Just two months after celebrating its 50th anniversary of serving the persecuted Church, Open Doors Southern Africa appointed its first woman head when Lynette Leibach succeeded Jan Gouws as executive director.
In an interview with Gateway News yesterday, Leibach, who became executive director in July, said it is also her jubilee year — she turned 50 this year.
She grew up in a Christian home in the south of Johannesburg and first became aware of Open Doors as a child because it was one of the charities supported — sometimes sacrificially — by her parents alongside their regular tithing. Her parents’ support of charity campaigns was also her first exposure to fundraising.
Leibach studied marketing and industrial psychology at the University of Johannesburg and then started her work career in various market research and marketing roles.
After a spiritual awakening through being exposed to a new way of relating to and worshiping God she went on a church mission trip to Kosovo in the early 2000s after a war there. The trip was life changing and left her wanting to find a different kind of job and a ministry.
She went on further mission trips to Kosovo and began working in the fundraising field in 2003, subsequently working with various charities and non-profit organisations in the health and education environments and with children without parental care.
She personally adopted a child and nearly four years ago, she and her daughter, now 8-years-old, moved to New Zealand where she worked as the executive leadership, marketing, fundraising and advocacy director of the Tear Fund, a Christian charity that serves disadvantaged communities — a position which she says was a good training ground for her Open Doors position.
Open Doors Southern Africa is part of the Open Doors International ministry, which serves persecuted Christians in more than 65 countries across the world by delivering Bibles and Christian literature, visiting persecuted Christians, discipleship and training, offering emergency aid to victims of persecution and natural disasters, and speaking out and raising awareness through advocacy. It works with the Church in Southern Africa to strengthen and support persecuted Christians all over the world.
Leibach said that she has a picture of the organisation “as a well-watered tree that provides an oasis and shelter and fruit like in Psalm 1”.
“And I think it is by really working through that vision for the organisation that we can really act like a bridge between the Church and Christians in Southern Africa where we operate, in terms of building faith and building relationships with the Lord, by learning from the persecuted Church.
“There is so much we can learn from the courageous faith of our persecuted brothers and sisters. That’s what I want to see. I want to see our inspirational role as an organisation locally, as well as obviously raising resources for the persecuted Church,” she said.