Have you enjoyed the TVCOG “At the Movies” series? This is our last week, and we’ll take a look at a Disney film that is based on a true story. It is called the “Queen of Katwe.”
Katwe, a slum-ridden region of Uganda’s capital of Kampala, is filled with the poor for whom it’s a full-time job just to feed themselves, find shelter and survive to see the next day. For some, even a simple roof is a luxury.
Phiona Mutesi calls Katwe home. Her father’s gone. Her mother, Nakku Harriet, wakes up early every morning to buy some scrawny ears of corn that her children sell on Katwe’s crowded streets. Phiona’s not in school because Nakku can’t even afford the uniform, much less tuition. On good nights, Nakku and her four children might all eat. On bad ones, she goes hungry. On worse ones, her children do.
For Phiona, this life is her past, present and future. Selling corn. Eating when she can. She is one of thousands, tens of thousands, scrambling to survive.
Then Phiona and her brother discover a chess club, led by Robert Katende, a missionary who reaches kids in the slum through a sports ministry.
But even in Katwe, there are social strata that you challenge at your peril. The other kids shun Phiona—grimacing at her smell and calling her a “pig.” But Phiona won’t leave. She returns (freshly bathed) and begins learning the game, step by laborious step. Soon she’s competing with the club’s best players. Then she’s beating them.
She learns that if a pawn can make it to the end of the board, that piece can be exchanged for another. “In chess, the small one can become the big one,” someone explains to her. “That’s why I like it.”
And maybe, just maybe, this real-life pawn—a child from one of the dingiest corners of Katwe—can use her prodigious chess talents to reach the end of the board too.
Phiona went on to become a Master chess player. But Phiona—both in the movie and in real life—didn’t just spring from obscurity without help. This Disney film shows us who guided Phiona and encouraged her to reach her potential.
The main person of influence in Phiona’s life was a Christian missionary named Robert. He was the Hero Maker in this story. Phiona became what she did because of him. He was a soccer-playing would-be engineer whose real passion (besides his own fledgling family) was teaching kids how to play chess. He remembered how rewarding it was for him as a teen to beat more affluent kids from the “city.” He believed that the game could give Katwe’s poor sons and daughters a sense of confidence, self-worth and identity, thus becoming a springboard to a better, brighter future for them. Despite some danger of injury, Robert played soccer to win money so the kids of Katwe could compete in chess tournaments. He was so dedicated to the children, in fact, that he passed up a better-paying work opportunity to stay with the team, sacrificing his own upward trajectory to encourage his chess charges to go farther instead.
While Robert showed an interest in all the children who participate in his Pioneers Chess Club, Phiona was a rare talent. Robert was there to support her. He even took her into his own house for a time. He became something of a father figure to Phiona, helping her begin to see how the strategies she was mastering on the chess board also applied to the game of life.
(Summary mostly from Pluggedinonline.com)
Watch this, and as you do, listen carefully to the words of Robert, the Hero Maker: Show this trailer beginning at the one-minute mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhyxLhl-S88
I want us to take Robert’s words from that clip and compare them with the words and actions of Jesus, the Master Hero Maker and some of the words of the Apostle Paul, another Hero Maker. Jesus came to free us from sin. That is Hero Maker at its best. He came to lift us up and empower us to live our best possible life. He came that we might have abundant life, that we might dream big dreams, that we might life with confidence and power. What a Hero Maker our Jesus is!
1. Hero Makers live an invitational life.
They have room for other people to become part of their lives. “Come inside.” These were the first words out of Robert’s mouth to Phiona. He saw her looking in the windows of the Chess Club, and he invited her to come and see what it was all about. The second phrase we heard him speak to Phiona was, “What is your name?” People who live an invitational life want to know you on a personal level. To a Hero Maker, you aren’t one of many. You are one. They want to get to know know you.
Jesus lived an invitational life, didn’t He? Listen to this account in John 1:35-39 35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.
The whole day! Imagine what it would be like to spend an entire day with Jesus!
Matthew 4:19-“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Jesus invited 12 people to draw close, to live with Him, to spend time with Him, to learn of Him, and to watch His life. What a gift we give to others when we invite them to become part of our lives. Jesus shared His life with His disciples. Isn’t it awesome that as Christ’s followers, we get to hang out with Jesus. Isn’t it amazing that He shares His life with us? How much better off are we because of His investment in us? Who could benefit from sharing life with us?
As we follow Christ, we need to become more and more life Him. How can you make your life more invitational? Who can you get to know? Who would benefit from your friendship? Who could you invite to your table? Whose name does God want you to know? Who could you include in the rhythms of your life and get to know better on a personal level?
