Ga.
Company/Organization: The U-Turn Project, Inc. or (Terence Lester Ministries)
1. When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do? Actually, I did not know what direction I would take in life. I really did not care about life or education throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was easy for me not to care since I was a product of a socially dysfunctional environment most of my childhood. Therefore, I quickly learned to embrace popularity, people, and materialism to quickly anesthetize my hurts. I was a class clown. It was my job to not care and make everyone else around me laugh so I didn’t have to deal with my issues. If I had to label what I thought I would be, I would say a comedian. Most of my teachers quipped many times, “You will not be much in life.” I believed them. Therefore, I acted out more! It wasn’t until giving my life to Christ that His light caused all the darkness to flee from my life; thus revealing gifts and talents I never knew I possessed. Since then, I have authored three books, spoken over a thousand times, given lectures to college students and professors, spoken to elementary/middle/high school students, ministered at churches (locally and nationally), and in prisons/youth detention facilities. I live with the concept; “I minister the love God has shown me to the world.” My greatest joy from speaking comes when God becomes real in the life of a hearer for the first time.
2. What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now? The most diverse (different) job I have ever had was working in a warehouse during my early twenties. I was a assistant to the warehouse manager (I helped run the place). I printed reports, boxed and shipped packages, and helped customers. It was total isolation. Why? We were the only two that ran the entire warehouse. There were many days where all I would have to do is read or write during downtime (We are talking about hours at a time). There were no people around, just boxes. I learned quickly how important preparation was. There were times when I would line the boxes up in rows and pretend they were an audience, and ask myself, “What would you say to them?” After asking that question, I would give speeches to boxes. As funny as it sounds, my first real audiences were boxes. Now, every door God opens where an audience will be present, I ask myself, “What will I say to them?” or better yet, “God, what do you want them to hear?” Quickly, I’m reminded of the way to prepare with isolation, writing, and reading.
3 Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you? There are two people. Firstly, my friend’s father, Mr. Moore. He was there when I ran away from home, had to be rushed to the hospital, had to visit youth detention centers, the times I shed tears because my father was not there, and the time I received Christ and a ministry. He embraced every wrong decision, and every right choice with the love of God. Did we talk everyday? No. However, every time I reached out to him, he pushed me to move forward regardless of my position or disposition. His favorite words to me are, “Terence, if God has placed it in your heart then He will help you to get through it.” Secondly, my wife. She has exemplified Christ more than any pastor, elder, deacon, or anyone in ministry. She is not a theological scholar. She is just a person that has embraced the love of God, and applies it to her life. Her constant support for our family and ministry has pushed me to reach for greatness daily. She is my best friend and the person who challenges me to continue God’s path for my life each day.
4. Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and work? There isn’t one particular person that I can attribute this to. There have been instances where God has allowed me to meet total strangers that have spoken into my life and elevated my level of thinking on the spot. Other times, I have read words of authors who have passed away, or who I will never have a chance to meet in person. Then there are family members, friends, ministry leaders who have all poured into to my heart and life that have made me a better thinker. I learn from everyone, and everywhere. Life is a classroom, and everything is a teacher. However, if I have to attribute this to one person, it would be my biological father. Not by words, but by the way he has lived his life. He has taught me you must be persistent and relentless in going after what is in your heart! Therefore, I passionate pursue the call of God.
5. What do you do within your company/organization? How does it serve? I speak for the organization by fulfilling speaking request different institutions locally or nationally. We have several programs:
- Homeless outreach (feeding and clothing the homeless),
- Mentoring initiative (partnering with schools to provide leadership training for students),
- Evangelistic ministry (an outreach service that unites churches to reach the lost),
- School assemblies (speaking to students in schools on various topics), and
- Leadership training for pastors/youth pastors (teaching leaders useful methods on reaching the emergent generation).
6. What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic? Focused. Passionate. Sincere.
7. What is your greatest strength in leadership? My greatest strength is a no brainer—Passion! When I get involved or catch a glimpse of what God wants me to put my hands to, I give my all. In fact, I give more than my all. I put my heart, mind, and sweat into it. One of my favorite quotes written by Howard Thurman sums up my heart and thought about this, “Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”
8. What is your greatest weakness in leadership? My weakness is organization. I thank God for the team He has surrounded me with. They aid me with organization. Since I am a visionary/creative person, my notes are everywhere, my schedule is overbooked, and my to-do lists are normally lost as the day moves forward. I can start things and end up in a totally different place. Do I complete my work? Yes. It’s just not organized. It’s funny because I believe I am fearfully and wonderfully made, even unorganized.
9. What is the hardest thing you have to do in life and/or leadership? The hardest thing to do period is to let go and move forward.
10. If you could give one piece of advice to other young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be? The greatest advice I would give a young leader is this, “Struggles cannot be handled alone. Even when people wrong you, and you have a right to isolate yourself.” It is easy to isolate yourself and pull away from people if they have wronged you or left you when you needed them the most. I truly believe God allows people to fail us to show us how desperately we all need Him. However, just because a hand-full of people mistreated you does not give you the right to look at every person through the same lens. God will send you faithful people to encourage you, support you, and be a listening ear or advising tongue when you are at a crossroad. But you must remember, you cannot do anything alone! Even God created the entire world with Jesus in mind. Selah.