Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reflections on a week of training

I've been writing all about these big ideas about missionaries and missions. But here I am, truly experiencing entering into a mission organization, being trained and sent out.
Two weeks ago we were at our final orientation at the organization we've joined that is partnering with our church to send us. We were at a week-long orientation last summer that introduced us to the organization, got us into the financial system, and helped us prep for support-raising. Last week was the other end of things - preparation for going. We talked about transitions, cultural awareness, culture shock, language learning, contextualization, and the list goes on.

Our experience with TEAM has been so wonderful. I think I went into this whole process with two contradictory attitudes. On the one hand, there are lots of great organizations so we didn't pick an organization as much as we picked an opportunity that fit our giftings and took the organization that went with it. On the other hand I know three mission organizations fairly intimately, and because of years in these circles, I know a lot about other organizations as well. I know some of the problems organizations have, and how they can affect individuals and ministries. So, while I am pretty open, I also feel a little wary. I feel totally enthusiastic about my experience with TEAM, but it's a little scary to share that knowing that we're just at the beginning, on the front end, and we have years ahead in which organizational dysfunction could still rear its ugly head.... and no organization is perfect.

I decided that I didn't want fear of what could happen to make me afraid to enter into the experience now. I want to write and mark where we were today, which is that we are super impressed with the training we've received, with the onboarding process, with the leadership of this organization, and with the philosophy behind their vision. In addition, going and spending time at headquarters with other appointees means that we've developed relationships with people and oh, that is just plain fun. I'm constantly impressed at the open encouragement I see of groups that are sometimes marginalized in mission organizations - women are encouraged in their work rather than assuming that they will be in the background. Introverts are considered a necessary part of a team, not of lesser value than the dynamic extroverts that are often glorified in American culture.

My circles tend to be of the sort that really highly value "entrepreneurial vision and innovative work". That sort of thing. In general, an old church or organization is assumed to be institutionalized, which is assumed to be old-school, out-of-touch, and inflexible. As it happens, not only do I highly appreciate the maturity that comes with age, I also like stability, so I was not afraid of an older organization (ours is over 100 years old). It is true that when I look at some of the work done 50 years ago within the organization, I might cringe at how much differently I think it should be done. However, what I find is that age doesn't preclude the ability to change. The same way small organizations are changing is the way I see the TEAM ship turning. The emphases are the same. The gift is the added wisdom from years of experience to help make changes well and provide an infrastructure that can help with organizational health and member care.

Last week several of the people we met last summer were back with us again, and it's so fun to get to know them better, to be friends, and to watch our kids play together. They provide childcare during the meetings and our meals were outside under a big tent next to a playground. Judah ran wild, convincing others to push him on the swing, charming the babies and following after the big kids. He loved it, and I love watching others play with him.

It's fun to find commonalities with people. Not only did we have friends from the previous summer's training, we also had two couples there from our days at undergrad, and three guys that also graduated from Isaac's seminary. There were four or five other missionary kids, three other pregnant ladies, and several toddlers. In general I decided that we are walking cliches, because we fell into nearly any group of any kind represented by us appointees. But really, such great people! Lots of laughter and teasing and people that I just plain enjoy being around. That's a gift.

Another gift was being with someone actually going to the exact city we're going to. He and I actually went to school together as kids in Indonesia, and I knew that he was also going back. However, I hadn't seen him since he was a freshman in high school, and God knows how much I've changed since those years! I had no idea what he'd be like, and considering he's the only other younger person on our team (and the team is small), I was nervous about that unknown. Well, he turned up at this training as well and within an hour and he and Isaac were at back-slapping and teasing familiarity. The week was full of lots of chatting and you know, I am so thankful for who he is and that there will be a guy around to be friends with Isaac.

All in all - I'm thankful to be where we are, with the organization and people that we are with.

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