Monday, November 10, 2014

Gospel Driven Student Leader

Two summers ago, Kelechi Umoga went back to Nigeria and began building a health clinic in the village of Abuja, Nigeria.  He hopes to go to med school and be a doctor, but he’s already begun to transform  health care in his home country!   

The Cornell Chronicle wrote a fantastic article about his work that you can read here.

Cru at Cornell is literally one of the largest student organizations on campus because of leaders like Kelechi.  He is a very committed leader in our ministry here and what that means is that he’s a contributor who shows up  week in and week out to work alongside others in an effort to serve his fellow students and work in ways that make Cornell more joyful.  To me that’s incredibly important.  I know that Kelechi can bring people together to work on something great in Africa because I’ve seen him do that here on campus.  

As a desk receptionist at Anabel Taylor Hall, one of Kelechi Umoga’s duties includes locking up Cornell’s Sage Chapel on the nights when he works.  A couple of weeks ago when he walked in after 11:00pm he saw a solitary student sitting in a pew quietly staring forward; deep in thought.  Kelechi hesitated a moment, not wanting to disturb the guy, and then politely asked him if he would mind shutting off the lights when he left.  The student obligingly said ‘yes’ and Kelechi was going to leave, but he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to walk over and engage the student in conversation.   They ended up talking for quite a while and I have no doubt Kelechi was able to be of considerable comfort to this new friend who was struggling over the recent break up with his girlfriend.   In the end, they exchanged numbers and made plans to meet again.    Kelechi is a caring, helpful, compassionate person who makes time for others not just when he’s doing something spectacular, but even late at night when no one is around to see him. 

Kelechi hosts a Community Group, gives guidance to our student prayer team and sings in our Cru Cornell Gospel band. This guy has integrity and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.  When he sings there is a power that flows not just from his strong vocal chords but from the authentic, blood earnest faith that he has in Jesus Christ.  His conviction is evident and there’s just something right about a person proclaiming that “God is good all the time” who actually believes that!   

In the spring of 2013 Kelechi accompanied our group on a service trip to Haiti where we work with an orphanage.  Kelechi is fluent in French which was incredibly helpful and he was certainly a natural with the kids.  I have this image burned into my mind whenever I think about Kelechi of him dancing with the orphans one evening at the house.  He told me once that back in high school he was really into partying and his dance skills were somewhat notorious.  So much of that party scene was destructive and self-promoting and so when he became a Christian he was very cautious about getting involved in that type of scene, and so he really doesn’t dance as much.   But he brought out the moves that night, and the kids were all about it!   And for me, that scene really captures so much of who Kelechi is.   He’s a man in motion, engaging with others, bringing joy and blessing to those around him.   When you think about it, that’s pretty much what dancing is really supposed to be about anyway.  So for me his skills are still notorious! 

When it comes to motivation, drive, initiative and even big vision, you could say that there are a lot of guys like Kelechi at Cornell.  But to me, what sets him apart is that he’s such a team player.  Kelechi has plans that’s for sure, but he’s unusual in that he’s not out there trying to just do his own thing by himself.   He lives life connected with others, and he has good friends.   For any grand endeavor to really work in this world you need capable people who can truly lead others, motivate others and  mobilize their friends.    Kelechi is adept at joining together with others and getting other people involved in whatever he is doing. 
Kelechi spent this last summer studying  for his Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and in the end, his score wasn’t that great.  He will need to keep studying and retake the test in order to gain admittance into med school and that was discouraging for sure.   But as long as he feels called to be a doctor I am absolutely certain that he will strive and persevere and overcome in order to achieve that goal.  And even though the scores weren’t as good on this round as he would like, I feel confident that he will make an incredible doctor some day because he already does so many of those things that great doctors must do!  He actually cares for people, he serves others, he lives a life of consistency and conviction.  He passes his classes here at Cornell, so I also know that he’s academically capable, it’s just a matter of time before he improves his MCAT scores and proceeds to med school.  But in the meantime, what he’s going to do is trust God and live his life doing all kinds of wonderful things, and so there will be no time “lost” that’s for sure! 

Either way, Kelechi is planning to take a gap year and  this past weekend, he was with me in Rochester, attending Cru's intern preview weekend.  He is seriously considering sticking with us next year as an intern which would be absolutely incredible!  

In case you haven’t read this article about him, please check it out: