Brian’s Thoughts.

            Many of you have been asking what my opinion of the classes has been.  Today was our last day, as Lisa had mentioned.  It was an amazing 10 weeks and we learned more even than we thought possible to learn on these subjects. Looking back, I can see that all of the subjects built on each other and I am glad that we were able to come to all of the classes.  We not only learned a lot in the classes, but also in the community that we were living in here at CIT.

            There were 4 of us that were here at school the whole time and we are grateful that we were able to get to know them.  With every new class we had many new people; it was great for us to be stretched in our relationships and to really bond simply on what we have in common in Christ.  These relationships are what makes leaving here a bittersweet process.  We are raring to go and put into practice all that we have learned, but are saying goodbye to some really close friends.

            There have been things that have stuck out in every class.  The first class that we went through was the equipping class and, along with that, a “Heart of the Missionary” course (HOM) which was a devotional time.  In the HOM course, I was a reminded of who I am in Christ and what all the Gospel entails. Realizing that I am accepted in Christ and that when I realize it, I don’t have to make myself acceptable to any one else.  I realized that things like my perfectionism stem from my wanting to be accepted and Jesus provided acceptance already.  (AMAZING)  The equipping course went right along with that and reminded us that we have to become like children again.  Being children will help keep us from being offensive in our way of doing things and just be willing to learn and do things their way. They are the people we are serving and vice versa. 

Those two courses have meant the most to me during our time here, but we also took a few other classes.  The next class we took was a Language Acquisition class.  We were taught a lot of tools for the “do-it-yourself language learner” and actually got to practice what tools we were given.  I was in a group learning Cabuano; I was amazed that learning language may take time, but that I can do it.  The following class was effective teams and team leaders.  Lisa has explained her side of what happened in her team already.  My team experience was totally different from Lisa’s, but was also really good.  Our team seemed to function really well and we accomplished the task, but it was also made clear how important it is to have a common purpose on a team.  Without that, the team will not function ever as a real team, but rather just a bunch of individuals.

Today we finished our last class, which was Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills.  It also was a great class and we learned a lot not only about ourselves, but also how the body can function.  We learned everything from good relational skills (listening, sharing, etc.), Biblical confrontation, managing conflict, taking care of stress, and encouraging.  It was great learning all of these skills in an Adult Learning environment, where you have lots of time to practice the tools you are being taught. 

We appreciate all your prayers and support getting and keeping us here. 

Thank You!

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Three Down, Two to Go…

We finished our “Effective Teams and Team Leaders” module this morning. This class literally flew by! We talked this morning about multi-cultural teams and how the dynamics are different, etc. It was quite enlightening. We tend to think that everybody in the world thinks, acts, and reacts like we in America do. That’s not quite true. Even how we deal with conflict is radically different in another culture. Sometimes even just following the model in Matthew 18 looks completely different in another culture – especially one where they are “shame-based.” Lots and lots to think about!

We said goodbye two three more people today. Everyone else is staying for next week’s module – “Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills.” We begin that module Sunday evening; ten new people will be joining us as well, making this class the largest yet for us – twenty people! They will also be providing us lunch next week since this class is a little more in-depth. Who’s going to complain about free food, I ask you??

Tomorrow begins our other module – “Teaching English as a Second Language.” This is actually going to be one of my jobs in Peru, so I’m anxious to have some kind of clue as to how to go about this! We found out a month ago that this class is actually free if you come for the “Core Five” – which is what we did. So, Brian will be joining me for the next two days! He figured it wouldn’t hurt. 🙂 We will be in class Friday and Saturday from 8:30-4, and then, of course, SYIS begins Sunday evening with a dinner. So, we shall be a tad busy!

We ask for your prayers right now for a couple things. First of all – a HUGE praise: We got our monthly report from BCM and found out that we have much more support than we realized and now, instead of only have 1/3 of our support, we have only 1/3 of our support LEFT to raise!! We are ecstatic! But, be praying for us because 2/3 of our support is not 100%, which is where we are required to be before we can go to Peru.

Be praying for us as we leave next week. We are going to be leaving some wonderful friends who we aren’t sure we’ll see again this side of eternity. That’s hard. Also, we’ll be leaving a quite relaxed, almost vacation-like setting (some days!) to enter back into “reality”: support raising. Transitions aren’t quite our favorite part of life.

Be praying for us as we plan the next few months. We are making a trip to South Dakota sometime in May, but we don’t know when yet. Brian needs to get ahold of a pastor out there to find out our speaking date, but THEN, we found out that our Peruvian director will be in PA sometime in May (looks like towards the end of May) and we would love to meet with him and our personnel director in person while he’s State-side. There are just lots of logistics to work out for the month of May and we don’t really even have a starting point yet.

