I have taken a few days to reflect on the mission. Lots of thoughts are swirling though my mind about the mission, but I will try to give you a glimpse of them (there is such a thing as too much information). Hopefully, your won't find this entry too long winded (terse in not my strong suit).
I think one of the things I learned (or rather confirmed) was that I am probably not the best of team leaders. I do logistics very well; I can handle change with no problem; and I think I grew eyes in the back of my head on this mission when it came to keeping track of the team members (although I struggled with corralling my chicks whenever we went from one place to another). What I did learn was that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the entire team to lead the team. Sure, I am, as the team lead, the final arbiter on some things, but the members of this team supported me in the areas that were not my strength. And I want to highlight some of the areas where they helped me.
While I was taking on the role of mother hen at the work site, Tim was able to see what tasks we could help with and how. Even without much Spanish he was able to know what Aroche, our boss, needed.
Will has an innate and in depth curiosity and asked questions about the places we visited that enhanced our appreciation and knowledge of those places.
Zuzana and Abby have tender hearts and took Rebekka and her children under their wings.
Lori was not only a hard worker (all of the team had that trait) but had a generous heart. She was always willing to give her time, her strength and her possessions to anyone needing them at any time.
Ginny possessed the even temperament for the team and the gentle heart. But for me she was my tension breaker. No one could make me laugh quicker or harder that Ginny.
Marian and Janie, as my oldest friends, know better than anyone else my imperfections. They gave me a safe sanctuary to be my imperfect self while not letting me take myself too seriously or devolve into whining.
Nancy may have had the most difficult job – she was my roommate. She was constantly (and that in not an exaggeration) helping me look for things I had laid down without paying attention. And she was occasionally (at least I hope it was only occasionally) subjected to my grumpy moods when I was tired. It was good to find someone who understands talking while brushing your teeth and likes to dance to music even if the dancing would not win any awards.
I also learned how important "me time" (time alone) is for me. Without it I began to realize that being gregarious is not as much second nature for me as I thought, but can become difficult to maintain without “me time”. It reminded me that I need to be willing to ask for those things that keep me refreshed.
I discovered that I do not have trust issues. I was surprised to discover that some members of the team needed more detail about what we would be doing. Information I very seldom had. I trusted Brian to always have all our logistics taken care of on the mission and trusted that he had all the “I”s dotted and the “T”s crossed and so I never needed to know in any sort of detail what was happening next. The failing for me was that I could never communicate that very effectively to the team.
The lens I view the people I come in contact with was shaped in 1969. The summer of that year I traveled to the then Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War with an organization called the Citizens Exchange Group. Their mission was to help people see that there are more similarities between people in other countries (in this case the Soviet Union) than there are differences. They hoped by doing this they might in some small way help to diffuse the Cold War. Anyway, they taught me to see/look for people's similarities first. So here are a few of the similarities I saw.
- I saw kids flying kites and evidently the technique I never completely mastered is the same in El Salvador as in the States.
- People gather together for fellowship. Sometimes they gather over a board game; sometimes over food; but fellowship is always accompanied by laughter and talking.
- Someone, often the mother or other female person, is responsible for washing clothes and preparing meals. And sharing a meal with others is one of the signs of hospitality
- People appreciate the effort behind a gift (like singing a praise song in an unfamiliar language) more than the perfection of the gift
- Students coming home from school look the same everywhere. And students coming home for a long break from school (they won’t go back until mid-January or the first of February) have a look of freedom ad pure joy on their faces.
- Work is easier when you are laughing and joking with fellow workers
- Families just being families. There are always those gentle touches that say “I love you” to children and spouses
I still believe 44 years later that the similarities outweigh the differences. Seeing how much I am like the people I come in contact with makes connecting with them so much easier. So much for my reflections.
I miss the people I met while in Ahuachapán and I will include them in my prayers. I thank God for bringing them into my life, if only for a short time. I have included some photos of the finished house.
- Paula Renfro