Danwe N’Dikwe clearly remembers telling his STEP cohort during the first day of class, that he did not want to be a minister or a pastor! Instead, curiosity and a desire to deepen his understanding of his journey with Christ sparked an initial interest in STEP. Not one to be particularly disciplined to dive into or stick to academic research or studies, when his pastor mentioned the 3-year study program, Danwe was intrigued. Looking at the curriculum and how it was set up, the structure felt right for him.
Since their early days of marriage in a congregation in Washington, DC, Danwe and his wife, Rosita, have always wanted to participate deeply in church life regardless of the position or leadership role. Danwe was asked to preach his first sermon while still in high school, and whenever he joined a church, he somehow ended up behind the pulpit. Preaching and teaching have always been in his heart. Going into STEP, the anticipation to learn more and be better equipped to share a sermon or a devotional was quite appealing.
As with many good things in life, a sacrifice of time devoted to STEP studies affected his wife and seven children. Danwe believes that whenever people decide to follow Christ, there is a reprioritization of life. That is how it is meant to be. Family time and finances are crucial, and it can be hard to give them up if we think it all belongs to us. Christ may call us to give up certain things and not cling to them. He said, “Yes, it was a sacrifice to my wife and children, but it was a blessing because I was enriched in many ways. The logistics beforehand felt like it would be a bigger sacrifice than it was. It is often the case–the enemy will try to magnify things and make them appear worse than they are once you step out in faith. The enemy has a way of magnifying things that sound so important, and if we’re not careful, we just give up on important things. The reality is that when we say ‘yes’ to the Lord, beauty supersedes everything else.”
The most beautiful discovery that Danwe found was the rich relationships that formed among his STEP cohort during the three years of study. He’s often said he is grateful for the opportunity to journey with others who desire to know Christ deeply. He said, “I don’t think there’s any other experience I’ve had in my life like that one. It changed my perspective on how we do life together as believers. There was a willingness to be open; I think that’s what the Christian community should be. We started with different perspectives from different cultures. As we journeyed together during those three years, that became less and less important. Suddenly, it opened my mind to what we have in common–our Father God. I mean, being a foreigner, the cultural reality is always something I’m aware of, but when I got together with others who have grown up in different settings, I saw their perspectives in a new light. At the bottom are common shared beliefs that hold us together. All of the other outliers are not as important anymore. This is the real Christian life where it doesn’t matter where you come from, and it doesn’t matter what you know. What has shaped your view? Maybe it’s a cultural reality or your upbringing. It doesn’t matter as long as we have this common understanding of what Christ means to us. I’m also thankful because it helped me see a different light.”
Danwe identified that STEP is where people engage not because they need to but because they want to. He sensed a genuine desire from everyone to be fully present, creating a unique environment where everybody listened attentively and shared deeply. That desire to engage entirely created the space for vulnerability resulting in deeply caring and praying for each other. He still emotionally recalls when a cohort member had to step away from the studies. Danwe noted, “We were all in tears.”
During the third year of STEP, the Holy Spirit spoke specifically to Danwe through 1 Samuel 3:10—“The LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: Samuel, Samuel! Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” It happened during a class while studying a chapter of the book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. He was struck as the instructor Krishana walked the class through the chapter, The Conundrum of Calling. He said, “I think that was a turning point for me. You know, sometimes, I like to do things on my terms. Even going to STEP, I didn’t want to take on this or that role. It occurred to me that this is a posture of rebellion.” Ruth Haley Barton writes, “Any kind of authentic calling usually takes place where we have serious objections of some sort, places where we feel inadequate—where we confront our willfulness and our preconceived ideas about how we thought our life would go, where we think what God is asking us to do is downright impossible or where we just don’t want to take the risk. But one of the ways we recognize calling is that it has come about in ways that could not be humanly orchestrated, and so it cannot be easily dismissed.”
Ruth highlights God’s creative design and the excitement children naturally have before there is anything to prove, before having a sense of what is socially acceptable or how to present oneself to the world. Calling from God often involves finding our way back to the way God created us to be. For Danwe, finding his way back involved the realization that he doesn’t have to manufacture anything. It simply means making himself available and willing. That’s exactly what Eli told Samuel. If the Lord calls you, just say, “I’m listening.” It is important to keep that willing posture before the Lord.
Shortly before STEP graduation, through much discernment, listening, and prayer, Danwe and Rosita accepted the Youth Minister role in their congregation. He fondly recalls a member of his cohort saying, “Hey, wait a minute! I remember you said that you didn’t wanna be a minister.” Danwe believes the Holy Spirit speaks to him daily, and there are times when His voice is compellingly clear.
Danwe N’Dikwe is originally from Chad, Africa. He and his wife, Rosita, are members of Elizabethtown Mennonite Church–serving together as Ministers of Youth. They have seven children, four sons and three daughters.