I have been reflecting on the zoom meeting we had with Mark Wilson and the topic of transition.
I commented that in many ways each missionary should actually be planning to transition out of the work they may be doing.
Let me share some of what has happened in the ministry Nancy and I have been involved in over the years.
When we went to Sierra Leone, we fully intended on serving there until we retired. We really didn’t consider the possibility that we should think about transitioning out of the work we were doing. Then we got laid off (it was a strange time and there was a fund shortage). When we got back the civil war was getting serious. So serious that we were evacuated because of a coup d’état. This got us thinking seriously about what we needed to do if the war prevented us from returning.
We focused more and more on preparing people to replace us and in developing strategies that would all national leaders to take over whatever work we were doing. When we left for furlough many plans were in place in case the war became worse, which it did. The good news was that as soon as the war was over, they were able to reopen the bible school and move forward with training.
As a result of the war we were unable to return and were asked to go to Papua New Guinea. The work we were asked to do was quite similar to that of Sierra Leone. Again, we begin to think that we would spend the rest of our years of service here. It was not to be. But we were able to use our experiences from Sierra Leone to help the national church to develop a plan for preparing nationals to run the bible school. And while it took longer than originally intended it did provide a guide for them to work with.
Now we found ourselves in Guyana. This time we learned our lesson. We did not begin to think about how long we might stay there and from the beginning worked on plans to help others take over whatever work we were involved in. Nancy trained people to run the puppet ministry, she helped organize plans for the church to run the home for children with aids she helped start and I completed my projects and turned them over to the church.
In fact, within two years of arriving in Guyana we knew we would be moving again. This time so that we could help the Iberoamerica Region develop their vision for sending missionaries. From the beginning I worked on plans and programs that would help them grow and learn what would be needed to carry out this vision. When I look through my files I see plans and revisions of plans all with this focus, an exit strategy, a plan to transition out of my role as trainer and leader. It took longer than I anticipated but in the background of everything I was doing was the idea that I needed to be able to turn everything I did over to others.
This is what is happening, and it is exciting to see the transition process and how God is blessing.
Now we talked about transition and that is a good thing to think about. But when one thinks about being a facilitator, we need to take this to another level. We need to have an exit strategy. Not an emergency plan to get to safety. Rather a plan that allows us to exit in the right way at the right time. A plan that allows to transition out of the roles we have and let others take over. A plan that allows them to do the work and we become advisors. A plan that allows them to become their own advisors. A plan that lets us know it is time to exit and transition out.
We don’t like to think about this. We do like the feeling of being indispensable, of being needed, of being the source of critical resources and information. But if we are going to truly move into the role of being a facilitator then to be wary of these thoughts and attitudes. Because it is inevitable. The day will come when you will leave. So, have you prepared them and yourself for the transition? Do you have an exit strategy, and do they have a role in its development?
I am once again in the final steps of this. The first two times it was unanticipated, but God provided critical guidance and counsel so that we could transition and exit. The third time was better organized, and this last time is revealing clearly the benefits of planning for transition and exiting well.