By Ed Jacob
How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite At A Time!
You don’t have to go for too long before clients, colleagues, friends, family or any of us for that matter feel overwhelmed by problems. It can be a daunting shadow that sometimes has us fearing that the beast is going to sit right down and squash the life out of us! Key to overcoming an elephant or a problem is breaking it down to one chunk at time. Let me explain below how that relates to our mission trip here in Peru.
On Tuesday, the Peru Mission Team had an opportunity to support a Compassion Leadership Conference. Attending the conference were representatives from the 15 Compassion Development Centers in the Huanuco Region. This included Pastors and some staff that support about 4000 Compassion children. These Centers and the children are connected to the Compassion Program through their local churches. The leadership conference was hosted by Pastor Aquiles who runs the largest program here and is very much the local Yoda. They convened together to address the following elephant size issues:
– Driving effective Communication of their Mission, Vision and Goals
– Leveraging Volunteerism to create, implement and monitor plans
– Building strong teamwork to effectively and efficiently use resources
From the business world, I know that these three topic areas are perpetual problems that rear their ugly heads. Frankly, I don’t know that you can solve the problems completely. You really just have to get better over time with continuous problem solving as these issues morph into other areas or become new/different problems that arise over time.
By now, you should be asking yourself …what does any of this have to do with the Peru Mission Trip? The answer is that we used this opportunity to advance our objectives as a Mission team. That is, we were advancing our goal to continue to build a stronger relationship and drive real and lasting transformation through Christ as our center.
Let me explain further about the mission teams goals. Some of us were returning while new individuals joined the team. As a newly formed mission team, we prepared in advance of the visit. We met in short meetings over several months. We applied ourselves using a workbook titled “Helping Without Hurting”. Indulge me to share only a couple of high level learning points. But first a quick point in what it’s not about. It’s not about going to build a much needed lavatory for a school. By definition, the people here will always know local practices and techniques better than outsiders coming in. Instead, the focus is on a way to serve with cultural intelligence. The workbook equips short-term mission teams to avoid pitfalls of crossing cultures, it builds the teams capacity to learn well and honor partnerships through their presence, understanding and critically important encouragement.
Recognizing the above, our objective for the leadership conference was to serve, learn, and encourage. Pastor Aquiles, the host has the longest experience, largest center and potentially has the most to share on key learnings in addressing these major issues. You can also expect that all of the other participants as Pastors and support team in their own local area are subject matter experts on what they have experienced. Sure, we too share some elements of these issues but clearly we’re not in Kansas anymore. These good people here have greater insights into their situation that we may never fully comprehend. For our part in the session itself we too focused on the theme of building leadership skills and shared our insights on a Problem Solving Method/Process.
We developed a handout for them describing a Problem Solving Method and its process steps. My lovely wife Andrea then facilitated them through the process. They worked in small teams to break down the problems into smaller more manageable chunks, they explored root causes for the component issues and then identified potential solutions. Upon completion, the small teams reported out on what they accomplished. Having gained some experience, they now have a tool they can add to their toolkit going forward. Hopefully, they can take it back and apply it for continuous problem solving going forward with their own full teams. I closed our segment of the session and brought it back to the elephant. They sure got a belly laugh out of my closing comment. I pointed to my rounded belly and let them know that I sure have had more than my fair share of the elephant.
In summary, we stayed true to our goal of building on our relationship. In the session, we were able to serve while learning from them and encouraging their work. We honored each other by together sharing and acknowledging how we support each other in the process. Together, and most important of all we are advancing the common overarching goal from the Compassion International’s mission statement which is to “Release children from poverty in Jesus name”.