Holzhausen

Communications meetings (day 3)

Working at KarimuYesterday was the final day of our time meeting together as a communications team. Three of us travel home today and the others will begin their trips over the weekend.

Training and Equipping

Our final day began with us considering the skills we each need to develop to best serve the teams and areas we work in. There’s a positive attitude to training in the team, which is good, as we want to make sure we are always giving the best we can to the Alliance; but, as training can be a costly business, we want to make sure we are getting value for money.

Over the next few months we will keep thinking about the ways in which demands on our roles are taking us in new directions and we will make sure we are as well equipped to serve in these areas as we can be.

Reflecting

One of the foundational principles of the Alliance is reflective practice. As a practice it’s broader than simply applying it to our work, it involves observing cultural trends, the global environment and society as a whole and reflecting on what God may have to say into these situations. The introduction to reflective practice on wycliffe.net is an excellent starting point in this area.

We took the opportunity to spend some time on our final afternoon together to reflect and considering what God may have to say to us as a team.

It was interesting hearing what people had to say. Our work is not in a vacuum, we each bring an outsider perspective to our roles and what is happening in the rest of our lives has an impact on how we think. Maybe, therefore, it was no surprise that our main reflections were on our individual and collective relationship with God. Our focus, as a team, is to serve Alliance organisations, but we do that best when we have God at the centre of what we do.

Maybe some more reflections to come next week.

Right now I’m at Frankfurt airport and they’ve just called my flight. Time to go home.

Holzhausen, Germany

Communications meetings (day 2)

Communications team at workThis was a long day where topics ranged from budgets and travel insurance to the production schedule of stories.

Talking about our roles

Once again we started the day hearing from each other. This time sharing about our various roles and the opportunities and challenges we each face working in our various environments. There was time to listen and pray for each other which makes a real difference.

Talking specifics

This afternoon we got into some of the specifics of what we are involved in. We discussed our changing responsibilities as we look to serve the many different organisations that make up the Alliance, our plans for meetings next year and who should be on the invite list, and talked through some of the material we will try to publish next year.

We only managed to cover half of this afternoon’s topics so tomorrow is going to be a little more packed than I had intended. That’s OK though, this is a good group and we work well together.

In the garden in Germany

Communications meetings (day 1)

Ka'rimu ReceptionSo here I am, hanging out with my team at the Karimu conference centre in Holzhausen, Germany. We try to get together a couple of times each year to talk and make plans. Having only joined the team full-time in April this is the first meeting that I’ve had overall responsibility for the agenda. Despite the jet lag some are suffering from there was little downtime and we got straight into work.

Catching up and praying for each other

We are a team distributed around the world so it’s important that when we are together we do things that enable us to build deeper and more meaningful relationships. So, on our first morning, we spent time sharing with each other the things that are going on in our lives. Family updates, moving house (and continent), the challenges of children and parents and all the things that come along at different stages of life.

It was wonderful for me to be able to share with these guys the things that are important, talk about the challenges we are facing as a family and be prayed for. A group like this is especially important as, though our individual experiences may differ, they all know something of the unique challenges that serving in full-time mission can throw up.

Mission, vision and values

Like many organisations, Wycliffe Global Alliance has a mission, vision and values statement. This informs the core of our work. The values are,

  • The glory of God among the nations
  • Christlikeness in life and work
  • The Church as central in God’s mission
  • The word translated
  • Dependence on God
  • Partnership and service

In other organisations it may be possible to only apply the values to what is done by employees. But with the values of the Alliance, personnel need to embody the values so that they resonate through all that they do.

We spent the afternoon trying to think through how each of these values applies to each one of us in our work. It wasn’t always easy – how can one person embody ‘the Church as central in God’s mission’?

It was a challenging process but good to do.

That was yesterday. We are now into day two.

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The best father son relationship

Last week I was listening to a podcast from The Miller Tells Her Tale (show 591) in which I heard the Michael McDermott song, Shadow in the Window for the first time. It’s a beautiful image of the imperfect father-son relationship where neither party seems prepared to ask questions or share feelings – instead, there’s silence where there should be a conversation.

In the song McDermott writes of his relationship with his father,

I always wondered what he was thinking
Was he waiting for me to crash
Or maybe he just wanted to come with me
I never thought to ask

I wondered what he was doing
Watching me every time I drove away
I wonder what he did that for
Maybe he just wanted me to stay

So often in songs relationships are made out to be wonderful or terrible, there appear to be very few songs about ordinary relationships. This song seems to fly against this trend as the picture is painted of a very normal father-son relationship that could be so much closer should a few words be used.

I was thinking of using this song to introduce communion on Sunday but decided against it as it could have the same impact on the congregation that showing the first few minutes of the film Go did – turned everyone into a blubbering mess. But I like the contrast between a very human father-son relationship that seems to leave each party slightly unfulfilled with what the Bible tells us about God. That the God who created the universe and everything in it wants to have a relationship with us, his creation. That even though we continue to ignore him in the choices we make every day, he doesn’t become more distant – he’s not watching us from the window – he’s sat right next to us wanting to be part of the journey you and I are about to embark on.

Plus, it’s a great song!

