Taiwo is man enough to admit that he watches The Oprah Winfrey
Show. Right now, the episode in question is the one that featured young
Ryan Hreljac, the 9-year-old who was once deemed "too sensitive" by a
grade school teacher then went on to raise more than $210,000 to build
50 clean water wells in Uganda. His legacy of compassion was
immortalized as the people named one of those structures Ryan's Well.
"If Ryan can start
his legacy before junior high school, then at age 30, I think we
qualify," Olumide says. "When people think of a legacy, they think of
someone in a wheelchair looking back over their life. But look at the
sports arena and see a guy like Tiger Woods whose legacy is now."
Olumide and his twin
brother, Kayode, better known as Olu and Kay, are on a fast track
toward establishing their own legacies. Last year, the pair co-authored
their second book The Progenitor Principle: Why You Must Leave a Legacy
Behind (WinePress Publishing). The book is aimed squarely at the family
and the church as a reminder of the importance of mentoring.
The concept of the
"progenitor" (or forefather) and its role in mentoring is something the
Taiwo brothers learned from an early age. They were born to Nigerian
parents while their father, Moses, was attending Long Island University
in New York. When the brothers were six, their family uprooted from New
York and relocated to their parents' homeland, Nigeria.
In a relatively
short period of time, the family was assimilated back into its
indigenous culture. There were the occasional blackouts and the
two-mile walks to and from school in the blazing sun (the Taiwo family
lived directly on the equator), but Kay and Olu say those challenges
made them appreciate their lives in the United States even more. More
importantly, they discovered a sense of community that set the course
of their lives and their ministry.
"You hear that old
African proverb: 'It takes a village to raise a child.' That was our
experience," Olu says. "Everybody is interconnected."
The brothers say
this "collectivist" way of life is common in Africa, Asia and Central
and South America, and that this community-based ideal transcends into
every walk of life, from family to business to government to church.
In a collectivist
culture, people come to visit you spontaneously to check up on you.
"It's no offense that they didn't give you any prior warning," Olu
explains. "You cater to them as if you had expected them all along."
People also aren't
as hung up on time in a collectivist society. "People are not so much
in a rush," Kay says. "If you need attention, they give you the
attention you require."
This attitude also
affects the way the church deals with people. It's common for people to
ask such confrontational questions as, "Did you read your Bible today?"
or, "How is your spiritual life?"
Says Olu: "The
pastor sees himself as a father to his church. The mind-set of
mentoring is that you need to impart into people's lives. There's a
sense of responsibility with that role."
Having been immersed
in a collectivist society for the better part of their lives, the twins
experienced culture shock when they returned to New York to study
pharmacy at St. John's University. (It was an appropriate field of
study as they had brought a bad case of malaria with them.)
Kay and Olu also
spent a large part of those five years involved in the mentoring
process as part of a youth ministry in Queens. "When I came back here,
it was interesting. The young people looked so distracted," Kay
remembers. "Early on, I couldn't put a word to it, but over time, I
started to understand the cultural differences.
"I found that the
predominant philosophy that governs the American culture is the
individualistic outlook. America's history was more community-based but
over time has become more individualistic."
ideology has eroded the American family, the brothers say. Upon their
arrival back in the United States, they were shocked to see such a high
divorce rate as opposed to Nigeria, where it is virtually nonexistent.
"In situations where
children don't have fathers in their lives, their mentors first have to
take time to pull them out of the ditch or out of a hole because they
don't have that foundation," Kay says. "It takes extra time to bring
them up to the next level.
"That's why you have
so many people, especially young men, with low self-esteem and an
identity crisis. That's also why so many men in America don't want to
be mentors. When they see these young men, they have so many
deficiencies and issues. It takes so much time and can be draining."
The twins also found
a stark contrast between the role of husbands in America and in
Nigeria, where fathers are the undisputed heads of most families. They
say that the feminist movement has both helped and hurt women.
