The Value of Partnering with Local Leaders

Bhutanese Community Leader Ram Rai (center) with a CNE presenter (right) and Robert L. Woodson, Sr (left) at the Kansas Community Leadership Enterprise


Written by Kristen Allen, Community Development Director

Mission Adelante values partnership. One of my favorite things about leading our community development initiatives is finding ways to work in collaboration with other organizations. I enjoy finding ways to partner together to address the opportunities and challenges in our community, and especially love learning from other leaders who have experiences different than my own.

This spring I was invited to participate in the Kansas Community Leadership Enterprise that brought together over 50 leaders from grassroots organizations to learn, share, and grow together. My cohort consisted of leaders representing health, education, faith, family, welfare and business who came together to learn from the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. Much to my surprise and happiness, three refugee leaders from the three largest ethnic groups recently resettled in Kansas City were also in attendance. I believe that in order to effectively address issues, we have to invite traditionally marginalized groups to the table and allow them to add their voice and leadership to the conversation. Kansas Community Leadership Enterprise brought people together from various cross-sections of Wyandotte County and would only be representative of our community if we included the voice of the refugee.

Led by Robert L Woodson, Senior, CNE focuses on empowering neighborhood leaders to promote solutions that reduce crime and violence, restore families, revitalize low-income communities, and create economic enterprise. It is clear that Mr. Woodson is skilled at partnership since he is the only person ever to have received both the liberal and conservative world’s most prestigious awards - the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Prize.

My favorite story from Mr. Woodson was his analogy of ship captains and harbor masters. Ship captains know how to steer the boat. They understand the open waters, navigational mapping, etc. But when they get to the harbor, the ship captain’s tools are insufficient. You see, the harbor masters know the local waters like the back of their hand. They are in the same waters everyday and understand the currents, the hidden barriers, and how to effectively navigate the harbor. In other words, they understand the culture of the local harbor in the ways that the outside ship captain may never understand; harbormasters are the expert of their harbor and should be treated as such. Sometimes we are looking to ship captains for advice, when it is really the harbor master’s voice that needs to be heard.

I think the same context is true for our work at Mission Adelante and other organizations working in diverse settings. I can’t fully understand the culture of another group, but I can look to their leadership when working through challenges and encourage others to partner with those who have been overlooked in the past. The refugee leaders who participated in KCLE were heard that day and it is my prayer that the voice of refugees continues to be heard in our community. We need the experience of both the ship captain and the harbormaster, and the wisdom to look to the right one for leadership at the right times.

In Other News:

  • The Bhutanese citizenship class went to Kaw Point last week to learn more about how Kansas City fit into the early expansion of the U.S. Field trips like this one give students a deeper understanding of classroom concepts and build relationships between students and volunteers.

Prayer Needs:

  • Kids Adelante Director Megan McDermott and some key volunteers are delving into the topics of purity and finding our identity in Christ with 10-12 pre-teen girls throughout this week.  We would appreciate your prayers as we navigate these delicate, but important subjects.
  • This Saturday our teens ministries will be attending a collaborative event with teens from around the city. Mission Adelante is excited to partner with our friends from Christ Community Church, The Hope Center, Youth Front in the Argentine and Christian Fellowship Church in such a fun endeavor. Pray that our kids would have a good experience getting to know one another,  learning about each other’s cultures and experiences, and that our participation would point them to Jesus.
  • Please pray that the right students would come to the right events for the rest of this Summer, as we finish up this Bhutanese teens trimester. We often spend a lot of time trying to orchestrate for good attendance. However, we know that God will draw and move hearts wherever he wants them. Join us in praying that we will have a good showing from the students who God has prepared to come.

Important Dates

Saturday, August 8 at 4:00 p.m.: End-of-Trimester Celebrations at Wyandotte County Lake Park (Park Entrance at 91st Street and Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kansas. For both parties, enter the park and take a left at the fork in the road.)

  • Bhutanese Celebration in Shelter #6.  We will start to gather at 4:00 and will kick off our program around 5:00.  We will have food, cultural performances and lots of fun.  Bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets and food to share!  Contact Kristen Maxwell at if you have any questions.
  • Latino Celebration in Shelter #10. Bring a dessert or another dish to share, as well as lawn chairs or blankets. Contact Megan McDermott at if you have any questions.