Conviventia Bogota Colombia Mission: Thursday

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thursday was the last day of workshops for Darin and me before joining the rest of the team for medical outreach. We facilitated a half-day leadership intensive for CDA staff in the morning. With more material than time, we were not able to get through it all, but it was obvious that the attendees loved the instruction and discussion. With only 10 minutes left, we asked what remaining topics would be of most value. The answer was how to lead an effective meeting. I think we spent 15 minutes on that topic just hitting the main points of before-meeting preparation, in-meeting behaviors, and post-meeting strategies. Bad meetings in business must be a global phenomenon. You would think that with the amount of time people spend in poorly run meetings, there would be an outcry for change.

We re-joined the rest of the team at CDA’s Family Strengthening Center which was a short walk from the PTI [CDA’s vocational training center]. After lunch, Darin and I headed out with a few team members to experience a family strengthening session. We had been on a few home visits during our May 2017 vision trip; however, CDA had changed the format, and we were going to see the new curriculum in action. Instead of providing encouragement and prayers, CDA had targeted activities to take the family through.

We observed how the CDA team worked through communication with the mother and her two children, and surprisingly, we were asked to participate. The goal was to understand how each member of the family was communicating [silence, outbursts, etc.] and to have them start identifying and expressing the positive qualities they saw in each other. As observers, we were asked to share our positive observations of each family member during the conversation. Although the process was very rudimentary, I thought it was effective because it empowered change with skills and tools.

We had some free time before dinner, so the team headed out to the government district in Bogota—the heart of the city. With Jimmy as our body guard, we were able to get a sense of the city. Despite the graffiti, I enjoy Bogota and plan to explore other parts of Colombia—especially the coffee region.  Instead of wine tasting, I’ll sip coffee. An undoubtedly Colombia has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.

IMG_0699_brToday there were many things left unsaid. I haven’t shared many of the small events that tell a bigger story but are part of the key messages:

  • The best offense is sometimes a good defense; know when to play and know when to stand
  • Humans have more in common with each other than they don’t; yet focusing on the differences builds a wall or digs a canyon between them
  • Happy people make great friends; what’s your happiness quotient

Looking forward to Friday where we will walk the streets and greet the people!

Conviventia Bogota Colombia Mission: Tuesday

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Today was another day I wouldn’t have planned for a mission, but one where God spins for good what the devil tries to undermine. Bogota is a city with an elevation of ~ 8600 ft above sea level. Living in Houston, which hovers near sea level, I always struggle with migraines when I travel to high altitude cities like Denver and Bogota. This trip was no exception and even more so than usual. I was popping migraine medicine every 15 – 20 hours to manage the pain.

The alarm today was set for 5:15 AM, because the team had to eat breakfast, share a devotional, and get to CDA Cazuca School by 8 AM for medical outreach, purity talks, family strengthening, and workshops that Darin and I were scheduled to lead with Brigitta as translator. Parents were attending to learn about parenting leadership and strategies. We would follow this session with a general leadership workshop for parents, school staff, and community. I cannot tell you how excited I was to deliver the information I worked so hard to prepare (slides and pamphlets). And, Brigitta had translated all of it into Spanish, so she was intimately engaged with the content.

At 4:15 AM, I suddenly awoke with a massive migraine, which had me running to the toilet to throw up. My legs were shaking uncontrollably, and I didn’t know how that was or was not related to the migraine. I immediately took my medicine and knew it would be hours before it would take effect. I woke Darin and asked him what we were going to do. I couldn’t walk out of the hotel room. I could barely stand without vomiting. Would we have to cancel the workshops today?

My initial thought was Darin wasn’t prepared, because he hadn’t been involved in the prep. Although he’d heard the concepts before, I assumed he wouldn’t be comfortable teaching. Darin’s reply was, “Either you’re coming with me or not? Either way, the show will go on!”  I trusted him and Brigitta to carry on.

I laid in bed for hours wondering how the dynamic duo was doing. Later in the morning, Darin texted me photos of the crowd and said all was well, very well. I exhaled a big sigh of relief and felt feelings of worry leave my body! I used my quiet time to pray. God boldly gave me a message:

Leaders don’t do everything. They do what they can and ask others to do what they are called to do.