My mom has requested that you all hear from Brian about his feelings about this training. I asked him to write something this weekend, so hopefully, he’ll stick to that and get something written out for you guys so you can see this training from his point of view as well.

Thank you for holding us up in prayer! We’re in the home stretch for this phase!!

Debrief!

I promised I would discuss what our debriefing time looked like today in our teams class, so I am fulfilling my end of the bargain. 🙂 I thought the debrief time would be in the afternoon, but it wasn’t. It was first thing this morning, right after a Bible study time on forgiveness! I think that was planned…sneaky sneaky.

We all got together in our groups with our facilitator and he went through a survey that we had filled out individually to find out what we all thought of our team. It was a fascinating time. We all agreed that our leader did a phenomenal job and that she was not to blame for anything that happened. It was an incredible learning time as we talked with the man from Iraq about his feelings during our project.

The basic thing we learned is that words and their meanings vary from culture to culture. Our “American” idea of “heart”, “values”, and “purpose” are translated completely differently than someone from Europe would translate them. We, as Americans, are able to do a class project, get into it, and present something creative in a short amount of time, regardless of whether or not we enjoy the project, believe in it, or even want to do it. Our team member from Iraq honestly could not even comprehend doing a class project creatively if his heart wasn’t in it. Those sentiments just aren’t even something we would’ve thought about before this!! Even now, it makes no sense. Is it wrong? Absolutely not! Will we ever understand or even agree? Probably not. Can we work with it? Absolutely. But, we must be at least aware of it or conflict will simmer below the surface for months, if not years.

A lot of questions just were not answered, I must say. Our friend could not express it because, well, it’s just who he is – it’s not something he consciously thinks about every day. Analyzing his natural reactions just is not realistic. So, we had a hard time figuring stuff out, but in the end, apologies were given and recieved all around (because we did hurt him, too, by ignoring him and not realizing his needs), and we left amiably. One thing we did hear from him, though, was that even though he apologized for hurting us, he said he would never apologize for his actions. In fact, he would even do it again if the situation arose. I found that fascinating.

This afternoon, we started “Conflict Resolution” which will be a class that will go until sometime tomorrow. Coming from a background where conflict was looked down upon, I find the concept of conflict being not only necessary but God-given just really hard to swallow! But, I’m learning! It does produce growth, brings glory to God, and allows us to serve others.

I think the last few days have just made me stop and go, “hmm.” I don’t get it, but I’m glad we’re going through it.

huh. teams.

Can you feel my enthusiasm? Today was quite the interesting day! We were put into teams this morning, with about five other people, and given an “assignment.” Each team was given a country and told that we are an actual team in this country and need to devise a plan for planting a church. We had all morning to do this however we wanted, but by this afternoon, we had to have a 15-minute presentation ready to go that was creative and involved everyone in our group. The goal was to see how we work together as a team, implementing the strategies we’ve learned this past week.

The group I was in was “in Italy.” We were the only multi-cultural group with one man originally from Iraq, but living in France, and one lady originally from Germany, working in Ethiopia. So, legitimately, the odds of us having more “issues” were quite realistic. We worked literally all morning (about 3 solid hours) and came up with a wonderful plan of how to “plant a church” in San Marino, Italy. We were to get back together around 1:15 to finish getting our presentation ready, giving us only 15 minutes before class to be actually prepared. During this 15 minutes, we found out that the man from Iraq had never felt comfortable in our group and was not wanting to participate.

Our entire presentation ground to a halt literally minutes before we had to get up front. We ended up deciding to not do a presentation, sacrificing for the one team member who did not feel ready. It was quite the humbling experience.

I’m not going to go into all the emotions that went into this rather realistic role play. If some of you have worked on teams, I’m sure you can imagine what all we were feeling. It will be an interesting debriefing time tomorrow afternoon as we talk as a team about what happened and why.

It’s been a rather long afternoon of discussing it with Brian and just going over it personally and working through what I did wrong and how I was involved, etc. I’ve learned a lot. But, one thing Brian pointed out is that this is definitely a realistic conflict that we will probably face in Peru. People outside of America tend to be more relationally focused and not task focused. The relationship overshadows above and beyond the task. When we neglect to include the relationship in the task, we are essentially saying they are not important and we don’t care about them. Welcome to Peru. In a realistic circumstance, the odds are very high of working for months on a project, thinking you’ve come to an agreement and then finding out that someone has been dissatisfied the entire time and does not want to participate.

So, what do you do? Honestly, I have no idea. This scenario that was supposed to be a relatively easy task blossomed into a whole new learning experience that we weren’t expecting. Some aspects of it were gone about very wrong and should’ve been dealt with differently. But, overall, there was a lot to learn from it.

