IVP author Terence Lester has received the 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award. Each year Independent Sector presents the American Express NGen Leadership Award to one emerging leader age forty and under whose creative and collaborative leadership is accelerating transformative social and community change. Lester is an activist, systemic poverty thought leader, founder of Love Beyond Walls, and author of I See You and the forthcoming When We Stand.
Lester was among a pool of more than eighty nominees considered by IS staff and their selection committee. As the recipient of the award, Terence will receive an honorarium intended to support his work and/or further his leadership development.
Al Hsu, senior editor at IVP, said, “Terence continues to amaze and inspire us with his example of faith in action. Congratulations, Terence! May your work continue to bless many and encourage others to join you.”
In 2013 Terence founded Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit that provides dignity to the homeless and poor by offering a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency in Atlanta and beyond. In 2019 he launched Dignity Museum, the first traveling museum in the United States that represents homelessness out of a shipping container, using interactive technology, research, storytelling, exhibits, and thought-provoking questions that help visitors confront their ideas of homelessness and the challenges of escaping it.
In March 2020 as the coronavirus started to spread, Lester came up with the idea to set up portable washbasins that are sold for RVs and camping. With the help of Grammy-winning artist Lecrae and Reach Records, Love Beyond Walls started the Love Sinks In campaign and now has handwashing stations in nearly thirty cities around the country. The inspiring story caught the attention of media outlets around the world, including CNN, Good Morning America, Today, Disney, The Weather Channel, International Business Times, NY Daily News, USA News Hub, MSN, Reader’s Digest, and countless others.
Having been homeless as a teenager, Lester knows the challenges of living on the streets. In an interview on The Bright Side with Katie Couric, he said, “My experiences with homelessness resulted in my life calling. . . . I feel very grateful each day I get up and I get a chance to do this work. I’ve devoted my entire life to this service.”
Lester writes about his call to help the overlooked in I See You: How Love Opens Our Eyes to Invisible People. He describes personal encounters and real-life stories with the “invisible” in an effort to challenge others to become more informed about poverty and homelessness and to see the poor as Jesus does.
In May 2021 Lester will release his second book, When We Stand: The Power of Seeking Justice Together. He writes about the obstacles that prevent people from getting involved in pursuing justice and offers practical ways to accomplish more together as groups, families, churches, and communities. He helps people find their place in the larger picture, discerning the unique ways each person can contribute and make a difference. Lecrae said, “Terence Lester is a leader. His words about personal and societal change should not be taken for granted. This book is a gift.”
Hsu said, “When the world is paralyzed, Terence Lester acts. And his creative and compassionate actions inspire the rest of us to follow his lead.”