Incarnational Leadership




by Michael Omondi
edited by John Seale

You see an interesting situation with large charities that funnel huge sums of money into poor communities in developing countries. Nearly 100% of the time, their headquarters are located in the central business district of a large city, and their field offices are located in residential areas where wealthy people live. You can understand why charities might seek this comfort, but it defies logic in the sense that the people they intend to serve actually live in the poor areas of town.

In 12 years of working at Ndoto I have walked in Obunga daily. Sometimes during our lunch hour we walk and see a kid who is not going to school. We stop and ask questions of parents and guardians, and we tell them of Ndoto’s programs. A lot of kids have come to be in our sponsorship program simply because we saw them and told them about it. We noticed that something is not right and someone needed to act to change it. That person is us, the Ndoto staff, because that is the reason we work among the poor.

Michael walking the paths of Obunga in 2013


With a short glance at the world today, you could say that it lacks leadership. The world is spiraling out of hand in so many different nations. It’s often cited that companies worldwide spend at least $50 billion per year on leadership development. Considering that the source of this estimate was originally a 2012 book by Barbara Kellerman, it’s likely that the sum is even more today. But if companies have been spending this much for over a decade, why do we not have more sensible leaders around the world today?

A different kind of leadership is needed to bring the kind of change we long for. We don’t need leadership as we have talked about it before, but incarnational leadership. Philippians 2:6-7 says that Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” In John 1:14, we learn that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

We need leaders to humble themselves and be incarnate with the people they are serving, rather than standing off at a comfortable place. This goes for charities, as well. They can construct their ministries inside the very communities they intend to serve, alongside those lacking sufficient money to live at a comfortable standard. If the world wants to see greater impact from their donations, their leadership must become like that of Jesus. To actually serve people you must see them daily, walk in their communities, sit in their homes, be there with them when disaster strikes or when they are simply overwhelmed with daily life.

The Ndoto campus in the center of Obunga in 2023


This is what has made Ndoto different from so many other organizations trying to transform communities – as an organization we are not superior or better or more financially secure, but we are planted among the poor of Obunga. Because of this we see, smell, touch, and walk the same ditches. We bend low to avoid being cut by the iron sheet roof of a house that is almost falling over. It provokes our hearts on a regular basis to pray intensely and to assess what God has called us to do in this city.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Incarnational ministry recognizes that love is real and that it can be costly. When we move into a poor neighborhood, we send the message that if love is costly, then those who are the object of such love are worth much. This is especially important to the poor who bear the weight of the world’s low opinion of them.”

Incarnational leadership is the way of Jesus. He wants leaders to aspire to make a difference in today’s world, and to do that they must change their leadership paradigm to come closer to the recipients of their services. Instead of the poor walking to the wealthy neighborhoods in fear of being judged or mistaken for an intruder to knock at the big charity offices, it is up to the service providers to dwell among the needy to make it easier to access the very programs meant to serve their needs.


  1. Sandra Magers on June 26, 2024 at 9:53 am

    Beautifully stated! God bless NDOTO and her leaders!

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