So. Teams. If you could hear my thoughts, you’d hear a very monotone, unexpressive, “oh joy. teams.” Apparently, it’s not going to be all fun and games and agreement 24/7! ohhhh, so much to learn.

Friday’s Musings.

Disclaimer: this blog is rather long. We have a lot to think about this week. I will try to keep them shorter in the days ahead. But, I can’t really promise that.  🙂

The last two days of class this week have been quite thought-provoking. I’m actually quite exhausted because there is so much information that we’ve taken in this week that I just want to take time to process. We were asked to go to South Carolina this weekend, but I think we’re going to stay here. We need the rest. It’s been great, but again- so much to think about.

Yesterday, we discussed an issue that’s big on our hearts: multi-cultural teams. We are going to be the only Americans on an all-Peruvian team. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, that’s probably one of the most exciting things we’ll be doing. As we talked about in our Equipping module, different cultures bring to light different aspects about God and in worshiping, praying, and studying together with our new team, I’m sure we’ll learn more about God than we ever thought we would. However, it’s a different culture. So, what does a “team” look like in Lima, Peru? How do “team meetings” function? What will our role be in the “team”? How do we discern our part in the “team”, from speaking, offering input, making decisions, and carrying out responsabilities?

In good ol’ CIT fashion….none of these questions were answered. More questions were offered and we were given lots more to consider and think about. Actually, not answering questions is probably the best thing CIT could do for us. We are forced to work things out on our own with the Lord. What better way to solve problems?

The one thing we did do was like a case study. We were divided into four teams and given four different explanations of four different cultures. We first, as a team, had to come up with what our culture looks like and acts like. Then, we were given a scenario. We were going to be divided up so one member from each team would make up a new team (meaning, four new teams with one rep. from each team comprising the new teams…I hope that makes sense). The scenario was that there was a mission board who was wanting to see how multi-cultural teams work together, so they were having a week-long missions conference in Romania and everyone had to work together to plan this conference. Each original team was given a part of the conference to plan, and then we had to come together in the new teams and work through the entire conference and come to a consensus on what the conference would look like.

The culture I was a part of was one where it’s very communal: no decisions are made independently, everyone is family, everyone is close-knit, relationships are more important than tasks…in a nutshell. This is very prevalent in Papua New Guinea and it will be similar in Latin America. Our task was to plan the Fellowship parts of the week. We had to act like our culture during this team meeting, which meant we cared more about talking to the people than getting the work done, we want lots of time for fellowship and less time for meetings and policies, and we’re concerned with how everyone is feeling – no strife! Basically, the over-all consensus from our original team was that we got trampled, disregarded, and ignored during the larger team meeting sessions.

I could go on with how the other teams acted, but that would take too much time. I’m sure half of you are asleep by now anyway! The point of this exercise was to give us an idea of what a multi-cultural team looks like and to put us in the shoes of someone from a different culture, to feel some of what they’re feeling during meetings and understand more of where they’re coming from. It was EXTREMELY affective. I will never look at multi-cultural teams the same ever again.

Today, we moved on to Leadership. Brian said that he was a little frustrated because they talked today about, basically, perfect leadership and the odds are, hardly any of us will be leaders and we’re positive our leaders will not be perfect. So, how do you handle that and what do you do? We’re not sure; hopefully, that will be covered in the future.

The one thing I will say is that today gave me a new appreciation for my father. I’ve always known he’s an affective leader; I never knew how much that’s really true until today. Last Sunday, the church we attended with our friends had a pastor who seemed to be “above” everybody else. He preached down to everybody and told us all how to live our lives – never once putting himself on the same level. It was always “you do this; you do that” – never “let’s do this together; we’re in the same boat.” He seemed unapproachable. I have never gotten that feeling from my father. My father leads by example. He goes through struggles with people in his congregation. He’s never been too proud to say, “I’ve been there; God brought me through that, too.” We talked about bearing people’s pain and how a true leader can bear the pain of many. I take that to mean – they can empathize with people in their pain, even go through some of it with them, but they are able to leave that pain at the feet of Jesus. I see that in my father. His prayer life is phenomenal. I have no doubt that he listens to people and takes their pain on himself…but there comes a very real point where he casts it on the feet of Jesus and lets Him handle it. He is an empty vessel that is used by the Lord to meet people where they’re at and love them like Jesus does.

I don’t mean to preach about my dad; I just felt like today’s class on leadership just explained to me how my dad has been in his leadership roles. I’m so proud of him. I don’t feel called to leadership, but if God ever prepares me for it and puts me in that position, at least I have a great example to follow (besides Christ Jesus Himself!).

Effective Teams!

