More Than a Leadership Program

More Than a Leadership Program
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A car drove Chhy off the road while he was driving his motorcycle in Cambodia. The driver rode off, leaving Chhy alone alongside the road with a serious head injury.

“Someone passing by stopped, picked up his phone, and called the most recent phone number—another Onyx 2 student,” said Justin Van Zee, who works in leadership development with Resonate Global Mission.

The Onyx 2 students gathered to support Chhy because that’s the type of community Onyx 2 fosters. Onyx 2 is a leadership development program for young adults in Cambodia that Van Zee and Mission DOVE Cambodia, a Resonate partner, launched. The program is a follow-up to Onyx, a one-year leadership development opportunity for young adults that DOVE started in 2014. The initial program continues to be successful. But after graduating from the cohort, young adults wondered what came next for them.

“Young people had experienced authentic spiritual community through Onyx and wanted to continue that,” Van Zee said.

There are a lot of young adults in Cambodia—the median age of the population is just 26—and these young people are hungry for opportunities to grow. But there are many layers to leadership development in Cambodia, where no person has escaped the trauma caused by the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and the decade of civil unrest that followed. Today, unprocessed pain leads to domestic abuse and substance abuse, and many people struggle to afford housing, food, medical care, and other basic needs.

“There’s a huge need for emotional healing,” Van Zee said.

With Van Zee’s partnership, DOVE was able to launch a program to continue equipping young leaders—but God turned Onyx 2 into more than Van Zee and Resonate’s ministry partners ever expected.

“(We) started Onyx 2 thinking it was a leadership formation opportunity, and it is,” said Van Zee. “Even more than this, though, it's about community formation—and individuals are formed in the community.”

While young adults might get a lot of information about faith and the Bible at church in Cambodia, Onyx 2 specifically helps form spiritual practices and mindsets. Van Zee said that being part of a community that’s learning and growing together resonates with the young adults.

“While the lesson content is important,” Van Zee said, “what’s even more important is processing in community. I’ve been amazed at how openly and vulnerably young people have shared about their lives when they are confident that their listeners are trustworthy and care for them.”

The young adults involved in Onyx 2 support and strengthen one another in their walks with Christ. They’re there for one another when needed most.

So when Chhy was in the motorcycle accident and another Onyx 2 student got the call, she sprang into action. She called Chhy’s parents and other Onyx 2 participants. Within a few hours, nearly half of the Onyx 2 community had gathered at the hospital to pray with Chhy. But that’s not all. In Cambodian hospitals, family and friends are responsible for feeding and bathing patients. For the next week, students stayed at the hospital to care for Chhy as he recovered.

“I’m really proud of how the community rallied around him,” Van Zee said.

That’s the kind of supportive faith community Resonate strives to foster throughout the world. “I see myself as a facilitator,” said Van Zee. “I'm not the source of knowledge or transformation. I help bring people into the room and get the conversation started. I facilitate connections among students and with God.”

About the Author

Cassie Westrate, Resonate Global Mission

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