True, feminism has
helped make men aware of the value and importance of women and pointed
out the inequity of men being paid more than women for the same work.
But, the movement has also hurt families by stripping from men their
role as the heads of the household.
"Men are afraid to
assert themselves, afraid to be men," Kay told the Tulsa World.
When wives challenge
the authority of their husbands, and don't see them as capable heads of
the home, men withdraw and find their purpose and fulfillment outside
of the family, leaving a void in the lives of children who need their
guidance and direction, Olu added.
"Women don't like
the monster they've created," he said. "And we talk to men in their
late 40s who look back and don't like the path they've taken."
At the same time,
husbands who demand submission create resentment in their wives. Christ
is head of the church, but never forces anyone to obey him. Olu
explained: "He loves them unconditionally, and they freely submit their
lives to him in response to that love."
While the problem of
mentoring (or the lack thereof) in American culture is very real, the
Taiwo brothers have deliberately focused their writings and teachings
on the good that comes from mentoring rather than the failures of the
family and the church.
"One of the things
we didn't want to do is highlight negatives," Kay says. "We come from a
very positive perspective by giving illustrations of what people did
well. Any leader reading [The Progenitor Principle] will immediately
see for themselves if they are doing these things or if they are not."
Kay and Olu also are
quick to point out that the onus is on both the person needing to be
mentored as well as the mentor himself.
First and most
importantly, we need to recognize where we need help (spiritual,
financial, marital). Then, we need to seek out people of integrity who
are succeeding in those areas.
These people might
be found in school, on a job or at church. But they can also come in
the form of books, teaching tapes and other forms of media, not just
through face-to-face contact alone.
"Because of the
social philosophy of the society in which we live, it is not reasonable
to think that finding a mentor will be automatic or without effort,"
Kay says. "Really, if we think about it, an individual will not need
one mentor. We will need several mentors who have expertise in specific
And what about those
who are looking to become mentors? According to Kay and Olu, the first
step is to take inventory of your experiences and skills. Then, you
must be willing to get involved in the life of a person who needs you.
"Be accessible," Olu
suggests. "And be approachable. Create a policy that allows for open
dialogue with those you are mentoring. And when you find yourself in a
position to lend a helping hand to someone who is traveling along the
path you have already gone, help them."
Olu also recommends
finding creative ways to share your experience with others: Write a
book, record a teaching tape, start a newsletter. The twins themselves
are using all of these tools as part of their own mentoring program.
Currently, the Taiwo
brothers are working on a series of workshops for 2003 called Vision,
Identity and Image-Building Seminars. While they maintain jobs as
licensed pharmacists at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the
plan is to eventually deliver their message across the United States
"We're going to take
what God has shown us and start passing it on to others," Kay says.
In 2002, both
brothers were married to Nigerian women, whom they met while traveling
to England for a seminar. Eventually, all four plan to work together in
Vision For Life Ministries. More importantly, they look forward to
practicing the mentoring principles with their own children someday.
Still, they are
quick to point out that mentoring is not just for married men. "Even
though the word 'progenitor' means forefather, it's not limited to
being a natural father," Kay says. "The progenitor's responsibilities
are to nourish, protect and uphold. I don't need to be married or be a
father to do those things."
So what do the
brothers want their legacies to be? Much like their personal mentors
(including the late Edwin Louis Cole and etc.), they
want to be remembered for inspiring others to fulfill their destinies
"Any leader with a
true kingdom agenda will always seek for his successors to outperform
him," Olu says. "Jesus was so secure in who He was that He says those
who believe in Him would do greater works. That's the mark of a secure
Adds Kay: "Our
vision statement is 'raising men and women of foresight and impacting
generations.' We can't just think about the here and now. It's time to
start thinking about the next generations. That's a key to the legacy
we hope to leave behind."
Bonham is a freelance writer and author. For more information on the
Taiwo brothers, write to Vision For Life Ministries, P.O. Box 3553,
Broken Arrow, OK, 74013; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit http://www.vflm.org.