We have begun our new module and are already absolutely loving it. We have back three teachers that we had during our Equipping module and the format is much more relaxed than it was during the Second Language Acquisition. We have very little homework and most of our classtime is very hands-on, lots of discussion. This format actually makes a lot more sense than merely sitting in a classroom for hours listening to theory on teams. You need to actually be out there trying this stuff out.

Monday, we discussed for most of the day, Biblical examples of teams. Our first example was probably the only one we needed to focus on since it was the Trinity. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge that our God functions as three unique parts of One God. We looked specifically at the example of creation and how all three – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – were involved, put in their input, and showed in the results. It was a fascinating study. Naturally, our teams will never be that perfect, but this should definitely be our goal.

Tuesday, we had a really fun day. Some of you may have heard of the restaurant Chic-Fil-A. It’s a mostly southern fastfood chain, but it’s a Christian restaurant, founded by a believer, and built on Christian morals. To this day, they refuse to open on Sundays. The founder, to make a very long story short, started a foundation called the “Winshape Foundation.” It’s a campus in Georgia that has quite a few programs, including working with marriages and troubled teens, and building teams. A couple guys from the “Winshape Wilderness” program came up from Georgia on Tuesday and worked with us all day on team building exercises. We were in a gym all morning and outside all afternoon. We had puzzle solving exercises, athletic-type exercises, and trust-building exercises. A couple examples are: a blind trust walk where we had to lead a team member through an obstacle course while they were blindfolded and we could not talk and a game where we had to roll a tennis ball down separate tubes of gutter to the end of the gym. It is much too hard to try to explain the other exercises! Basically, we had to work as a team doing exercises to simulate real-life conflict and experiences.

There was talk today about whether or not it’s beneficial for those of us who haven’t been on the field yet to go through this program before arriving, or if we should go through this teams program after our first term. We vehementally think that this is more beneficial getting these skills NOW because then we’ll be prepared when we arrive on the team. We both agree that it’s much better to go prepared than to come home frustrated and have to work through issues that could’ve been avoided to begin with.

We’re blessed during this module to have another man here who is also headed to Peru! He is not going with BCM and he will be in the rainforest, but he’s offered us some insight. We spent quite a bit of time tonight talking with him and getting his advice. What was absolutely wonderful, though, was that the information he imparted to us was already stuff that we knew! The giant research paper we had to do for the Equipping Class is already proving useful. Some of the information we got during our research paper seemed pretty extreme, but it was nice to hear Marshall reiterate that information from first-hand experience and so we know it’s all actually true.

What’s on my heart right now is the need for prayer warriors. Marshall pounded home to us what we already suspected: Peru is covered in very real spiritual darkness. There is a very real, very tangible presence in Peru that we will be facing on a regular, if not daily, basis. He strongly encouraged us to cover ourselves in prayer from here on out. There is a darkness in Lima that is unexplainable except that Satan himself is at work. We are going to be entering a battlefield and we desperately want to go armed and prepared. Will you join our team? We cannot do this alone. We will not do this alone! Join with us; pray with us; pray for us; pray for the people of Peru. For those of you who do not know the political side – Peru is in a state of limbo and there will be an election in two and a half years. This last election was won by only 51% of the popular vote. The other candidate, who just barely lost, has ties to Venezuela and his plan was to make Peru a communist country and join them with Venezuela over night. In two and a half years, the decision of Peruvian government will be made again. Lord-willing, we will be in Peru during that election. We ask that you pray now for our protection and for the government of Peru.

“For we wrestle do not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – and for me [us], that utterance may be given to me [us], that I [we] may open my [our] mouth[s] boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…” -Ephesians 6:12, 18-19

April! Well, close enough.

A new week begins tomorrow! I was wrong about about our class; we are starting “Teams and Team Leaders” tomorrow morning. It will last for two weeks. It’s going to be interesting because we’ve really managed to bond with the people that went through the last two modules with us…and only two are left from those twelve – and now, we have to work on “team building” with 12 NEW people that we haven’t met yet. It should be interesting!! We’re looking forward to the challenge; who knows what’s going to happen? We already know we’ll be doing “team building” challenges with some head honchos from the restaurant Chic-Fil-A. Trust me, I will keep you posted!

I’ve posted some pictures on Facebook from our bonfire on Wednesday, a cookout on Thursday, and our weekend with my friend from high school, Tim, and his wonderful wife, Joy. They live in Greenville, South Carolina, and are both grads of Bob Jones University. I never got to go to BJU to compete in the National AACS Fine Arts Competition, so Tim drove us around the campus so I could FINALLY say I’d been there! 🙂 Enjoy the pictures!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=34708&l=3e14d&id=513368337