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Visiting Soweto

I’m in Johannesburg this week with the Wycliffe Global Alliance leadership community, reflecting on issues surrounding global leadership. We’ve had excellent discussions and my head is buzzing with loads of thoughts that are going to take some time to process.

This afternoon was billed as a bit of a break from the work. With some members of the Wycliffe South Africa team we took a coach across town to Soweto (I learnt today that the name Soweto has its origins in the acronym – SOuth WEstern TOwnships). We saw the outside of the house that Nelson Mandela lived in before and (for a very short time) after his imprisonment on Robben Island and then walked on to the Hector Pieterson museum.

Hector Pieterson was a 13-year-old schoolboy who was reported as the first to be shot and killed by police in school protests on 16th June 1967. Schools throughout Soweto had decided to protest against the government policy of enforcing education in Afrikaans.

The photograph on the left was the one that made the headlines. The body of Hector being carried by the 18-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubo accompanied by his elder sister Antoinette.

The museum was both touching and troubling. I’m not sure I was fully ready to see the images and videos of school children being shot and killed by police.

What I find interesting is that instead of hiding this history and trying to pretend it didn’t happen, South Africans are encouraged to engage with it. To remember their roots in what has taken place before.

Today, June 16th is Youth Day, a national holiday to remember the events of the past and those young people who died on that day.

Photo credit: NASA - Earth from the ISS: English Channel

Fear

‘Fear is the worst motivation for any decision’. I can still remember the words of the pastor of the church I was attending while at university.

Fire and brimstone preaching, the threat of hell and damnation, used to be the motivator, driving people to convert to Christianity. It was effective at putting bums on pews but I’m not sure it really lead to the grace-filled relationship with Jesus that the Bible speaks about.

If only our government and media would come to a similar conclusion.

In the EU referendum, both the in and the out camps have looked to create a climate of fear, telling the public how bad things will be if the other side wins rather than painting a picture of what could be possible should their side win.

This isn’t just the culture of the current referendum, though. Think of how many times in political campaigns, the plan to achieve success is to paint a picture of how bad life will be under the other sides rule.

Terrorists employ the same trick. Their plan is not to simply to kill those in charge, but to create a climate of fear, of terror, that destabilises the other side so that they cannot function.

The saddest thing in the current political contest is seeing people who follow Jesus succumbing to the fear tactics and feeling afraid. Afraid of what may, or may not happen.

I keep thinking back to the verses from Isaiah 9 that are frequently read at Christmas,

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.

The power and authority of Jesus far exceed any powers and authorities that exist in this world and the plan for his rule is through peace, not conflict.

And then from Romans 8,

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No matter what happens in this election, no matter what happens in the rest of life, there is nothing that can separate the followers of Jesus from the love of God. Surely that’s way more important than any election?

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take this vote seriously. Nor am I saying that the result won’t have an impact. But, for those people who claim to be followers of Jesus, I think there’s a need to remember where you are putting your confidence and faith – the powers of this world or your hope of a political system?

I also think this is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate your faith in a gentle way. Maybe as people share their fears with you about what the future could be like, you can talk about the hope you have.

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SOLAS Centre for Public Christianity

Thanks, this week goes to Eddie for putting me onto the SOLAS Centre for Public Christianity. He was blogging about the song by Beautiful Eulogy used at the beginning of their podcast series (read his post and hear the track) which is surprising because when my office used to be within earshot of his it sounded like Northumbrian bagpipes and 70s rock were about the only two genres he paid attention to (maybe not so much 70s rock in the office though) Beautiful Eulogy clearly do not fit into those categories.

So, I’ve appreciated doing a bit of poking around the SOLAS website where’s there’s some good, thought provoking material. Their podcast (only 15mins) was an interesting accompanyment to my morning cycle ride – even if there were occasions when I wanted to rebut some of their comments.

I’ve even gone as far as a quick skim through their newsletter, which puts some language to the EU referendum debate that I’ve been looking for.

Solas believes that the biggest question facing us today is not one that relates to elections and ballot boxes. It is the question about the soul of Scotland, the sould of the UK, the soul of Europe. Political and economic issues are obviously important but there are issues that are even more important. What would it profit a person or a nation or a continent to gain the whole world and lose its soul? That’s the question Jesus posed (Mark 8:36). Christians must be involved in the issues of politics, economics, national identity, and so on, but how sad would it be to concentrate all our attention on such issues and ignore the biggest issue of all.

Read the whole thing here

Talking about strategy

Do you know what I mean when I talk about developing a strategy? I only ask because for years I worked with a colleague who had a different idea to me of what a strategy was – that led to a whole world of confusion.

Yeomans shared a helpful blog post about strategies this week. In it they wrote,

[The] author of The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, Henry Mintzberg observed that people use strategy in several different ways, including:

  1. Strategy is a plan, a “how,” a means of getting from here to there
  2. Strategy is a pattern in actions over time; for example, a company that regularly markets very expensive products is using a “high end” strategy
  3. Strategy is position; that is, it reflects decisions to offer particular products or services in particular markets
  4. Strategy is perspective, that is, vision and direction

Read the full post here

I’d be closer to number four on this scale, my colleague was closer to number one. I guess it’s always worth checking what you/the other person understands by strategy before starting work.