2. Hero Makers provide mentoring.
After Robert invited Phiona into the Chess Club, he introduced her to a younger girl and said, “Can you please show Phiona how to move the pieces?” Mentoring doesn’t always come from someone older, right? This young girl became her first teacher. Once Phiona became skilled in her chess playing, Robert, a champion chess player himself, became her mentor. He taught her everything he knew, and he found a way for her to learn more.
Jesus handpicked His disciples. He chose people that were ready for adventure, ready for change, ready for challenge. Not everyone is ready to look at life from a different perspective. Not everyone is ready to receive the wisdom and guidance of another. Hero Makers look for people who are discontent with status quo living. They find people who are ready to be challenged to grow.
He mentored His disciples in the Scriptures, explaining what they meant. He taught them step by step how to pray. He not only taught them about prayer, but He also modeled it for them. He taught them about social justice and loving people. He showed them what the Kingdom of God was like as He intentionally spent time with all kinds of people. He modeled how to lay hands on the sick and how to exercise authority over demonic spirits. All the disciples had known was religion and rules. He taught them about relationships and an experience with the power of God. They saw how he handled difficult people and how He dealt with criticism and rejection.
Part of the mentoring relationship Jesus had with the disciples was the understanding that as He invested in them, they would, in turn, invest in others. In other words, they weren’t just to become disciples, but they were to make disciples of other people.
Hero Makers understand that multiplication is a priority. We don’t just mentor others for the sake of those particular people, but we understand that there is a domino effect, a ripple effect, when we intentionally invest in helping others live well. They will, in turn, become people who also help others live well. That is how entire nations can be changed for the Kingdom of God. If we want to shape the generation that is just being born, we need to be mentoring their parents.
3. Hero Makers enable people to think beyond the moment.
“Chess helps us solve problems.” “It teaches us to make a plan.” Robert helped Phiona look beyond the immediate crisis, beyond the day’s challenges. He knew that people who live in poverty have a poverty mindset. They don’t think about next week or next year. They think about making it just for today. They don’t plan because they can’t see past the moment, and without a plan, they are doomed to repeat broken cycles and to continue to live oppressed. Hero Makers understand that people need to be future-focused if they will be able to achieve something more than just trying to get by or just taking what life delivers to them.
One of Jesus’ favorite topics was eternal life. He wanted His disciples to learn to live in light of eternity. We all will deal with struggles in this life, and we can choose to make our lives about our struggles or we can choose to make it about overcoming them. No matter what you are dealing with this morning, you can choose to become oppressed by and depressed by your circumstances, or you can choose to see them in light of eternity. In light of eternity, everything you face is a blip on the radar of your existence. Also, when you enter into eternity you are going to have a different perspective about the things that are troubling you now. You will have some understanding then, that you can’t possess now. So, rather than be focused on what isn’t right about your life or what isn’t working in your life, focus on where you desire to be.
We need to have spiritual goals for our lives. If I were to ask you this morning what your top three spiritual goals were, would you have an answer? Have you even thought about it? You need to have educational goals and career goals and goals for your family. You need to have financial goals. Hero Makers push you to move toward something rather than to spend your life simply reacting to what happens to you. Hero Makers help other people understand that there is more to life that God desires for us than simply what we have experienced to date. It isn’t about the moment, it is about how each moment is shaping us and where each moment is taking us.
If you believe God has a hope and a future to give all of us, say “amen.” Become a Hero Maker by helping someone believe that who has yet to believe that anything good awaits them in their future.
4. Hero Makers remind people to focus.
“Use your minds, and you will all find safety.” Robert was quick to help Phiona learn to focus instead of becoming overwhelmed when a chess match was a tough one. Most of us panic too quickly. We bail out too soon. We wave the white flag and resign ourselves to less than God’s best when we let our feelings override our logic. Robert taught Phiona that she should never be quick to tip her King, admitted defeat.
The enemy wants us to live confused. We have got to focus. Satan wants to distract us. We have got to focus. The devil wants to overwhelm us. We have got to focus. We need to help other people look at the facts, and we need to teach them to exercise their faith. Just because it looks as if we are backed into a corner and that we are locked into some kind of checkmate situation, doesn’t mean that is the case. There were times that it looked to Phiona that she was beaten, but when she would focus, she would find a way to come back and win.
We don’t always see things clearly, and Things aren’t always what they seem. We need God and others to give us perspective. Learning to look at things through the eyes of faith can change everything. What appears heavy or oppressive can actually turn out to be a blessing or the way to a miracle. The Apostle Paul talked a lot about our minds because that is where the battle is.
