Friday, August 10, 2012

Meet our people: Lawrence Mabaso -- a gentle man

 Reverend Lawrence Mabaso (59), is a gentle man. He speaks quietly and few people can remember an occasion when he raised his voice. But don't let that fool you -- he is a man on a mission to help South Africa's most vulnerable people and has dedicated 40 years of his life to achieving that goal.
 As Carryou Ministry General Manager, Mabaso is in charge of the day-to-day operations of an organisation on which hundreds of people rely for their very survival.
 Married for 26 years, with two grown up children, Lawrence was born in Sophiatown on the western side of Johannesburg and soon after, moved to Soweto.
 "My father enjoyed socialising and drinking which left my mother somewhat disorganised, so, in truth, in my formative years I did not have any adult role models," says Lawrence, "I had to find my own ways."
 Like so many other disaffected youngsters in South Africa, Mabaso could just as easily have fallen through the cracks, were it not for the fact he came into contact with Siza Molebatsi, leader of Youth Alive in Soweto, as well as anti-Apartheid activist, Rev. Frank Chikane.
 "Rev. Chikane became my mentor and role model," says Lawrence. "Every Friday he preached at Orlando High School, where I was a pupil. He lived nearby and I spent many hours talking to him and when I was 20, I became a Christian."

Full-time ministry

 In 1975 Mabaso was awarded a four-year scholarship to attend a theological college.
 "I looked forward to entering the full-time ministry when I completed the course," he says, "but life has a way of setting it's own direction. When I graduated my father was not working and I had no option but to find a job, so I could support my parents.
 "I started work as a Salaries Clerk with the country's largest bus operator and have never, in fact, been a full-time pastor."
 From there Mabaso moved into a clerical position with one of South Africa's largest life insurers but continued his work in the ministry as an Associate Pastor.
 "I became something of a thorn in my employer's flesh," he says, "as I got involved with the trade union and ended up recruiting around 140 staff members."
 But rather than fire him, the insurance company realised that a man with his ability to influence people, was wasted in an administrative position.
 "They figured I would be good at sales and I eventually became a Professional Consultant, selling pension schemes and insurance investments, to companies," says Lawrence.
 A few years later he was head-hunted by a large banking group and then later by another bank.
 "I never stopped working as an Associate Pastor," he says, "and still had an ever-increasing desire go into the ministry full-time. So, when the bank started a programme of retrenchments, I took a package and left."
 But being a full-time pastor was not to be. After a slight career deviation where he worked at a training college, Lawrence was offered the job at Carryou Ministry.
 "This is the best job I have ever had," he says. "Here I can make an enormous contribution to God's work.
 "When I see what we do in informal settlements, I know we are role models and could be changing kids lives in the same way Siza Molebatsi and Frank Chikane changed mine. And who knows what contribution those youngsters may make to our country in the future."


 But Mabaso is a realist. He knows it's an uphill battle and one that will not easily be won.
 "Education is the key," he says. "Not just academic education but life and skills education so people can work their way out of poverty. But, at the same time, South Africans in general, will need to be more disciplined and productive.
 "But I am confident, we at Carryou Ministry, can make an even greater contribution. I have a young, motivated, team behind me who are disciplined and flexible," he says.
 When not working -- which is not very often, as he is still an Associate Pastor at a church in the area and is involved in a leadership role with 80 other Non Profit Organisations -- Mabaso enjoys spending time with his family, listening to music and reading.
 "I am a voracious reader, particularly of management and business books," he says.

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