Oh boy, a statement right out of the leadership presentation I created. God was throwing my own words in my face. It’s true! I have to fight the tendency to do too much or lead too often. Darin and Brigitta made a great team to deliver the messages the parents, staff, and community came to hear. God made good use of my illness by sending a message I needed to hear—and hear strongly.

IMG_4304Before returning to the hotel, the team traveled to Monserrate—the highest point in Bogota and home to a church dedicated as a shrine. They saw the sun set over the city while singing praise and worship. I joined the team for dinner and informed Darin he was leading the next day’s presentation. I was going to follow as he and Brigitta had already created the formula for success.

Two key messages for the day:

  • It’s true that leaders don’t do everything. They do what they can and ask others to do what they are called to do.
  • I should take my own advice more often.

Conviventia Bogota Colombia Mission: Sunday

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The first outreach was for the team to host a 2-day retreat at Tenjo House for 16 girls and 16 boys, so they could take a break from their normal lives and have the team encourage, empower, and share the love of Jesus with them. These hand-picked 11- to 13-year-olds were struggling in life, and needed love, a different perspective, and hopefully a deeper relationship with Jesus. While the team focused on camp activities with the kids, Darin and I, along with our dear friend and Spanish translator, Brigitta, were whisked away by car to a remote community to invest in a small church staff with leadership and evangelism training.

As we slowly navigated the dirt roads in the small community, we wondered where Conviventia was taking us? How safe were we? Eventually our car stopped in front of what appeared to be a store front with doors that opened wide to reveal a stage and pulpit. We had arrived early to Iglesia Christiana Lugar De Encuentro Con Dios (LED), where LED Pastor Alvaro Virviescas was still preaching his Sunday sermon. An usher motioned for us to sit in the front row. We were more comfortable viewing the stage from the back of the church as we waited for Pastor Alvaro to finish his message.

When asked to use a restroom, I was led up the staircase into the Sunday school class and out a door onto a second story patio, where a shed was built that housed the toilet. Women were cooking food in the classroom and smiled, probably wondering: “Who are these people?”

IMG_0417Returning to my white plastic chair, our group waited in the open doorway until the service ended before taking the stage. Darin stood outside playing hand-slap games with the kids as the Spanish sermon continued. After the service, the parents and kids circled around us, shaking our hands, saying “hello”, and asking lots of questions. With Brigitta translating, we asked and answered questions about us, our family, America, and the big state of Texas.

The soda and bowl of egg/cheese stuffed arepas were put out for the congregation so they could socialize, drink, and eat. Yum! I loved how the church was not just about the service but about the community.  Eventually the families dispersed, and the church leadership remained to hear what we had to share on leadership.

Our main leadership focus was to define leadership, describe leadership gifts, and discuss how to apply them for the benefit of the Kingdom. Our hope was the church leadership would come away knowing that…

…everyone is leader, because everyone has influence!

Because we were able to describe leadership in tangible ways (visionary, strategic, tactical, team-building, etc.) and share critical skills for success, the staff expressed eagerness to apply these concepts. We also framed leadership in a Biblical context—servant leadership. In cultures of material poverty, I believe servant leadership can be difficult to put into practice as many people struggle with daily survival. Leaders tend to become defined by title, status, or position and not necessarily by the condition of their hearts. I could tell these people were thirsty for leadership.

IMG_6574After our discussion, CDA Pastor Carlos spent an hour training the church leadership in the interactive 3-Circles tool for evangelism. Little did we know that Pastor Carlos had another persona—Charlie the Clown—a character who loves to perform magic tricks while sharing The Gospel. Our message and time spent together was warm and welcoming. We hoped to see many of the leaders again when we returned to the community later in the week for the medical outreach.

IMG_0421This was our first opportunity to take leadership training outside America, and I can honestly say I could travel the world helping people become better leaders. Several messages I took away from my day in the mission field:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact you have on other people when you just show up
  • Be generous with your time, talents, and treasures, because you make people feel valued
  • Put yourself in uncomfortable situations, because you’ll always learn something
  • Lead with your spiritual gifts and see how people respond when they know you care