He could see the worst of circumstances as a blessing and as a way to tell more people about Christ. When other people saw Paul in prison, Paul saw the progress of his mission. He never lost His way because He never lost His mind. He stayed focused on the will of God. When we keep our focus it is easier to keep moving forward. We all need the mind of Christ, and sometimes it comes by way of a Hero Maker who helps us see things from God’s perspective.
5. Hero Makers celebrate people’s strengths.
Robert was impressed with Phiona’s ability to think ahead in the game of chess. She could calculate the options if her opponent went one way, she could calculate how her next move would impact the other player’s options. He said to her, “You can see eight moves ahead?” She had the mind to see so many scenarios at one time. What a gift!
Paul was a Hero Maker for Timothy when he told him, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (II Timothy 1:6) Paul was saying to Timothy, “Timothy you are gifted. Timothy, you have talents and abilities that are unique to you. They will take you places for the Kingdom of God. Don’t sit on your gifts. Don’t neglect your talents. Use what God has given you to advance the Kingdom.”
Let’s be Hero Makers and call out the gifts in the people around us. Rather than be jealous of what someone else can do or threatened or intimated by someone else’s strengths, let’s lift them up. Do you know some of the most talented people in this room may not be using their gifts because they aren’t confident, because they don’t believe in themselves. What gifts are hiding in this very room because someone needs you to express confidence in them?
Jesus was a confidence-builder. He told the disciples in John 14:12, “Listen, I’m going to be going to the Father, but y’all are going to do even greater things than you have seen Me do.” He believed they could because He knew they would be empowered by the Spirit of God to turn the world upside down for the Kingdom.
There was a point in the movie when Robert told Phiona that she had more ability than he did. He told her she would go even farther in the Chess world than he had ever gone. We need to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders!
6. Hero Makers help people dream.
“You could be the best in all of Uganda,” Robert told Phiona. It took her a while to see it and to believe it was possible, but it eventually came to pass. He went on to say, “Sometimes the place you are used to is not where you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. What is that for you?”
Can you dream a little? Can you believe something different for yourself than your current status? What is it that you could picture yourself doing or becoming? Does God want to give you a special platform? Is He calling you to a place of influence? Is there someone in your life for whom you can become a Hero Maker? Can you help finance their dream? Can you help them network with others to see their dreams become reality? Can you pour into them to educate them some way that will take them one step closer to a new way of living? Robert helped Phiona picture a life outside of the slums. Not only did she become the best in Uganda, but she escaped the slums and was able to buy a home for her family.
Every great ministry has been developed because someone had the capacity to dream. Are there Hero Making words we can speak? Are their Hero Making actions we can take, to help people see beyond their adversities? In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said, “With God, all things are possible.” Who needs us to share that verse with them?
7. Hero Makers help people recover from failures.
Robert’s seventh expression to Phiona in the movie clip we saw was this: “What matters is when you reset the pieces and play again.”
Recovering from failures is what defines winners from losers. Failures don’t matter. Getting back up is what matters. He who chooses to get back into the game, to become better, to work harder, to become more devoted, that person is the person who will go on to succeed. Failing is simply an obstacle we have to overcome on our way to victory. Failure doesn’t disqualify us from victory unless we allow it to.
Sometimes we need a little help to get back up. Hero Makers help people start again. Jesus is the ultimate Hero Maker when it comes to enabling us to get back up on our feet, and to get grounded again to our faith and purpose. You’ll remember that Peter, one of the disciples, failed Jesus miserably. He denied he had even known Jesus in the most critical moment of Jesus’ life. After the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and didn’t hold his failure against Him. If anyone could have had a right to take Peter’s actions personally, it was Jesus.
But instead of holding failure over his head, He became a Hero Maker and recommissioned Peter for the mission for which He had originally called Him. Jesus invited Peter to get back on mission.
8. Hero Makers sacrifices for the good of others.
Robert and his wife took Phiona in. There were times she stayed with them. Robert’s wife taught her to read and helped her to get caught up in school. Robert said “No” to a job that would have created a better life for his wife and their child so that he could stay close enough to the slums to invest in the kids who lived there. He gave up what could have been for his own family in order to give Phiona a chance for a better life.
Jesus gave it all to lift us up out of the slum of sin. He gave of His time to invest in His disciples. He imparted wisdom. He went out of His way over and over and over again. What a Hero Maker!
You could be the difference between someone staying in a slum mindset and someone achieving greatness. You could be the difference between someone living in confusion and someone living with courage and clarity. You could be the difference between someone hiding in the shadows and someone taking center stage. You could be the difference between someone living in bondage to sin and below their God-given potential and someone finding salvation through Christ and being empowered to do the impossible. Today, will you join me in praying that God will enable you to become a Hero Maker for His glory.